A piece by Radhika of The Snobby Foodie.

Xenophobia (intense/irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries) is a sore spot of me. In my book, judging someone for their differences is one of the worst things you can do.

When I was a young girl, I remember bringing ethnic food to school on the regular. The food (made by my mom) was BOMB, but the reaction it would get from those around me was not.

One day, as I was eating my curry and rice, a “popular” strolled up to me and scrunched her nose. “Ew that’s gross” she said, and proceeded to make what she considered Indian noises. I didn’t even have an accent! Either way, just rude right??

Being the meek kid I was, I just sat there… embarrassed. That day, I went home and asked my mom to just start making me PB&Js for school. After a few weeks of that, I regretted my request. (PB&Js don’t do it for me.)

Side note: Who TF raised this girl (the “popular”)? Like- who are her parents? Ugh. Anyway- I digress.

Even now, acquaintances will attempt to mock an Indian accent around me. I guess because I don’t have one they think it’s okay?

You can make fun of the food. Although I don’t understand why you would- and I ain’t sharing my biryani with you anyway. However… making fun of accents? That really, really bothers me. How can you make fun of someone trying to learn a language?

Flashback: One day many years ago, my mom was returning something at a department store, and she had a few questions. My mom (a brilliant, talented woman) has a bit of an accent. She is hardworking and determined. The cashier at the register waved her long, overdone finger nails at my mom, and shouted, “I can’t understand what you’re saying. I can’t understand your accent.” When my mother tried to explain, the cashier talked over her repeating the same thing.

I wish I had been older when that happened. I wish I had been bold and spoken up to call this woman out. But then again, I may have gotten pissed and curtly said something like, “She’s saying she wants to shove this product up your butt. I’m sorry- people can be SO rude sometimes.” Probably not that, but I’d like to think I’d be that sassy.

My mother doesn’t really care to interact with customer service people as much any more – mostly because her interactions are not always positive. She’s an upbeat, positive person that doesn’t like when xenophobic people treat her poorly. She doesn’t like when people don’t give her the chance to speak. Of course she’s too much of a badass to admit this.

So… I don’t mind taking care of those interactions on her behalf because when you have me on the phone and I’m upset, I’m going to rip you a new one… in the most professional way. Don’t f*ck with my mother. I’ll chew you up & spit you out.

If the woman at the department store had tried a little bit harder to take the time and listen or just let my mother talk, she would have understood her just fine. I feel like that’s the case with MOST situations like this.

I get it – sometimes it can be difficult to understand accents, especially when you’re not familiar with them. But generally, I’ve found that people just have little patience. Whenever I hear an acquaintance tell a story about how how they had to yell at offshore IT support on the phone, I make a mental note to never speak with them again because…

1. They’re the one with the IT problem. It would serve them well to try harder to understand.
2. Yelling at another human being should be a crime. Are you an animal? Keep your emotions in check.
3. Business is now global. We as people should adjust to that because it’s not going to change. This means people with accents should work to improve their English (if they use English in business), and native speakers should work to understand.

When you treat someone foreign poorly, what do you think their opinion of you- the American- is going to be? It’s full circle. You’re encouraging perceptions of the “ignorant American”. Try harder. You had the privilege of having English as your first language. Be cordial, be fair, and be understanding.

Asking questions and clarifying is fine. Writing someone off because they have an accent is not. So can we stand up for our friends with accents or work harder to understand them?

About The Author

Radhika The Snobby Foodie

Senior Writer || Snob in Chief at The Snobby Foodie || ENTJ || Once went to four coffee shops in one day to find the best one...

One Response

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    Yes and no. While I believe that one should not be put down because of their accent, if a person works in a call center they should put an effort to speak with a minimal accent. It can be very difficult to understand someone from India, because the accents can be particularly heavy, and when you call an IT helpdesk over there they often explain instructions that cannot be understood because of the accent.
    And what do you mean by ‘ethnic food’? Ethnic means belonging to an ethnicity, that could range from French to South African. If anything, you sound as shallow as those girls that criticised you.


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