I was asked today by my new classmates to share some of my travel experiences over the last several months and I mentioned to them, my perceptions about whiteness in traveling South East Asia. I have felt very safe and I have met many other people of all nationalities to travel with, however there is a noticeable difference traveling as a single female who looks like a local, as compared to a single female who is white. It is looked upon as normal, different behavior is expected from someone who is white but traveling solo as an Asian woman is not something people do here in Asia. I have come across very few single Asian women travelers except in Singapore and Malaysia last week. I have not experienced any harassment but as an example, in Myanmar, walking by myself in the morning, I was looked at as if I were a prostitute whereas, someone who is white would not be looked at in the same way if she were walking by herself.
My nationality is always questioned as well. Both by Americans and foreigners, I am asked, where are you from? I usually answer New York. That question is then usually followed by, again, where are you from? The implication is that my identity is not American but other. If the same question were asked of someone who was white, there would not be a follow up question.
There are double standards everywhere but these are a few of my experiences I shared today.