Traveling in Asia with Black Toddlers

Are you wondering what’s it like living in and traveling in Asia with black toddlers?

I am a tall, melanin-rich woman of color who has lived in East Asia for more than four years. I have two daughters who are third culture kids and my husband is Nigerian. One thing that’s for sure is that my family and I never go unnoticed in Korea.

Whether we’re out shopping, taking a stroll, or playing at the park, we always have people to come up to meet our children. I also found this to be the case in my travels to Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

Here’s a summary of what happens most often when people meet my melanin-rich, brown kids and what you can expect traveling in Asia with black children, especially babies.

4 THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN TRAVELING WITH BLACK TODDLERS IN ASIA

People will take pictures of and with your baby. This has become such a common experience in Korea that most times, I don’t think much about. We can be going up or down the escalators and people will switch their camera phones on to snap pictures of the girls while saying, “cute” or “pretty” in Korean. When traveling, people asked to take pictures with them, especially in Vietnam. They were so fascinated by my daughter’s skin, hair and her eyes.

People will give your children candy, bread, and food. We can be strolling along and someone stops and gives the girls candy, gum, or fruit. Here in Korea, when the girls are playing at the park, local parents often have their own children come over and share snacks with mine. In Vietnam, parents wanted their children to break bread with my daughter. There, she met new friends over milk, cookies, and bread right on the streets of Hanoi.

People will pick-up and want to hold your children. In America, it is a “no-no” to pick up children without asking. But overseas, people have picked my girls as if they were their own to show love and to be helpful. For example, I’ve had people in restaurants take them to let me enjoy eating a meal and of course, to go and show my girls to their co-workers, friends, and family.

People will want their own children to meet your children. I love seeing the reactions of local children and my children interacting with each other for the first time. It is such a beautiful experience and it gives me an opportunity to chat with locals. I like to think of my girls as the youngest ambassadors for my country.

In sum, living and traveling in Asia, I have found people to be very welcoming to my children, helpful, considerate, and accommodating to me as a mom of two, including as a guest in their country when I have traveled while pregnant.

What has been your experience (or concerns) traveling overseas as a family who stands out from locals?

Enjoyed this article? Please comment and share your thoughts below. And don’t forget to read more from our blog collection: Mom Life, Third Culture Kids, and Seoul Living. Have a splendid day!

I am an American living in South Korea and the creator of Allured Abroad, an expat lifestyle blog focusing on expat family life, parenting abroad, and raising multicultural kids. I’ve been living abroad for nearly five years and what I have realized through travel and cultural immersion is that we’re just one in 7+ billion people. With so much variation in the world, what are the possibilities?

7 Comments

  1. WOW! I’m very excited by the positive reaction to your children abroad. This is refreshing to hear!

    I personally have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. I have video-blogged about my experiences on youtube.

    • Hi, Leslie! Please share the link to your video of your experiences. I know you lived in Indonesia before. I have heard mixed things about it here as a brown person, interestingly.

  2. Jonel Kennedy

    I am a single mother with a 1 year old daughter i want us to move to south korea but i am nervous about finding her an english speaking nanny and it will just be us two do you know of any nanny services

    • In major and satellite cities there are many options for childcare. In some areas, you can locate a nanny through what we called the “Gu” which is your local city hall. However, they would be Korean and the chances of finding an English speaker there their service is probably not great.

      Koreans often hire Filipinos when they want to have an English speaking nanny. That is an option. And if you reside in a city near a military base, a lot of military wives are always looking to care for children.

      Is daycare not an option? Korean childcare centers are good and very affordable.

      If it is, then you can find some bilingual centers. They are popular for serving the military families off base. We have several in my city. You can also check the cities where there are U.S. military bases for babysitting groups. Also check out the FB group, Korea International Nanny Service.

      Are you planning to come here to teach? I am asking because I would strongly urge you to consider being in an area where you can try to establish a social network with fellow expat moms.

      Also check out this website: http://tenderembracebirthing.blogspot.kr/2013/05/nannies-baby-sitters-and-maids-in-korea.html. I just saw they updated it last week. Please write to me if you have any more questions. I am happy to help where I can.

  3. We’ve ALWAYS stood out, and we embrace it! Our son was born in central Japan, and spent the first 6 years of his life living this reality: constant attention, offers of candy and presents, loads of questions, people requesting to take his picture all the time, and the never-ending requests to touch his hair. We joked all the time about his celebrity status in town, because complete strangers would come up to us, call us by name, and to take photos with us, etc.

    Dealing with this attitude of curiosity and fascination was an excellent preparation for our world travels. We have seen even more aggressive behaviors (like when we lived in Mexico), where strangers would try to envelope him in a big hug on first meeting and play with his curls. We, as parents, have also practiced shielding him from individuals who mistakenly assume they have a right to touch him without his permission, simply because he is a child.

    Fortunately, the majority of the attention we have received has been positive, stemming from an innocent curiosity. When we feel so inclined, we have answered questions, taken photos, signed autographs, and even allowed touching. When my son’s not in the mood, however, he can clearly say, “Please don’t touch my hair!” in four different languages! And he’s not shy about speaking up or ducking approaching hands, either. It’s a wonderful way for him to exercise his autonomy over his body and to assert himself when it comes to interacting with others in public.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that it is good practice for children to exercise their autonomy as well as protect their personal space. We always follow our children’s cues because let’s face it, they may not always be up for the “paparazzi” moments that happen while living abroad.

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