Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Color Issue

Last month in February I was very fortunate to be involved at the Frankfurt Fair in Germany. An ‘invites only’ yearly exhibition displaying many housewares from manufacturers or trading companies targeting retailers as their customers. It was very exciting for me since it was my first time there. The place is HUGE! I was there for 5 days and I swear, there are SO many cool things that I didn’t get a chance to see. They have up to 10 buildings which are loaded from top to bottom.

So, starting next month in April, I will be working in a tableware trading company and printing company, which is why I get the chance to see this amazing exhibition. It is also a must for me to wonder around the exhibition and see what large company exists and what’s the world up to in terms of trends, designs and fashion. No doubt I’m inspired by many things. I love the European taste of nature and how they apply it in their houseware designs. I love to see products from all over the world, their uniqueness and their passion to make beautiful things available to many people.

As the exhibition is loaded with stuff... everyone are SO conscious about those horrible people who loves to copy other peoples products. You’d assume the usual things, no camera, no videos, no drawing obvious sketches in front of some stall... that’s totally cool with me. I'm very capable of being inspired and create things on my own. So, what I’m totally not cool with is when they’d assume you’re going to copy (or do other evil things depends on how far their imagination goes) because of the color of your skin.

At first, I’d walk around as if I’m at a flea market. I’d stop and look, ask questions, get friendly... then soon enough, I figured that as soon as you stop in front of their stand, someone would immediately ask for a namecard. They'd asks me questions like; are you a buyer or a seller, why are you looking at my things and also minute details about your company. Soon enough, I learn to not stop while looking at things, and later on I learned that they are more conscious when an Asian is looking because it’s a known fact that the Chinese are famous for copying stuff.

But, even though I’m Chinese looking, I’m an Indonesian. I live 9 years of my life in Australia and I can’t bloody speak the language. But do people care? No, they look at the color of your skin, they assume you’re evil and they’re automatically rude to you.

A really bad experience was when I picked up a brochure (on spices and salad dressings by the way, it has nothing to do with what my company are selling) and some German lady just snatched away from me and basically told me to get out while the rest of her customers gets pampered in tasting her products. Like, hello?! Does your brochure contain secret recipes that would kill Asians? Which era are you living in anyway? The rest of the world are in the year of 2009! Aren’t you educated enough to realize by now that men are equal regardless what they look like?! Yes... I was very angry... but I just walked out.

Later on, I ventured off to the jewelry hall. I’m not sure what it is, but people there are much friendlier. I met an English jeweler who approached me with a friendly smile while I was nervously looking around. I met some Hong Kong pearl trader who helped me in learning more about pearls and semi precious stones. I met a German and Canadian couple who does a lot of traveling to collect materials for their jewelry. I also met a very nice man from Afghanistan who sells semi precious stones. We had a great chat and I expressed to him about the discrimination that I’m experiencing at the exhibition. It turns out that he felt pretty much the same as an Afgan.

This is the first time I really experience racism for myself. I’ve seen it a lot on American tv, and I always thought that it was a past issue, but sadly it isn’t. What are these people having issues with, Really? I find it hard to believe that its just simply a color thing. And what are we currently doing to stop these issues?

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