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Is it heckling or a friendly hello?

October 11, 2009

I have traveled to Europe at least once a year for more than a decade, and my experience has been quite different from Susan Bae's [Letters, Oct. 4]. I have had the friendliest experience in France. Perhaps the only difference is that I try to learn a little of each country's language and customs before I visit. You would be surprised at how even an awkward attempt at a local language opens up doors. Perhaps those Europeans calling an Asian "Ching-Chong" are, indeed, insensitive or ignorant, but I don't find konnichiwa or ni-hao insulting. In fact, it might well have been their attempt to connect.

John T. Chiu

Newport Beach

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Bae, on a recent trip to France, the Netherlands and Italy, wrote in to warn all other Asian travelers to avoid those countries and instead "spend their money in Asia" because she was constantly being "heckled" with Asian words and phrases for "Good Morning" and "Hello." It is good to know that the recession has not hampered the propagation of the ugly and, in this case, politically correct and self-victimized American tourist.

Billy Mange

Redlands

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We traveled to Venice and Paris two years ago and encountered some of what Bae mentioned in her letter. The natives simply did not know which country we were from; they knew we were tourists so they said hello in whichever Asian language they knew, whether it was Japanese or Chinese. In no way did we feel heckled. The Europeans were very welcoming, and we never felt ridiculed. We did not speak French or Italian but were comfortable traveling due to the helpfulness of the many people we encountered. So unless Bae speaks perfect French, Dutch or Italian, she should not take it personally when people attempt to communicate with her, even if it is the wrong language.

Thuan and Chi Vi Le

Woodland Hills

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