Coronavirus & me: my experiences as an Asian Londoner

*warning: ranting post*

The first cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) hit our British

It’s been hard to write this as I don’t want to be negative but from the energy I can feel around me when I’m and about… I can’t brush it off and ignore it.

shores in late January. We are now approaching mid-March and the situation has not changed much in terms of case numbers and fatalities as compared to other European countries. However, the mentality and behaviour of people in the capital has become less welcoming… well, according to my own experiences anyway.

As a Vietnamese woman, I look Chinese. Over the years I have learnt to become comfortable in my own skin but I won’t lie to you – these past few weeks and especially last two days have tested me. It’s made me doubt myself and left me feeling paranoid and anxious to say the least.

On the underground, some people avoid being too close to me, for fear that they will catch coronavirus – even though I am not sick nor coughing nor feverish. Others make sly comments when I’m passing by or near them… here are some examples of what I’ve experienced so far; a young child in IKEA shouting “coronavirus” to his sister as they both passed me down the aisle. A man and his friend sniggering whilst looking at me and saying “oh shit, coronavirus… we’re in for it now!” And the latest one which I overheard in a conversation between the bartender and a woman when he mentioned about the outbreak in Italy, “well, who do you think brought it there?” It seems that Chinese people are being blamed for the coronavirus spreading worldwide.

I feel like I want to just hide away in a corner or stay at home and not go outside. When I board an empty train carriage, I find solace in its silence and can feel at ease with myself. It also gives me time to reflect on myself and my thoughts.

My friends would normally tell you that I am one of the happiest and bubbliest person that they know. I’m usually always smiling, happily greeting those who I pass by but these past few days I’ve retreated inwards, keeping my head down and just keeping it moving. It’s not been easy and certainly not as welcoming as it was pre-coronavirus.

Luckily in my little town, everyone is more inclusive. There is more sense of a community in which my family and I are accepted and treated without stereotyping or prejudice. I used to think that a city as diverse as London would always be so welcoming, inclusive and non-judgmental but in light of recent events, I’m now starting to doubt that.

I’d like to think that things will get better soon but I’m not sure how. I would like to believe that the passive aggressive comments and racial comments will stop – but I don’t think they will anytime soon. I would also like to think that people will stop stockpiling household items like toilet roll but I don’t think that will either. Who knows what the near future will look like for London but with all these talks about lockdowns and cancelled flights etc, it doesn’t look like it’ll be a fun summer.