I THROW my bags on to the back seat, of which there are many, and clamber in after them. Within 30 seconds of being in the car the driver asks me what event I’ve just left, what work I do and why I appear to be carrying luggage for five people.

I keep telling myself I will learn the art of travelling light one day, however my to-do list now usually explodes from paper into tote bags of items to be dropped-off, posted or hand-delivered. Nine times out of 10 the question is being asked by a driver with a melting-pot accent, with distinctive Scottish undertones but unplaceable twangs from lands I imagine to be far away.

I explain, sometimes briefly, but oftentimes cathartically, spilling out more detail than I intend to about whom I get to spend my days with and what I do. I make my position on migration and human rights abundantly clear, regardless of the depth of my response. I‘ve grown confident in doing this either to open up a discussion or to clearly state my views and tolerance after a xenophobic comment. What follows is either silence from the person unwilling to moderate or explain their comment or something that surprises me every time.

The non-native taxi driver and I share stories, talking about personal experiences, memories, places, family members and friends. I listen to stories about homelands, about migration, about fear and separation and about the joy and occasionally surprise of being embraced into a new community. Sometimes I ask questions and sometimes I just listen, wondering if the driver shows the level of trust needed to share these personal stories with everyone who sits in the back of their taxi.

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We inevitably end up talking about Glasgow and their arrival and welcome to the city. People are usually very positive but I’ve learned that this is not always a true reflection of the individual’s experience. Gratitude supersedes honesty almost every time. People who are new to this city are not oblivious to the opinions of those who believe they receive everything they need and are better off than those already here. They are as confused by this ignorance as I am because it is certainly not the experience of those whom I meet. Coupled with the unshakeable stereotype that asylum seekers are poor, this is difficult and complicated territory for those looking to make friends in a new place.

I further state my position by sharing my experiences, hoping to encourage honest conversation about everyday experiences and quickly receiving confirmation that we do indeed have a long way to go. We discuss racism, xenophobia, policy and the need for change, avoiding defining the experience and instead talking about the conversations we have had or heard, the people we’ve been hurt by and the structures and systems that remain in place and continue to prevent equality.

While it is tempting to compare Glasgow to places where the polarisation of people from different places and backgrounds is greater, this only serves to cover up the lived experiences of so many.

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Last week, a taxi driver shared with me stories from his childhood, the horrific racism he experienced in his own country, his place of birth. He said that in Glasgow he had never experienced anything like that which he had experienced in his homeland; and while his friends had often commented on uncomfortable situations where they felt he was being discriminated against because of his race, his measure of what quantifies as racism has been skewed by his exposure to that which occurred in his home country.

We must not be disillusioned. Glasgow and Scotland still have a long way to go in terms of challenging and changing racist and xenophobic behaviours and systems. And while that starts with listening, finding the voices of those willing to share their experiences is not that easy.

I often get told that I am lucky to be exposed to the voices of so many people from all over the world. I wouldn’t argue with that – the vast number of people I meet is one of my favourite things about my daily life.

However, my understanding of trying to settle into life in Glasgow was first shaped by the stories shared with me as a passenger in a taxi.

We all have opportunities in everyday life to listen harder to the perspectives of others. It isn’t about working in a particular field or having to search for these conversations. It’s about not being afraid to engage with the people you very likely already come across and then using your voice to amplify that of the too often unheard.