Don’t Mess With This Jersey Girl
I’m a Jersey girl. A suburban chick, blocked by the shadows of two beautiful cities: fated to commute by bus or train to work every day. But I’m not a city girl. What “street smarts” I have come from the occasional trips into Manhattan with my dad and brother to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree, or to go clubbing after I turned 18. However, I’m far from naïve.
Whenever I travel, I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and overly suspicious of people around me.
Case in point: on a trip with clients to Amsterdam, I thwarted two would-be thieves attempting to steal my colleague’s laptop while riding the train. I chased them off the train while hitting the slower one on the head with my carry-on bag.
Follow These Five Safety Rules
1: You are a target, so don’t let your guard down!
Tourists are targets. Period. No matter how much you dress like a “local” or speak the language fluently, people will notice your shoes, hear your accent, and may pick you as their victim. Be aware at all times: even during the day.
2: Don’t Carry Valuables – Ever!
Most crimes are petty thefts and not violent. Most thieves want your mobile phone and cash. Whenever I go out, I carry only $20 (unless I need more for a specific reason) and my Ecuadorean ID. If I’m going to the supermarket, I’ll bring my credit card to pay. Sometimes I carry my mobile phone. My theory is: if I can’t afford to lose something, I don’t bring it.
3: Your Voice Is a Weapon
If someone suspicious is following you, make some noise!
Shout, curse, scream, and look them in the eye.
Let them know you will not lay down and be a victim. Another technique I learned in a self-defense class is this: look the suspicious character in the eye and ask him for the time.
Just to let him know you’re onto him.
4: Learn Emergency Phone Numbers and Program Them Into Your Mobile Phone
Many countries have emergency phone numbers such as 9-1-1 (the Americas) and 1-1-2 (Europe and Asia). Since the dispatcher likely won’t speak English, it’s a good idea to memorize simple emergency phrases in your host- country’s language. Learn phrases such as “I’m hurt. I’m having an emergency. I was just robbed. I’ve been assaulted. My location is…” Learn to say your address and directions in that language. Many developing countries don’t have street names or proper signage, so landmarks will help emergency services find you.
5: Use the Buddy System
Remember grade school class trips? Pretend that living in your expat country is one big class trip.
Don’t walk home alone after drinking all night, take a taxi! Don’t go hiking alone, take a friend with you.
Don’t wander empty parks or trails, use parks that are full of people and trails patrolled by police.
Living in a foreign country can leave you vulnerable to attacks. While most may be are non-violent, avoiding such encounters all together will keep you safer. You need not be a city girl to be tough. Just follow my advice and stay safe! None of this is intended to scare you off from traveling. I’d give the same advice to people regardless of where they live! It’s just common sense, keep-your-wits-about-you advice. Enjoy the world, safely.
by: Rachel deSalvo