the ultimate guide to staying safe without cutting the party shortby RSJ on Jan 16, 2012 • 1:26 am 2 Comments
The harrowing tale of Amanda Knox, combined with gut-wrenching films like Hostel and Taken, have done a number on our confidence. Can you party in a foreign city without feeling haunted by fictional abductions and real-life tragedies? RSJ tells you how.
Go ahead. Ask your parents for their advice on how to handle your social life in Paris. Answers may include: TALK TO NO ONE, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE AFTER 2 PM, and NEVER DRINK ANYTHING. They may point to the tragedy of Amanda Knox, the nightclub bombings in Bali, or general stereotypes about foreign police/foreign men/foreign women/foreign whatever. And that’s when you tuned them out.
We’d be crazy to deprive you of the post-midnight Spanish fun as depicted in Sak Noel music videos [PS the censoring in this video is hilarious]. Of course you are going to explore the nightlife in your new destination, as you should! But like everything else in life from crossing the street to online dating, there IS a right and a wrong way to behave. Luckily, we have you covered – and our advice does not include wearing a full bodysuit or carrying a kalashnikov.
Our greatest advice to you is to always be aware of your image. Looks aren’t everything, but they sure as hell are something. And I’m not talking about whether or not your shoes match your belt. When traveling, it is only natural that you will attract attention to yourself because you are different. Your language, your mannerisms, your style, or your ethnic background will easily give away that “you’re not from these parts.” To someone who is looking for trouble, what does this say? Well, it can be roughly translated as, “Hi my name is —, and I may not be familiar with your language, probably can’t get home without a map, and may be carrying foreign currency or credit cards.” You know when one more drink will put you over the edge — and a foreign city is not the place to test your tequila stamina. Inevitably, people will be watching the way you behave. Do not give them the impression that you are in a position to be messed with easily. Here are our fool-proof ways to party hard and stay safe.
RSJ Contributor Aylin Khor says, ”Always remember that you are not a local, and everyone knows that. Be careful of the strangers you befriend…and be careful about dating, too.”
Surround yourself with friends.
Going out to a nightclub in London? Make it a group deal. You will look like much less of a loser in your Facebook photos, AND you will be safeguarded against anyone who is looking for a loner. We know you are strong and confident, but sometimes you just don’t have home-court advantage. If you are alone, you may attract attention from individuals who like the fact that you are unarmed with…erm…witnesses. Think about it.
Don’t just know your address- know the landmarks in your neighborhood.
Let’s say you wind up in the back of a taxi alone, or with friends who are too incoherent to navigate. Cities like Moscow and Beijing are notorious for gypsy cabs that may attempt to mess with you if they believe you are vulnerable. You need to know your address in the local language, but more importantly, you need a sense of what is around it. Additionally, never walk home alone. If you find yourself walking at an ungodly hour, be sure to be surrounded with friends and confident in your route. Know landmarks, street names, and multiple ways of getting there.
Top-up your phone BEFORE going out.
For anyone who has ever spent time in Europe, you may be familiar with the process of adding cash to your phone. It is not second nature for most Americans to operate a pay-as-you-go cell phone. Be sure to soberly top-up minutes and texts before going out. Imagine getting stuck in a sticky situation with a creep, only to realize you cannot make a dire phone call. Hit the ATM, newsstand, or cell phone store well ahead of your fiesta. Besides, you’ll want to send some tweets, right?
Set your boundaries, and drop the guilt.
You are not an expert in the mores of any culture but your own. For example, we often humor people who buy us drinks even if we’re not that interested. In some countries, the simple act of smiling could be enough to suggest you want your personal space violated. Entertaining an entire conversation? Might as well bring you home right now. Get a sense of your own personal boundaries, and defend them politely but shamelessly. Tourist guilt results in a lot of scamming and “testing of the waters.” Don’t be an asshole, but don’t be a push-over, either; if the attention is getting to be too much, or if it is unwanted, remove yourself from the situation before the situation removes you.
Ask a trusted local about the common nightlife scams (you might be surprised).
Have you ever heard of fake alcohol? Neither had scores of twenty-somethings working in China, until they had thrown up til sunrise from a round of shots. A common scam in cities like Beijing and Shanghai is to serve “fake alcohol,” aka, a chemical product you likely do not want to be ingesting. Get the inside scoop from someone your age to prevent a hazardous rookie mistake. RSJ contributor Eddie Farrell once pointed out a Madrid hostel with a sleazy-looking lobby bar. He said that scores of gross old men wait in the bar every night for, quote, “the American girls to get home from the clubs.” That doesn’t sound like the kind of place you’d want to visit.
Do YOU have any suggestions for how to stay safe abroad? We want to hear them in the comments below!