Being in a foreign country can feel, well, foreign. How do you feel safe in a new place? Or in any place? We have advice for you.
First, and most importantly, in case of emergency or an unsafe situation, dial 911 on your phone and get help from emergency services.
It’s also important to note that though women feel more at risk of their safety, everyone should follow these suggestions to say as safe as possible.
If you go out at night, leave a porch light (or other light at the entrance) on so you can find and use your keys quickly and get inside safely.
It’s also a good idea to leave a light on inside while you’re out to act as a deterrent since it looks like someone is home.
Whether or not you’re home, close your curtains or blinds when it’s dark outside so no one can see through your windows.
If you have a car that has a key FOB, keep it or an extra next to your bed. If there’s someone or something possibly lurking outside, set off the car alarm to scare them away.
Always have batteries for flashlights available, and keep them in a place you’ll remember and that’s easily accessible so you can reduce the number of bruises you’ll get by bumping into things.
Always lock your car doors – both when you get in the car and when you leave it. Don’t make it easier for someone to steal it!
Park in areas that are well lit and public.
If you ordered a car to pick you up, whether with a local cab or a ride share company, ask the driver to tell you who he or she is supposed to drive as confirmation. Don’t give your name first, since that gives the driver the opportunity to agree even if he or she is not from the company you contacted.
Find your house and/or car keys before you start your trip home so you’re not vulnerable and distracted while searching for them. Then, carry them between your knuckles on the way to the car or from your car into your house so you can use them as a weapon if you are attacked.
Never wear headphones (or anything else) that could obstruct your hearing when in the dark. You’ve already lost most of your sight and it would be extra dangerous to also lose your hearing.
If you’re in a bar or restaurant, don’t leave your drink alone, as someone could easily put drugs or other substances in it. And watch the bartender make your drink for the same reason!
If you’re drunk, don’t try to go home on your own. If you drove to the venue, don’t drive yourself home and instead get a ride from a friend or order a cab. If you walked or took public transportation, make sure a friend goes home with you. And if you got a ride there with a trusted friend, get a ride back with the same trusted friend.
Many school campuses, even in cities, have emergency blue lights, which are essentially blue phone boxes located throughout campus that allow you to make emergency phone calls. However, these have been around for about 30 years; because students today often use their cell phones in case of emergency, some schools have gotten rid of the blue lights. Definitely ask campus security or other staff about them as soon as you arrive, since you can never have enough ways to get help.
Extra safety tips
When you leave your home, don’t carry a large amount of cash on you. Most places take credit or debit cards and you want to avoid giving potential criminals all the money you own.
If your credit and/or debit cards are stolen, call the company or bank immediately and cancel them. You shouldn’t have to pay for charges that weren’t yours, and you will be sent new cards with new numbers to use in the future.
Check your social media settings. If they’re sharing your location, even in backend information that you didn’t realize was there, you run the risk of both telling potential criminals where you are and also that you’re not home.
If you’re in the USA with your family, have a password for emergency situations. This should be known only to your significant other, kids, and any other trusted family member, but no one else. In the case of an emergency, it can be shared with anyone who will take care of the kids so they know the person is safe to be with.
Be wary of potential scams by strangers who ask for directions or money. Though we’re not suggesting you don’t help others, make sure to assess the situation first – are there other people around, is it dark outside, is it safe to take out your wallet or phone, etc.? If you feel uncomfortable, don’t stick around or continue the conversation, don’t get physically close to the person, and try to get to a more public and safe place as quickly as possible.
If your safety is compromised
If you are attacked, yell and scream to draw attention and try to hit the attacker in sensitive body parts such as the groin, face, and knees. And this is crucial: Do everything possible to prevent the attacker from taking you to a second location.
But if someone just wants your money or other possessions, it’s often safer to give them what they want and then immediately go to the police.