*Show No Difference*
(Blending in at home or abroad)By: brokenbrushstroke
24 December 2005
I have the privilege of getting to see a lot of countries in my line of work(US Army). Unfortunately, I also tend to see a lot of other people in the same line of work land themselves in trouble in things such as anti-American protests, fights with political radicals, and just plain stupidity about foreign cultures(a faux pas can sometimes land one in prison).
This is a simple list of rules I live by that tend to serve me well at home and abroad. Itís a sort of social security blanket.
- Dress nicely, but donít be a peacock. Birds with bright plumage get noticed easier. They also tend to be more prized by hunters. Nothing says "American" like that shirt you have covered in prints of the good olí Red, White, and Blue. Unfortunately, nothing says "target" quite like that either.
- Check your markings. If you wear dog tags or some sort of diplomatic badge on your clothing, or anything that screams, "this is my position, and my barter/value as a hostage," take it off and put it in your pocket. Easy, but often overlooked.
- Do your homework. Always look into the places you go to. This works the same for other towns in the U.S. as it does for other countries. What are the political climates? Riots? Natural disasters in the last 5-10 years? Population? Disease? Terrorist activity? Get the most specific information you can, and get a lot of it.
- Do MORE homework. Know laws and cultures in-and-out. If you can, learn the language. Try to learn the "please" and "thank you" bits at the least. Practice them often. Politeness goes a long way towards extending human life.
- Donít stare.
- Use surrounding reflective surfaces to your advantage in social situations. If you are a female, make-up mirrors look genuine and work well as a way to guard your back. If you are male, use the screen of your cell phone(you DO have a cell phone, right?).
- Communication is key. Carry a mobile phone, and have someone you can call for help that you trust implicitly.
- Sunglasses tend to MAKE you look suspicious unless youíre in South America or at the beach. Gray, tan, and plaid clothes are usually the best.
- Keep it down. Iíve seen more trouble out of rowdy behavior than I can count.
- If you can, have a friend in your foreign culture of choosing. This not only helps you avoid confrontations based upon misunderstanding, but also makes negotiating prices and generally having a good time a lot easier and safer.
- Carry cash. Enough to get you out of trouble. Do not let your cash be visible. Do not flash money, and donít wear a large amount of jewelry. This will help keep you from getting robbed, and it will make sure you donít pay too much for something(shopkeeper sees jewelryÖshopkeeper sees money).
- Maps. Know them. Keep a local subway or bus map in your pocket or wallet, and map routes before going out. Have alternate routes for escape.
- Know what your body can handle and know what you eat. I once saw a guy joyfully eating a seafood soup(he didnít know what it was, only that it tasted good) and drinking beer, only to see his throat seizing up on him from allergies less than an hour later.
- Donít wear overly religious markings on you. This isnít a "prayer in schools" issue. This is more of a "Fundamentalist Group XXX murders you" issue.
- Have fun, but always use your head. Common sense is your best asset.
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