Gender Abroad

Know that other countries have varying cultural, social, and legal issues concerning gender roles, social relationships, and dating rituals. Please see "Sexual Health and Relationships Abroad" for more details about dating, relationships, and safer sex practices.

American women traveling abroad, in particular, may receive unsolicited attention in certain countries, such as being followed and heckled by strangers, largely due to negative sexual stereotypes of American women. These encounters are usually more uncomfortable than unsafe, but it's best to be aware so as to be prepared. Here are some general safety tips to keep these annoyances to a minimum:

  • Dress conservatively, in a less obviously American fashion. Take note of how local women dress and interact with strangers.
  • Move briskly and avoid eye contact with men you do not know. This may seem rude, but being friendly with strangers can result in unwanted attention.
  • Be firm and assertive in your language. Do not try to be polite, as this may encourage unwanted advances.
  • Travel in groups with male students, especially in unfamiliar parts of town. When meeting friends, arrange to meet at a public place (e.g. a café or a store) in order to avoid having to stand idle and alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, such as at a train station, stand near groups or families.
  • Never go out alone (or even in small, all-female groups) at night. Make your arrangements for getting home safely ahead of time.
  • Use the buddy system. When you go out, always make sure that you leave with the same people with whom you arrived.