Thursday, 24 June 2010

Familiarity vs Fear



On our recent trip to the Faroes, as we crossed London by tube to get to the airport, it suddenly occurred to me that this was probably the point when we were at most risk from thieves. After all, the Faroes has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Torshavn
Not quite the big city...
Torshavn, capital of the Faroes

London is familiar. I feel pretty comfortable there, but I sometimes wonder whether that familiarity makes me overlook the little dangers in a way I never would if I was in a city I didn't know so well. Am I lulled into a false sense of security, or am I genuinely better at judging the threats around me in a place I know well? I have no idea of the answer.

There's definitely some level of safe-feeling which comes from familiarity, but there are other (more rational) factors in play when I suddenly start wearing a money belt overseas.

It matters less if I'm a victim of theft in my own country: I don't carry much cash, my cards are easily cancelled, and documents can be quickly replaced. The police are also familiar to me, they speak my language, and I theirs (at least, I know how to get a crime reference number!). Most importantly, I worry about my passport when I'm in a foreign country, because without it I can't get home.

Proof that it's all subjective: at the airport waiting to fly home from Colorado last summer, I overheard some American travellers discussing the extra precautions they were taking for their trip to England - just as I was about to relax my security from "holiday mode" back to normal.

Do you take more care when you're somewhere unfamiliar? Even when it's completely irrational...? All your thoughts are welcome, of course, but I'd be particularly interested in the views of natural city-dwellers (just because I'm really not one!)


I'm in Greenland! I promise to catch up on comments, and come round and visit you all, just as soon as I get home. I'll try to keep in touch via Twitter and my Facebook page.

11 comments:

Lauren said...

I've been on two cruises to the Bahamas, but I was younger so my parents took care of birth certificates, IDs, and passports. I didn't worry about it because it wasn't my job to. However, I couldn't help but think about the movie French Kiss with Meg Ryan who gets her passport stolen and she's stuck in France trying to make her way back home. That seems like one of the scariest traveling mishaps to me. But honestly, I don't always feel safe in my state. When I lived on campus at my university, I feared going out at night, and I still fear my parents house at night, especially after my cousins' house got robbed not fifteen minutes away from my parents while everyone was still sleeping. This all could be from watching too much Criminal Minds and too many scary movies, however.

smilla4blogs said...

I live in a place where many people never lock their doors...our neighbor's pre Civil War house has never even had a lock! A flood of tourists accompanies summer, so this is the time of year when I think twice about my winter habits. Traveling is another matter! I consciously try to revert to my old city skills which have seriously slipped. My brother was just in Rome and lost his iphone in a bump and grab.

Tabor said...

When I lived in the city in a place that could have had crime and did I was more careful and also more cold to people. It seemed there were many folks trying to get me to give them money due to some immediate crisis. Now that I live in the country I sometimes do not lock my car when going into the store even. I also will on occasion give someone a ride. It is a very different feeling. On travel I am always more careful because when you are a tourist it shows. You are more vulnerable.

JadeLD said...

It's interesting to read this. I think the main thing about feeling less secure in places I'm not familiar with is that I'm never sure if I've wandered into a bad part of town, places I'm familiar with like London, Berlin or Paris I know where not to go.

I have to admit though that I've never used a money belt! I try to look as much like a local as I can, I think it makes you less of a target. I never carry all my money and cards with me and usually stash them in secret pockets of my suitcase at the hotel. I always pay attention to what the locals are wearing and try to fit in. I always walk purposefully as if I know where I'm going. I find that looking a little grumpy in Italy and Spain in the summer helps too!

If you lose you passport you can travel back on the police report from where you reported having stuff stollen. It's really easy within the EU. However, I always carry a photocopy of my passport and keep one as an email attachement I can print off as required. I usually only carry the copy and leave the real one hidden in my hotel room.

Hope you don't have any issues while away!
Jade

liliannattel said...

I think you're more vulnerable when you travel because you look more vulnerable--you're obviously out of place and you don't know where it's risky and where it isn't. At home you do.

Chef E said...

I am worried about Spain- We saw in a few videos and others that we should wear money bags around our waist- a neighbor was mugged in broad daylight on a city street in Barcelona... I have been attacked and robbed, so of course I would be cautious...

yogurt said...

Tourists are probably more at risk because they LOOK alike tourists. The trick is dressing to look like you belong - but not always easy or possible. We are planning a trip to NYC this summer. You are reminding me that we need to plan ahead, pack a some safe pouch that can be worn around the body. I've always felt vulnerable in NYC, for good reason.

Oops I see lilliannattel already made my point.

Fly Girl said...

Everything is relative. I've lived in Chicago all of my life and have only experienced 1 or 2 crimes in my entire life. It's not like there isn't a lot of crime here but I use common sense. The same goes wherever I travel. I don't use a money bag but I never look like a tourist and do silly things like flash a lot of money and wear expensive jewelry. It's also relative in that few places have the amount of violent crime as the U.S. so I never have much fear, no matter how unfamiliar. I think you become more of a target when you're paranoid and fearful.

Kazzy said...

This picture makes me crave an old European town...

alessandra said...

I totally agree with what you said.
When I travel, I obviously fear to lose the money or the ID, since I cannot count on anybody, except "maybe" the consulate.

Deirdre said...

I'm probably more paranoid that the average person but I even take caution when in familiar territory. You just never really know what could happen if you let your guard down.

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