Rough Translation, "Hey beautiful walk in the shade, the sun melts chocolate."

Ah, harassment, a reality faced by many a person who goes abroad and in some cases, walks down their hometown’s Main Street.  Let’s define it broadly as unwanted taunts, hoops, hollers and comments in general in reference to race or gender:   Anything from innocent cat-calls to downright racist epithets and gesticulations.

There’s certainly no need to point fingers at any particular place, but suffice it to say that it happens to varying degrees in a lot of different places from NYC to Cairo to Russia.

Harassment should never deter you from traveling.  I repeat street harassment should never deter you from traveling.  With that said, it can be annoying, jarring and even in some extreme cases scarring.  But here are some tips that might help you brush your shoulders off.

1. Shades– Sunglasses enable you to avoid eye contact with harassers.  You won’t notice them as much and/or you can pretend like you don’t see them.  Many harassers like to get a raise out of their “prey.”  So if you don’t even notice them or it seems like you didn’t  and just keep walking forward they will probably try to move on to someone else.

2. Headphones. – they are yet another way to look like you are not paying attention to their gawks and cat-calls, making them look like fools when you don’t respond.  You don’t even have to actually use a music player, the appearance of headphones is good enough. You don’t even have to actually use a music player, the appearance of headphones is good enough.

3. Walk around with a buddy– there is strength in numbers, especially at night and in unfamiliar parts of towns and cities.  If you are female, a male buddy might even be better. If potential harassers see you with someone of the opposite sex, they may be less willing to risk being hostile (or super friendly) and angering your male companion.

4. Dress conservatively– this one doesn’t necessarily make a difference everywhere,  and it will mean different things in different places. But keep in mind the standards of dress for the place you are visiting.  You don’t have to blend in with the locals, but for example,  if it is a community or country where women don’t wear non-sleeves, then your tank-top and above the knee skirt ensemble is sure to raise a few eyebrows and garner  some unwanted attention.  This is not just a tip for ladies though; there are communities for example where men in shorts or sleeveless shirts are a no-go.  In essence, be wise and find out about the “dress code” before you go.  But don’t stress too much about it as it is sure to be more flexible for foreigners than what they are for the local population.

In the event that you are yelled or confronted in the street, it’s probably best in most situations to ignore it.  Choose the path of least confrontation and feign deafness whenever possible— remember the old adage, “sticks and stones”…   as you are in another country it is probably not best to rock the boat.

But

if things do get physical,  call out for help immediately. You should definitely memorize this word in your destination language if you do not know it already.

There are certainly other tips out there, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people who have been to your destination about their strategies.

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