Adelaide9216

Travelling while being female

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Hello,

I've heard horrible stories re: street harassment in France (I will present to a conference there at the end of August). The stories I have heard won't hinder me from presenting, but I was wondering what have your experiences been in regards to traveling in other parts of the world as a woman or as a woman of color.

 

TY

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33 minutes ago, Adelaide9216 said:

Hello,

I've heard horrible stories re: street harassment in France (I will present to a conference there at the end of August). The stories I have heard won't hinder me from presenting, but I was wondering what have your experiences been in regards to traveling in other parts of the world as a woman or as a woman of color.

 

TY

My sister has travelled to France for holiday and nothing bad happened to her. She was travelling with a female friend though.

If you will travel by yourself, I suggest that you book a reputable hotel (not budgeted and shared accommodation), preferably close to your conference venue. It may be more expensive, but your safety comes before that. That will decrease your need for wandering on the streets, and hence the possibility of street harassment. As a rule of thumb, you should never go out at night or to very quiet places alone. If that is possible, try and see if you can find someone to go with you. It doesn't have to be someone going to the exact same conference. It can be friends or even family members. Not only will it make you feel safer, but also you can do more sightseeing. Basically, ladies in my department go to international conferences with their partners, some even plan a honeymoon trip! 

Unfortunately, I am single, but my mum took her annual leave and joined me to an international conference last year (somewhere in Europe). We booked the hotel down the corner of the conference venue, so I just needed 2 min to get there. We worked out a plan for sightseeing together and we had a good time. The only "bad" thing that happened was getting lost in the city while it was raining heavily. Thankfully, we found our way back to the hotel by asking passersby. 

Hope that helps :) 

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17 hours ago, Adelaide9216 said:

I was wondering what have your experiences been in regards to traveling in other parts of the world as a woman or as a woman of color.

Generally you should just plan to behave as you would in any less familiar place. I assume you do speak the language so that will make your life easier, but either way, just be wise. Keep your valuables in a safe place (e.g. not in an outer pocket of your bag; and not even on you if you don't need them). Have a plan for where you're going and how to get there; try not to seem lost or confused. Don't walk with earbuds in your ears, so you can hear if anything happens. Read up on the town you're going to, to make sure that the conference venue is in a safe part of town (it almost always is) and that you book accommodations nearby in a place that's also safe. The conference website may have recommendations, or you can ask the organizers. Have the address for where you're going written down somewhere, and keep in mind that your phone may not work abroad. I always have some cash in my pockets and in my bag (outside my wallet), just in case. Some women wear fake wedding rings when traveling to minimize interactions with men, but that may be overkill for France. Join groups of folks when they go to lunch/dinner from the conference; walking with a group is always better (and more fun!). 

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19 hours ago, Adelaide9216 said:

I've heard horrible stories re: street harassment in France (I will present to a conference there at the end of August). The stories I have heard won't hinder me from presenting, but I was wondering what have your experiences been in regards to traveling in other parts of the world as a woman or as a woman of color.

France has issues with harassment - there's no other way of putting it. I don't think WOC are especially targeted though - I am ethnically French and used to speak the language fluently, but was the target of some pretty brutal harassment/assault. 

Try to travel in groups when talking the streets. Don't engage when strangers try and talk to you - keep on walking and ignore them. Don't smile on the train or walking the streets because someone could take that as license to harass you. Don't catch public transport very early in the morning or very late at night. Read up in advance to see what parts of the city are unsafe - I was spending time with a Moroccan-French friend who has lived in Paris most of his life, and there was an area of Paris where he wouldn't let us walk - we had to run when going through it. 

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4 hours ago, fuzzylogician said:

Some women wear fake wedding rings when traveling to minimize interactions with men, but that may be overkill for France.

Not so much overkill as culturally irrelevant :P

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Hello, few ideas to this topic:

- in large cities in France, there is a HUGE difference between "ghetto" areas and "normal" (or even "nice") areas, so when you read anything, try to find out *where* it happened, under what circumstances (when it was budget travelling and "super cheap hostel directly in Paris!" it gives you some clue)

- for the above same reason, I would ask the organizers for some hotel recommendations

 

That was for the "dangerous" part.

 

Now the "annoying" part. There is an issue with street harassment on the level of "walking next to someone and talking to them". The local advice is ignoring this kind of people (because any interaction is better than nothing for them); I prefer to make short eye contact with "ew I stepped in a dog poo" face (under the logic that avoiding eye contact could be interpreted as fear). Personally I ignore young and middle age (let's say under 60) men even if they ask for directions or stuff like that.

If the area is touristic then I would be also careful about pick pockets (e.g. passport goes in the front pocket, not in the wallet). Always memorize things like your address and how to get there plus some emergency phone numbers. I recall a guy who was in Germany and told us that he has to catch the last tram "because he only remembers how the station looks like, and he does not know the address of his Airbnb room, only knows it ends with -straße"; "Straße" means "street" and like 80% of street names end with -straße :ph34r:

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4 hours ago, Primula said:

Hello, few ideas to this topic:

- in large cities in France, there is a HUGE difference between "ghetto" areas and "normal" (or even "nice") areas, so when you read anything, try to find out *where* it happened, under what circumstances (when it was budget travelling and "super cheap hostel directly in Paris!" it gives you some clue)

- for the above same reason, I would ask the organizers for some hotel recommendations

In echo with Primula, there must be good and bad areas in a large city. Even for the uni I am in, some parts of the campus are notoriously known for robbery, even during the day. My family always express concerns whenever they read about robbery at my uni, but it always happens in those bad areas. 

If you are going to a large international conference, the organisers should have liaised with the hotels nearby to offer discounted accommodation. You should find a list of the hotels they recommend. However, my friends and I often find that it is cheaper to book directly with the hotel than through the conference organisers (mine was 20% less). It is also worth checking for holiday packages offered by your local travel agency. Sometimes you can save a good deal by booking one of the packages (air tickets plus hotel). Since you know when exactly you will travel, you can request the travel agent to watch out for you. I found a holiday package for my conference trip and I saved another 5%! 

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Hi,

During my undergrad I lived in France for a year and got to travel around a bit both in France and around Europe. As a female traveling by myself, I can honestly say I never really felt threatened. I mostly stayed in cheap hostels with a bunch of strangers in the same room and took the cheapest mode of transportation available. Some times I did have to stand up for myself a bit more emphatically (it was an issue in a night train going from Austria to Croatia, but nothing serious). I watch out for the obvious hazards, such as getting super drunk, watching your drink if you do go out, and avoid unknown places after dark.

Full disclosure: I was born and raised in what could be considered a 3rd world country, so it takes some effort to faze me. I feel pretty safe walking 2 miles home after a night out in Austin, for example. 

Enjoy your trip and good luck with your presentation!

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3 hours ago, TheWalkingGrad said:

Hi,

During my undergrad I lived in France for a year and got to travel around a bit both in France and around Europe. As a female traveling by myself, I can honestly say I never really felt threatened. I mostly stayed in cheap hostels with a bunch of strangers in the same room and took the cheapest mode of transportation available. Some times I did have to stand up for myself a bit more emphatically (it was an issue in a night train going from Austria to Croatia, but nothing serious). I watch out for the obvious hazards, such as getting super drunk, watching your drink if you do go out, and avoid unknown places after dark.

Full disclosure: I was born and raised in what could be considered a 3rd world country, so it takes some effort to faze me. I feel pretty safe walking 2 miles home after a night out in Austin, for example. 

Enjoy your trip and good luck with your presentation!

I'm glad that you had such a positive experience. I can tell you the issues I faced had absolutely nothing to do with being drunk or being fazed. There were many incidents, but one included having my body grabbed by a stranger in a busy street in the middle of the day, where he did inappropriate physical/sexual things to me. I was sober, it wasn't an unknown place at dark (it was actually a market) and I think what I experienced would have fazed most people. I've lived in France twice and the first time had no issues. The second time was a lot more distressing. 

I'm not trying to say that your experience is invalid, but more that you were lucky, as many people are too. That said, I know many other women who had experiences like my own in Paris. As such, I strongly believe it is worth erring on the side of caution, and understand that you can be doing everything right and still have incidents like this. If something happens, it's not your fault. 

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6 hours ago, lemma said:

I'm glad that you had such a positive experience. I can tell you the issues I faced had absolutely nothing to do with being drunk or being fazed. There were many incidents, but one included having my body grabbed by a stranger in a busy street in the middle of the day, where he did inappropriate physical/sexual things to me. I was sober, it wasn't an unknown place at dark (it was actually a market) and I think what I experienced would have fazed most people. I've lived in France twice and the first time had no issues. The second time was a lot more distressing. 

I'm not trying to say that your experience is invalid, but more that you were lucky, as many people are too. That said, I know many other women who had experiences like my own in Paris. As such, I strongly believe it is worth erring on the side of caution, and understand that you can be doing everything right and still have incidents like this. If something happens, it's not your fault. 

I'm sorry you had this experience and I completely agree with you about erring on the side of caution. By no means I meant to imply that shitty things only happened with drunk people or in strange places, much less that it is our fault if something does happen! - us women should be able to be alone wherever and in any condition we choose without having men bothering us. I just meant to share my personal experience that, compared to other places I've been by myself, France and Western Europe in general were pretty safe by my own personal standards. 

Edited by TheWalkingGrad

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14 hours ago, lemma said:

I'm not trying to say that your experience is invalid, but more that you were lucky, as many people are too. 

Either luck, or some other factor - e.g. I rarely have problems* but I am also taller than most people, and I suppose that it can discourage many people. Individual experiences are very subjective in this case. (apart from other factor, notably location as I mentioned above... "Paris" is really a vague term)

 

* Also depends on what different people consider serious / worth mentioning, e.g. when I was a child then being touched against my will (by peers, not by adults) and punished "for overreacting" was a daily bread (in Eastern Europe back then only "serious beating" and "stealing money / valuable things like clothing" was considered bullying) so I probably would not even notice if someone touched my leg randomly or something like that

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