Harassment abroad: how to react?


What if I told you about the painful things on the trip? Let’s start with harassment!

The truth and nothing but the truth? Then we have to talk about what the journey can also have as a constraint: harassment.
At the top of the anti-travel arguments, harassment is the trio of winners, after security (all thieves!) and health risks (tourista ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch!). Yes, it exists and it would be foolish to deny it. But don’t let this dissuade you from discovering the world. Because if you are going to go through some embarrassing situations, other experiences are waiting for you, which will be fun, hilarious, moving and breathtaking.

Many people are reluctant to venture into certain countries known for this type of harassment. Alas, it is true that harassment is an inconvenience that every traveller arriving in foreign territory has to put up with. But this is not a real good reason to give up exploring the world, so here are some tips on how to react in the best possible way and continue your journey with peace of mind.

Tourist harassment: when crossing the souk becomes an ordeal 

Taxis, tour salesmen, carpets, perfumes, djellabas, horse-drawn carriage rides, tours of tourist sites… it is sometimes impossible to take a step without being stopped. 
It is wrong to think that this harassment is only aimed at newcomers: white skins, Decathlon shorts and slinging cameras. Whether you’re a backpacker who’s been eliminated, a shabby babacool, a muscular athlete or a retiree with a love of culture and history, no matter what you look like, everyone is entitled to it.
Even more surprisingly, the locals themselves are paying the price for this harassment. It’s cultural! My Egyptian friends are just as much in demand as I am when they venture to tourist sites. They try to wear them down and don’t give up until they get money.

Travellers are overwhelmed, exasperated, exhausted from being constantly targeted. They feel like a wallet on legs and suffer from receiving only venal attention. All this is true. However, this is not the norm everywhere and it depends a lot on your attitude

I sincerely don’t blame those who are thinking of spending their holidays only in a closed hotel with a double tower. They only go out with a licensed and well-paid guide to see a bit of the country and that’s it. At least there, they are quiet. They can spend their time paddling, eating, sunbathing, reading or chatting without being bothered.

Let’s go over the behaviours to adopt (and to run away from) so that everything happens in the happiness of discovery and true exchange!

Commercial and Tourist harassment: when crossing the souk becomes an ordeal

“Come and have a look in my shop, just to see, it’s free! ». The collectors from all over the world know how to do it: “pleasure for the eyes!”. “Free tea!” Or they keep a lookout in the streets and harpoon the first tourist who passes by for a visit in the shop or… you are approached “by chance”.

As you are super nice, we suggest you to go and see directly where the tourists don’t go: the handicraft fabric factory, an art school where he/she is a pupil, a party, a festival of some kind. No illusion, you will land in a shop!

What to do in case of commercial harassment?

  • To turn a deaf ear, keep silent, a negative hand signal will suffice.
  • Lying (which is against my principles, but sometimes necessity is the law): you have already booked your tour, you have already bought your souvenirs: your purse is empty, your budget is tight!
  • Make them understand with a look or a gesture that they are going to waste their time and therefore their money.
  • Gratify them with a smile and ostentatiously plunge back into your travel guide.
  • If you don’t want to buy anything, say no thanks with courtesy but firmness and go on your way without further discussion.
  • Only go into the shop if you really want to and don’t let yourself be forced to buy a carpet, camel or couscous tray that you don’t need.
  • If you have had the misfortune to go inside to have a look and the salesman is really slimy, say that you will think about it and that you will come back if you need to and leave without any restraint.

Don’t take the bait in the first place

It’s exhausting to talk all the time: negotiating, answering questions, justifying yourself… Don’t turn around when you’re called, don’t react to the pssst, hep! hiss, Helloooo, where you come from, what are you looking for? Make a hand gesture that says no, smile and don’t stop.
Wiped out by these constant solicitations, I remember one day having literally stunned a sticky flapper by answering him, out of me: “NO, I won’t tell you where I come from, what country/city I come from, where I’m going, my age, my status or my name! ».
When the tone is imperious, authoritarian, it is advisable to put the seller in his place. You deserve as much respect as you show.

How do you recognise an ideal tourist?

  • It answers the questions “where do you come from? ».

  • It obeys the more authoritative “wait! Wait! “and indeed the traveller stops. When he is told “Come! – come here! “he comes, and when he is told “give me – give me ! “he gives!
  • He doesn’t argue about prices multiplied by 10 and pays everything without batting an eyelid.
  • These travellers are plucked with delight and find it normal. They tell themselves that their standard of living is higher anyway and that one or two euros is nothing.

Sexual harassment of female travellers

You walk quietly in the street, dressed quite decently, but thoughts are flowing in your path. You are asked if you are married, a kiss (on the mouth), you are taken by the arm and you are covered with compliments… if it is not simply a direct request to sleep with you (Sexweezzzzmeee?).

It was just a joke… There are some subjects with which it is better not to joke with solo travellers

If the taxi driver, while laughing, starts talking to you about sex (“French woman very good, very beautiful, good sex”), put him back in his seat right away. Explain that we don’t talk like that, that it’s very insulting.
There are jokes that we don’t laugh at either, like the one about this hostel employee who shows me my 2-bed room and says “this is your bed, this is my bed…” with a little smile on his face. Very funny.
Don’t let anything pass. Inform him that a woman travelling alone needs to feel safe. Her thinking is inappropriate and you don’t appreciate being told this directly. Pass the information on to the big boss if he is an employee.
In most cases, you will receive an apology and everything will be fine. If everyone, including the boss, still thinks it’s hilarious, change hostels and put a comment on booking sites, Google, trip Advisor, etc.

The men in some countries are not lacking in boldness and have serious shortcomings when it comes to flirting. Vulgar hissing, dirty looks, you will be bluntly apostrophied as if you were a peripatetic

Sometimes you can be touched squarely, your breasts, your buttocks without being invited.

  • You should know that in most cases, these men would never allow themselves to talk like that to a woman from their country. They allow themselves to inconvenience you in this way because they have a totally false representation of “white” women. A woman alone (unaccompanied by a man) is a woman who is open to any proposal. A respectable woman would never go out alone, without a chaperone.
  • The majority of Westerners are women freed from any moral straitjacket regarding the body and sexuality. Some men feel that they are therefore very open-minded, always willing to make a frolic.
  • In some countries, sex education is non-existent. The first intercourse only takes place after marriage (often arranged so without mutual attraction or love). Obtaining the favours of a traveller for whom virginity is not a concern is a godsend. They won’t deprive themselves of trying everything to learn more about the issue.

What to do in case of sexual harassment?

As with buying a tea set, only do it if you want to, and make it clear from the outset.
  • If you don’t, don’t respond, keep a cold, distant attitude and move on.
  • Watch out for laughter and smiles. In many countries women never smile at strangers. This friendliness is reserved for relatives. Your cheerfulness can be seen as a flirt (if you smile at her, it means you like her) or even an invitation.
  • Use your intuition, your instinct, and if you feel the confusion, be cold, refuse all contact, don’t let them get too close and get out of the way.
  • Adapt your clothing. Deep necklines and short skirts can whet the appetites of many boys who are not used to seeing scantily clad women.
  • Braggers hate humiliation in public. Raise your voice, without being insulting (which could make it violent), explain that you are not available to get to know each other (no chance!).

What to do if harassment escalates in a public place?

  • If you are touched in sensitive areas: the slap. No hesitation.

  • Don’t take anything but give change.
  • If you are being disrespected, let those around you know. (And kick something while shouting, it impresses).
  • If a man in the next seat masturbates while staring at you: point at him, let the other passengers on the bus know if it’s a bus, the neighbours, the passers-by if it’s in the street.
  • If you are being molested or pushed, grabbed by the arm with force, tackled against a wall, brutality, authority, etc., you will be molested. Call for help, cause a scandal. Not all men are potential aggressors. The people around you may intervene to defend you and it is not uncommon for them to come and apologise for the aggressor.

Love harassment (for man or woman)

You are wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary. You don’t look your age, you are fit, superb, radiant, you are nothing but grace and refinement. You don’t even need to say anything, you are intelligence itself. And what courage! What a personality! (Sighs).
Of course, magnificent idylls are born every day, stories worthy of a novel, but be careful that they don’t only pursue the lure of gain. Let it be said, even the nicest ones will jump at the opportunity. They are already conquered by your smile, your culture, your bank account (which they believe to be) well stocked, a dream of a visa for Europe? 

Being married or as a couple but travelling alone will not discourage them. So just imagine, if you are single, they’ll bring out the heavy artillery. 
Don’t pack any illusions in your bag. The hope of a life they think is better will drive them crazy with love. They will stop at nothing to seduce you.

I am deeply, irrevocably in favour of human and cultural crossbreeding, but you should know where you stand
It is quite normal in some countries to use children as a bargaining chip, even between natives to get money. Some women will stop at nothing to get pregnant and live on a pension: pierced condoms, fake pills, drugs…
Sincere and deep relationships exist. Alas, many stories end on a tone that is very different from the beginning. Blackmail to the child, legal proceedings, harassment of the family, threats…


What to do in case of harassment in love?

It’s all about attitude. Show or say in some way that you are not open to commitment.
  • If you are a single woman…lie, lie, lie! Your husband (yes, husband, if it’s not official it won’t discourage them) is waiting for you, at the hotel, in the car, 100m away and wearing a fake wedding ring.
  • Gentlemen, if it is not your wish to find yourself the father of a large family in less time than it takes to say it: go out covered and use only your new condoms bought at the chemist’s!  

Be confident but careful! You learn to adapt quickly!

Not always easy to cope with begging when travelling! How to react in the best way?

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