Being a woman abroad can be an eye-opening experience, because every culture has a different attitude towards women.
Before and during your trip, find out about your host country’s cultural values and behaviors regarding women. For example, what kinds of roles are considered appropriate for women? Does smiling at strangers, looking directly at people, and going out at night without a male companion suggest sexual behavior? Sometimes, what is acceptable behavior for women in the U.S. has sexual connotations in other cultures.
Another example of cultural differences is men staring and catcalling at women. This may be considered inappropriate in the U.S., but in some countries it is common behavior.
You will also want to find out what the local attitudes are towards American women. People abroad often have the preconception that American women are “easy” or “loose.” If you are thinking about being sexually active abroad, inform yourself about STD prevention, birth control, and safe sex practices in that country. In addition, how is sex outside of marriage perceived? Do the locals shun women who have sex outside of marriage?
You may feel frustration with the local behaviors and attitudes towards women. This is understandable and is part of experiencing another culture.
To avoid unwanted attention, dress and act like the local women. In fact, the local women can be a good resource if you need advice on how to avoid or deflect unwanted attention. Also, if you get lost or need directions, it may also be safer to ask a woman than a man.
Throughout your trip, remember to put your safety first and always be aware of your surroundings. By observing the local women and men, you’ll learn about gender roles in another culture.Must Ask Questions for Women:
Tips for Women:
- Is it safe for me to go out alone? at night? Are there areas or places I should avoid?
- How are women expected to behave?
- How do men treat women?
- What are the cultural norms regarding friendship and dating?
- Do people in my host country have stereotypes of American women?
- Do research on gender roles and their history beforehand.
- Put your safety first and be aware of your surroundings.
- Dress and act like the local women to avoid standing out.
- Be aware of cultural differences, including body language, that may be misinterpreted in your host culture.
- Talk with other women who have studied abroad to find out more about their experiences.