When I was a little girl flipping through my mother’s photo album from her semester abroad and dreaming of my own, I never contemplated that I would be warned or discouraged or worried about more than the boys were. Years later, now living out my dream in Paris, I understand that there are certain precautions that all travelers, particularly women, should take before venturing overseas, but I still believe us ladies deserve a little more credit and trust.
According to CIEE Study Abroad statistics, women make up 65% of the study abroad participants annually. Fear for women traveling abroad does stem from the fact that bad things happen to good people, but it is escalated and perpetuated by the media, which is quick to label us all damsels in distress. One particular film has plagued my travels and caused unnecessary fear in the minds of my friends and family.
If I had a nickel for every time I was warned to see the film Taken before leaving for France, well, I would probably be able to finance my semester abroad. After having Taken brought up in countless conversations by well-meaning loved ones, I decided to check out the film that had been robbing me of my family’s congratulations and excitement.
While watching the famous kidnap scene, in which two teenaged girls are abducted from their Parisian apartment and sold into sex slavery after having shared a taxi with a stranger and telling him details about their stay, I admit that I could see reason behind my family’s concerns.
The small series of mistakes made by the girls seems like such a familiar part of casual conversation, they would be easy for any girl to make when faced with an inquisitive and attractive French man. After all, one of the most rewarding aspects of travel is interacting with the locals and becoming immersed in the culture. By no means would I suggest shunning all foreign men. But after watching this film, I would just like to remind my fellow wander-lusting women that there are a few things that should be left out of conversation with strangers in order to maintain your safety.
The Five Taken Mistakes
The girls in the film made five simple mistakes, which seem somewhat harmless, but should definitely be avoided in the real world. These tips seem like common sense, because, really, they are for anyone outside of a Hollywood film.
Mistake 1: Do not share a cab with a stranger.
If tight quarters and forced conversation with an unfamiliar person don’t immediately strike you as an odd situation to avoid, be aware of the fact that this stranger will now have exact directions to where you are staying, regardless of the fact that it may save you a few Euros.
Mistake 2: Do not let strangers know where you live.
In addition to keeping the cab to yourself, avoid bringing up specifics about where you live. Keep conversation in general terms while maintain courtesy. Telling someone that you live in the 16th arrondissement of Paris is just as easy as telling them that you live on Rue de la Pompe.
Mistake 3: Do not stay alone.
Many independent women would react adversely to being told to maintain the buddy system when traveling for work or leisure. However, for students studying abroad, avoid living in an apartment by yourself. Live with a host family or find roommates and get to know the people who live in your building. There is power in numbers (and it’s probably cheaper).
Mistake 4: Do not enter your access code in front of strangers.
Anyone living in a city will become familiar with entering an access code before being able to get into their building. It can become second nature, but always be aware of who is around when you do it. Treat entering your code like entering your credit card pin and find a different entrance if someone unfamiliar is waiting by the door to be let in.
Mistake 5: Do not give details on your living situation.
While it can be difficult not to gush about your third floor apartment overlooking the garden, or how your host family is rarely home so you have the place to yourself until dinnertime every night, these are bits of conversation that can give away more information that you would like. Also, if you come across anyone asking too many questions about specific details of this nature, kindly remove yourself from the conversation.
Bearing these logical tips in mind, women should feel free to travel to every city they have dreamed about since childhood, understanding that they will likely be confronted with the Taken myth, but knowing that will not be another victim of the common Hollywood typecast.