DON’T BE THE ODD ONE OUT: A LESSON IN BLENDING IN ABROAD
Going on holiday used to fill me with excitement. I couldn’t wait for the adventure and the chance to strut around in my summer wardrobe. However, after being a victim of crime on the Paris metro, I realised that staying safe on holiday is just as important as having the time of your life.
In 2015, my mum and I went to Paris. We went for the ultimate tourist holiday but the trip turned sour when we got mugged on the Paris metro.
It was our last day in Paris. Our suitcases were packed and we headed for Gare du Nord, the busiest railway station in Europe. No reason to worry because we regularly take the tube in London, right?
Let’s do it Dora the Explorer’s way. These were the three clues marking us as easy targets:
1. We had huge suitcases – probably looked like a walking cash machine.
2. We were speaking English, so they knew we were tourists.
3. My mum’s handbag was slightly open.
As the train pulled into the station, a smiling man stood between us and the doors and started chatting. No red flags yet.
Whilst we were distracted, another man barged into my Mum, throwing her off balance. She let go of her handbag to hold onto a bar – only for a second, but that was all he needed. He reached into her bag and took her purse. No one noticed – not even my mum. We managed to get off just as the doors slammed shut behind us.
When we realised what had happened, we ran as fast as we could to find help.
The priority was cancelling the credit cards but our phones had no signal. Fortunately, someone in the Eurostar queue lent us their phone and we cancelled them.
Next, the police station. We spoke to the officer using a mixture of English, broken French and enthusiastic hand gestures. They told us they were ‘professional criminals’ that were never caught. They were going to get away with it.
It was a traumatic experience – we were taken advantage of when we were supposed to be having fun. However, it taught me invaluable lessons:
If you have suitcases, take a licensed taxi. Expensive but safe.
Ensure your belongings are secure. Zip up your bag and have it facing your body.
Try to blend in; don’t make it obvious you’re a tourist.
Divide your cash between you so if something happens you’re never out of pocket.
Know the right numbers to call. Know the British embassy’s details and emergency number for the country you’re in (which you can find at https://www.gov.uk/world/embassies).
When we go abroad it can be easy to forget we stand out from the people around us. Therefore, it is incredibly important to stay aware of your surroundings to prevent your dream holiday becoming the holiday from hell. For more information on what to do if you’re a victim of a crime abroad, check https://www.gov.uk/victim-crime-abroad