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  1. #1
    hillview's Avatar
    hillview is offline Blue Diamond level (20,000+ posts)
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    Default Random thoughts: men/women cultural norms when traveling

    I am traveling for work solo. I am in Goa India for the weekend (after almost 2 weeks in Bangalore where I return to today). I struggle with cultural norms across a range of things but specifically this post is about cultural norms btwn men and women. Of course most of us have read the horrible things that have happened to women in India (gang rapes etc) and not to say this doesn't happen in the US but to a degree it seems worse in India. Also the Kitchen Fires. With that for context I'd have to admit that I am on higher alert vs say San Francisco.

    Situation #1
    On the beach, 9 am. 2 separate times men come up to me asking to have their photos taken with me. I shake my head and keep walking. I am dressed in way more clothes (ankle pants and a tank top no cleavage showing etc) vs the other women in bathing suits on the beach FWIW. I have dark hair. I was walking alone.

    Situation #2
    930 pm I am in my room almost asleep (lame I know). The manager of the hotel (small boutique local hotel with mix of people here but for sure not a US hotel) knocks on my door telling me to "OPEN THE DOOR" then asking when I am checking out. I am startled and tell him no, not opening the door, we will talk in the morning.

    Where do cultural norms start and "danger" begin? I don't know. How can you tell the difference?

    I get that this is a random post but I didn't want to post on Facebook or even tell DH (he will worry!). I just thought it might be interesting to start a thread on this topic.
    DS #1 Summer 05
    DS #2 Summer 07

  2. #2
    AshleyAnn is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    I have not traveled internationally (well Canada but ehh) so I can't answer your question but both situations would have made me uncomfortable especially #2.

  3. #3
    niccig is offline Clean Sweep forum moderator
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    I've done a backpacking round the world trip and lived in Asian and European countries for up to a year at a time. In some parts of the world, women traveling alone draw attention. Western women draw attention. I went out of my way to not draw attention and was always conservatively dressed - that includes covering my shoulders. Short sleeves are fine, tank top was out. I also wore clothing that wasn't form fitting. Here I'd argue I can wear what ever I damn well want. When in another country, particularly one where women are not treated well, my safety comes before my principles.

    I also had my own padlock for a door if I could use it or a plastic door wedge to keep the door closed from the inside. I mostly stayed in hostels and cheaper hotels in tourist districts. If you're traveling a lot there, you may want to find a hotel where you do feel comfortable. And no, I wouldn't be opening the door at 9.30pm either.
    Last edited by niccig; 03-09-2014 at 01:25 AM.

  4. #4
    hillview's Avatar
    hillview is offline Blue Diamond level (20,000+ posts)
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    ok so barricading the door with the couch seems less insane
    DS #1 Summer 05
    DS #2 Summer 07

  5. #5
    stefani is offline Platinum level (1000+ posts)
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    I would not be comfortable with either situation. Good thinking that you did not open the door (situation #2).

    For situation #1, DH (who is Caucasian) did get asked several times in touristy places in Asia for photos. He was with me and DS though. DS and I blend in enough so not an issue for us. The photos were in a group and it was with teenage girls so we indulged them.

    I would not want to have my picture taken if men if I were alone though.

    Stay safe!
    Stefani

    Mommy to DS born 5 Sep 03

  6. #6
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    You don't have to worry about dowry burning (the kitchen fires) but I would definitely be cautious walking around alone, just as you would if you were in a large city in the U.S. As a caucasian woman, you might be considered more approachable compared to Indian women who wouldn't give them the time of day. There is a problem with eve teasing, which is basically groping or catcalls in public places, like crowded trains or sidewalks. This is the sort of thing that happens in a repressed society. ugh.. though I must say that dating is becoming more the norm in big cities. You may also notice that men walk around holding hands. They aren't all gay It's socially acceptable for same sex friends to hold hands (men or women) but not for hetero. couples. Again, things are changing rapidly, esp. in places like Bangalore.

    In the first situation, they were probably wanting to brag to their friends or post it on FB, but you were right to walk away. When I was in college I traveled to Europe and some men asked to have their picture taken with me! I thought it was weird, but I think they just wanted to brag to their friends and I was "Exotic", which is hilarious because I was such a goody two shoes and never dated anyone or anything. I let them do it because I thought it was funny, though of course now I know better.

    As for the second scenario, he was probably just asking you to open the door to talk, but you shouldn't do anything that creeps you out so you did the right thing. Better to be safe than sorry.
    "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What? You, too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis

  7. #7
    ckso is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    With 1, I think they just found you exotic like pp say. Different to them and probably wanted a pic to show their friends. When I went to Tailand, I stood out because I was tall for their standards (I'm only 5'4") but I'm Asian so they expect me to be 5". And I got asked for pics too. In your case it's a good thing that you said no. You never know whether they're going to tease you/grope you/pickpocket you/etc had you said yes.

    With #2, OMG. That's not ok. Why can't he call you if he needed to talk. Did you ever find out what was so urgent and why he needed to talk to you at night?? Like Maybe the next day


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  8. #8
    Simon is offline Ruby level (4000+ posts)
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    Ditto others' experience. I have been asked to take photos, especially in rural areas where Caucasian/American women were a rare sight. Depending on the context (kids, elderly, family, young single men) I would oblige or walk away. I think you did the right thing.

    I've never experienced anything like #2 with the hotel manager but I think you were smart to not open the door. Any chance you could switch hotels if you continue to feel uncomfortable?
    Ds1 (2006). Ds2 (2010). Ds3 (2012).

  9. #9
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    wellyes is offline Blue Diamond level (20,000+ posts)
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    I would assume no ill intent with the photos but of course it's totally reasonable to decline.
    I think it's very unlikely a foreign woman would be a victim of gang rape, especially in an area extremely popular amoung tourists like Goa.
    But caution never hurts. And it does suck that you had to worry about things a man wouldn't have to.
    DD - 8
    DS - 5

  10. #10
    Corie's Avatar
    Corie is offline Pink Diamond level (15,000+ posts)
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    My brother does a lot of traveling with his friends. He was telling me about his travels in China. My brother said that EVERYONE
    was staring at them. He said at one point the traffic on the road was stopped while he and his friends were walking by the
    intersection.

    My brother is over 6 feet tall with a shaved head, big red beard, and a Port-Wine stain birthmark on his face. His buddy is also
    over 6 feet tall and he is covered head-to-toe in tattoos. His buddy's wife is African American.

    Apparently, they were quite the group walking the streets in China.
    Corie

    "A smile is a curve that can set a lot of things straight."
    -fortune cookie

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