Reverse Culture Shock: Security

I’ve decided to do a series of posts on reverse culture shock, since, as you know, I’ve recently moved back to the U.S. after a long stint in Santiago, Chile.

This may come as a shock to a lot of you. I felt safer in Santiago than I do here in Raleigh, NC.

Now, that isn’t to say I feel unsafe here. I usually don’t. But I definitely felt safER in Santiago.

In Santiago, the most common crime is pick pocketing or purse snatching. In fact, it happened to me. So most of the time when I was out and about, I was VERY aware of my surroundings and my stuff. I thought twice before bringing a big purse or bag anywhere…did I really need it? Was it going to be annoying to lug with me everywhere? How sad would I be if it got stolen? On any normal day, my (small) purse had only the essentials in it: a small amount of cash, my keys, my Bip! card and my ID. Maybe some chapstick. But nothing else.

However, when I got home at night, I felt safe. 100%. All the time. I lived in a building in a great neighborhood with 24 hour doormen who I trusted and two locks on the door. I also lived on the 13th floor, so I could leave my windows open and was fairly confident no one could get in.

In Raleigh, it’s a little different. I lug a huge bag around with me almost every day. Granted, most of the stuff is books and notebooks, but I bring my Kindle with me almost everywhere, as well as my iPod. I have a debit card and two credit cards in my wallet. I have a lot of “unnecessary” stuff. But I never feel like someone is going to rob me or pickpocket me. There just wouldn’t be an opportunity. I’m never among that many people. I still do weird things like bring my purse with me everywhere I go because I don’t want to leave it in the car, or I hold in on my lap in restaurants, vestiges of my time in Santiago. But in general, I’m pretty confident it won’t get stolen.

In my townhouse, on the other hand, I don’t feel 100% safe. The only thing separating me from the outside world is a flimsy door and deadbolt lock. No 24 hour doorman. No 13th floor. Plus, we got an e-mail the other day saying that there had been an attempted break-in at our complex. Then, last night I couldn’t get the living room window to shut all the way so it would lock. I slept with my bedroom door locked and my pepper spray next to my bed. It doesn’t help that my roommate works 3rd shift so I am often home alone at night.

I’m sure some of my insecurity comes with adjusting to living in a place that I don’t know. Maybe with time I’ll realize there aren’t any boogie men out to get me.

How about you, where have you felt the safest, home or abroad?

Check out my previous posts on reverse culture shock:

Texting vs. Whatsapp 

Greetings and Goodbyes

Riding the bus


9 thoughts on “Reverse Culture Shock: Security

  1. I don’t ever really feel safe, but I understand what you are talking about. I definitely feel less safe walking around Minneapolis or Chicago than I do Santiago which is weird if you think about it. In fact, the last time we were walking around Chicago, I almost made us take a taxi to get out of a neighborhood that gave me “bad vibes”.

    • I think it has to do with the amount of people around. I tend to feel safer when there are more people (even though it might be easier to pickpocket me) but at least it will be less easy to do some sort of violent crime and get away with it when there are lots of witnesses.

  2. Totally get this. And my family thinks I’m nuts when I’m in town because yes, I carry my purse everywhere, and always lock the doors (house, car, etc.) and wonder why cars and houses don’t have alarms, etc. But still- there’s more awareness of security here than there is there… it just feels like everyone there just leaves themselves wide open to the possibility of theft or worse…

  3. Abby, I totally get this as well. I am so relieved to return to VT after travels. It feels safe here. I know my community; I know the sounds; I know who to call if anything’s weird. Also, I do not live alone.
    Another kind of safety in Montpelier is that our political climate is in sync with my own views. Out of state, I wear my Obama t-shirts and I have conversations with people. But there is a tension that is upsetting. There’s no place like home. and whenever I think of living in upset, tension and true fear for my safety, I am grateful for where I live. xxxoooliz

    • I definitely feel the safest in Vermont, too! And I get what you mean by the political climate. Yesterday on campus a guy wearing a Romney tee-shirt was doing a poll and asked me who I was going to vote for. I was almost afraid to say Obama…but I did and just swiftly walked away. Luckily in general I’ve seen more campus Democrats out and about than campus Republicans. But I think that’s just because the Democrats have to work harder down here, unfortunately.

  4. I hear you too, Abby. I always felt safer in New York than in Austin, Albuquerque, or most of the other places I’ve lived. Like you did, I keep a close watch on my purse and/or bag here, but in general, Chilean crimes are not violent. I would, however, probably fight for my carnet or bank card! Nightmares to replace.

  5. I’m actually really surprised to feel completely safe here in D.F. … especially as it’s supposed to be a “scary, dangerous” city. I’ve definitely felt more at danger back home than here. I’ve never had moments where I’ve felt intimidated or at danger in this city. I always feel safe. Whereas back home, there are waayyyy too many times when I’ve felt really unsure about my surroundings. I get it. 🙂

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