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: