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SafetyStudent Travel

Three signs your new friend is not your friend

By April 9, 2018 No Comments

“It’s the friends we meet along the way that help us appreciate the journey.”

But what if you’re traveling and that new overseas “friend” just wants to sell you drugs, rob you, or worse?

This is the time where we listen to our ‘Spidey Sense,’ trust our gut and pay extra attention to the hairs that stick up on the back of our necks when something just isn’t right.

I will admit, what I just said, while potentially the best I’ve received, sounds vague. Stick with me here; we’ll get into signs to look for and some actionable tips.

Half of the fun of traveling is meeting new people and making new friends. I love chatting with random people in foreign countries; it’s a great way to find the best food, things to see and do plus hidden fun that only the locals know. I’ll admit, I’m not great at keeping in contact afterward… maybe I’ll run an experiment on how to stay in touch… Stay tuned.



Top three signs that your new ‘friend’ is not your #friend

Forced teaming

Gavin DeBecker (see book review The Gift of Fear) describes this as an artificial and unwelcome bond for some created goal or against some invented ‘common enemy.’ They are creating a false sense of connection (Kurt Vonnegut calls this a Granfalloon). Repeatedly using terms such as ‘we’ or ‘they,’ create us vs. them mentality, insinuating that ‘we’ are on the same team.

Won’t hear no

This is a conscious choice; this person is choosing not to hear ‘no’ because they are trying to control you. Letting them ignore your wishes is the first step in giving up control. If you say no, stick to it, and immediately recognize this as a signal that this person has ulterior motives. 

Efforts to separate you from the group

Yes, depending on how well you know this person, their desire may be an honest effort to build a better connection or take the relationship to the next level. Keep in mind that there IS a difference between getting you alone and creating one-on-one opportunities to chat and get to know you. I always suggest sticking to well-populated places. If their reasons seem far-fetched, overly intense or trigger your Spidey Sense (see above), this may be the start of a very bad evening – stay with your group instead.

The biggest point here is that we’re looking for signals that this person does not have your best interests at heart.

“But JC,” you say, “I was in grade school, I can tell when someone isn’t my friend.”

That’s a great point, and I applaud your use of instinct when analyzing a situation. I will add that the task of figuring out if someone just wants something from you is more challenging when you’re traveling… and by that, I mean: You may be less likely to see the signs of manipulation while overseas.

There are three very good reasons for this.

Why we miss the warning signs

Over-stimulation: When you’re in a new country, you are under a barrage of new sights, sounds, smells and experiences (that’s the reason you went, right?) that your brain is taking in to process. Your brain is working overtime and may not have the resources to analyze the nuances, then to alert you of an untrustworthy companion.

You are away from your social network and support system: You may crave human contact, and you won’t have your friends to say, “Hey, ummmm… that guy is totally sketch.” 

The language barrier: Subtle cues that we may catch in our language might slip through our filters in a language that we’re less familiar. Body language can fill in the gaps when you’re not communicating in your native language. Check out Dave Navarro’s book, What Every Body is Saying for a solid foundation.

I want to close out by saying that not everyone you meet overseas is bad or dangerous. The flipside is that not everyone has your best interests at heart and we need to travel with reality in mind, an active and healthy level of awareness, along with some best practices to ensure we protect ourselves while making the most of our time abroad.

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