Thursday 3rd May 2012

Vulnerable expat

Many people who move overseas to a new country are met with unfamiliarity: the people, places and customs can all feel so strange and this can quite often seem overwhelming to the average expatriate. New arrivals in a given location can often stand out like a sore thumb and there is an inherent danger that these individuals can be taken advantage of by some of the less-honest elements of society. It doesn’t matter where in the world you relocate to, there will always be someone who will take advantage of vulnerable individuals and, unless you are fully aware of the fact that you may be a soft target to some of the more unscrupulous people in your host country, you could find yourself in serious trouble.


Why Are Expats Vulnerable?

New arrivals in a country are generally unfamiliar with the culture, traditions, infrastructure and general ways of their new home. As such, they can all-too-often do things that make them stand out from the rest of the population without being aware that they have done anything wrong or out of the ordinary. Maybe they will give a Chinese person white flowers, walk into a Japanese person’s home while still wearing their shoes or take a photograph of a women in Qatar; whatever it is, simple acts and mistakes can really highlight an individual’s lack of familiarity with a location and immediately single them out as new or foreign.

Now, of course, the majority of people in your host country will be more than happy to help out a struggling expat, and the truth is that there are more honest people in most societies than dishonest. However, there remains the fact that there will also be dishonest people out there who are ready and willing to take advantage of expatriates. Expatriates need to quickly learn who they can trust, and who they cannot… something that is far from easy.


What Can Expats Prevent Themselves From Being Taken Advantage Of?

It all starts with awareness. You need to be fully accepting of the fact that you are out of your comfort zone and are therefore at much more risk of being taken advantage of by the more unscrupulous members of society than you would be at home. Do not be overconfident or lured into a false sense of security, you need to be on your guard and should protect your own interests as a priority at all times.

You also need to be prepared. Do as much research as you can about your host country before you travel there. Find out what some of the common scams are and how you can avoid them. Read expatriate relocation guides on your host city and carefully note any warnings that they give you. In the first few months attend as many expatriate events as you can and aim to use this time to find out as much as you can about the dos and don’ts of living in your host country.

If you come across an individual or a situation that you are unsure of, listen to your instincts. Don’t fall blindly for things that strangers tell you, check facts in expatriate forums and seek advice on what is, and is not, normal practice. Never, ever hand over money to a stranger in an unusual situation. Be careful who you befriend and be on your guard. While it is a sad indictment of the society that we live in, it really is better to be safe than sorry.

Have you been conned as an expatriate or come across an individual who tried to take advantage of your vulnerability? Leave a comment and share your story with our readers.

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