Travel safety in high-risk countries

A lot of countries where employees are sent on assignments abroad offer not only new professional opportunities, but also, unfortunately, increased safety risks. Read today’s blog post to find out what’s important when traveling in potentially dangerous countries.

Employees who are sent abroad by their companies are often well prepared to deal with the respective nations’ cultural and business-related characteristics. However, too many human resource representatives or their equivalents regrettably forget to keep another important issue in mind when it comes to preparation for an assignment abroad: the safety of the employees. This isn’t necessarily essential for every destination, but there are nevertheless some countries whose security situations are significantly different from our own. This is why we urgently recommend appropriate preparation for the sake of your employees.

According to the most recent studies, countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya are classified as very dangerous due to their war-like conditions. Of course, these are rather uninteresting destinations for assignments abroad. But did you know that nations such as Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil also pose increased safety risks for your employees? Expats and even business travelers in these countries often fall victim to theft, robbery, carjacking, express kidnapping or extortion.

The right behavior

How you react during a dangerous incident is decisive when it comes to how things progress and to the outcome of the situation, which is why we’d like to outline a common scenario for you.

Expats and business travelers in São Paulo, Mexico City and various African countries, among other places, tend to get robbed. If you find yourself in this situation, behave defensively! Muggers and robbers mostly care about money and valuable objects, not about you as a person. You need to know that robbers in some regions have a high propensity for violence, and their stress levels significantly increase after just a few seconds. You should consequently surrender whatever’s demanded as fast as possible in order to avoid something worse.safety, risk, assignment abroad

Another tip: If your company or business partners send a taxi or driver for you, to pick you up from the airport or anything else, be careful! You should make sure that it’s really your driver and not an attempt to defraud you. As an example, you could request the driver’s contact data and photo in advance and then check to make sure they match up. Don’t hesitate to be mistrustful. This is unfortunately necessary in some high-risk countries and has nothing to do with cross-cultural “incompetence”.

Prevention is the magic word

The fact is, you’ll end up in dangerous situations less often if you know about the country’s social and political situations, as well as its cultural values and the behaviors that arise from them.

We’d like to give you a few other tips to avoid dangerous situations during your travels:

  • If you’re traveling in a car, keep the doors and windows locked. In addition, keep valuable objects out of view, wear inconspicuous clothing and always travel with at least one other person if possible.
  • Try to keep an eye on your surroundings. Someone could be following you or observing you as a potential target. If something seems off to you, get to safety.
  • In case of an emergency you should leave important information [e.g., names of medications or relatives’ contact data] with your employers.
  • Utilize expat networks! On the one hand, they tend to share practical information [e.g., which city areas should be avoided]. On the other, they can provide you with emotional and psychological support.

Please keep in mind that this blog post is not intended to foment fears or affirm stereotypes. In fact, the opposite is true. The intention is to convey a realistic image of target countries, and that includes highlighting potential sources of danger. Our safety training serves first and foremost to enhance your view of potentially dangerous situations and to sensitize you to what needs to be done in case of an emergency. We rather intend to allay your fears so that you’re as well prepared as possible for your stay abroad.


About Sophie Humpisch

I studied business communication and cross-cultural competence. During my studies I lived abroad for a long time and therefore experienced cross-cultural differences on my own. I have been with Eidam & Partner since 2014, being responsible for the support and recruiting of cross-cultural experts. Eidam & Partner offers worldwide services related to cross-cultural communication, such as cross-cultural training, cross-cultural coaching, eLearning and preparation for international assignments for more than 80 target countries.
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