In some countries, traditional gender roles may inform how people are expected to act, dress, and interact with others. Some mainstream behaviors in the U.S. may be misinterpreted in other countries. Understanding gender considerations will help all students have a successful and safe study abroad experience.
Research the cultural norms of your host country.
- Students should take the time to research the cultural norms and behaviors related to gender issues of their host country prior to arrival.
- If ever in doubt, students should refer to locals around them for a clue on how to behave, dress, speak, or eat in line with local customs.
Be aware that clothing matters.
- Students of all genders should take care to research the attire of their gender in the host country since many cultures are far more conservative than the U.S.
- You may need to pack long pants, shirts with higher necklines, and women may need skirts or scarfs for cover when visiting religious sites.
- In some cultures, people tend to dress “fancier” than we might be used to for day-to-day or classes. So be prepared to dress in business casual attire.
- Pay attention to locals around you to guide your choices once you are in-country.
Put safety first.
- Always travel in groups of at least two, especially when you are unfamiliar with the area.
- Always be aware of your surroundings, and trust your gut! If a situation or person is making you feel unsafe, remove yourself if possible.
- You might receive persistent attention from a person interested in you. Do not be afraid of saying no as many times as possible. Be assertive and firm.
Be careful with alcohol.
- Keep in mind that the consumption of alcohol has different cultural implications depending on where you are.
- Some cultures perceive women who drink as “loose” or it is a norm that women do not drink certain kinds of alcohol or frequent some establishments. Do your research ahead of time to learn what is appropriate.
- Do your research ahead of time to learn what is appropriate.
Be mindful of differing opinions on sexual relations.
- Decide ahead of time whether you intend to be sexually active while abroad.
- Research to determine if pre-martial sexual encounters are legal and/or culturally permitted in your host country.
- Learn about the availability of contraception abroad. Some countries might not have your preferred method available so you should pack some in your luggage.
Build a support network and identify allies.
- If you are in a country where harassment and discrimination against women are common, having a support network can be a huge asset.
- Diversity Abroad – education abroad tips and resources - including articles and a comprehensive guide to religious diversity abroad with country-specific information.
- GoAbroad – provides information, stories, and advice for women in travel.
- U.S. Department of State – provides information for women travelers.
- Center for Global Education – provides information about sexual harassment and prevention in college students abroad.
- Brown University – provides tips and things to consider for men and women abroad.
- The Blonde Abroad – provides tips for packing when traveling to conservative destinations.