We all have perceptions of risk, and they often vary widely from what the data actually says. My willingness to visit certain parts of the world is colored in the opposite direction from most people. Living for many years in Alexandria, Virginia and working in Arlington my daily commute took me past the Pentagon. This wasn’t just a potential primary military target, it had actually been attacked directly on 9/11 when a hijacked aircraft crashed into the building.
Most places have less risk than this. Years ago when I traveled to Cyprus as a result of Alitalia’s $33+tax fat finger business class fare from Toronto which allowed stopovers in Italy, a friend of my wife’s was afraid for us. Turkey invaded, after all, in 1974 following a military coup there.
Beach in Cyprus
I’ll be traveling to Beirut this year, which people in general seem to think is unsafe (if they know where it is at all) perhaps because they vaguely recall the 1983 US Embassy bombing there. Admittedly I won’t be going near Lebanon’s border with Syri.
There are plenty of places I won’t go of course. The United States isn’t one of those places, entirely apart from the fact that I already live here.
As trade disputes heat up between the U.S. and China, the Chinese government has issued a warning for travelers to the United States (HT: Live and Let’s Fly).
“Public security in the United States is not good. Cases of shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent,” the embassy said in the alert published on Thursday to its website.
“Travellers in the United States should be alert to their surroundings and suspicious individuals, and avoid going out alone at night.”
Maybe the U.S. is Nothing But Moon Shine
China has done this before, though added natural disaster risk to the concerns people should be aware of when considering a trip to the States.
The U.S. government too issues myriad travel warnings. Often they’re over-cautious. If the U.S. government says some place is unsafe, it’s usually blindingly obvious — unless they’re the only one saying so in which case the warning is more for bureaucratic reasons than citizen protection.
And foreign governments warning their citizens about travel to the U.S. is hardly new.
- Brits, Germans, and Japanese were warned not to get sick in the States, because of the high cost of healthcare.
- Austrians were warned against sunbathing topless, and that while tap water is safe it doesn’t taste very good.
- The French government has warned citizens that Americans may see their jokes as sexual harassment
- Russians have been impressed by public restrooms in the U.S.
- And China has long offered outbound tourists to the U.S. crucial etiquette advice,
“[D]o not smoke or spit while walking,” and “hold the door” for people behind you.
Most important, Chinese tourists are reminded that Americans believe in standing in line without shoving past the people standing in front of you: “Do not jump the queue! In the United States, when many people are queuing for services … they will be lined up to wait in the order they arrived. Failure to comply with this order could lead to unnecessary disputes.”
China’s warning is mostly symbolic. It’s unlikely to have a material effect on travel to the U.S. However it does add one more communication to the growing chorus of voices suggesting that the U.S. isn’t a welcoming place, which is anathema to those of us who care about travel and developing an understanding of the world around us.