Coming from a democratic country such as the Unites States, it was a complete cultural shock when I touched down in Tunis, Tunisia. Since the country claims itself as a Muslim country in the North of Africa (and also went through the “Arab Spring” Revolutions); many precautions were necessary for a young woman to take.
1. As a young cosmopolitan woman, it is both respectful and wise to cover your hair and skin when outside in a Muslim country. Usually in Muslim culture, women cover their hair around the presence of men with a hijab. I used a large scarf to wrap around my hair instead, and was treated with respect over my peers who choose to wear short shorts and spaghetti strap tanks. Be an ambassador of peace and respect for your country, not a fashion model.
2. Take a tour (or at least don’t explore alone). By sticking together with a group, you ensure your safety in large numbers. By taking a tour you also ensure you won’t miss out on the key attractions. If you don’t like to do the “touristy” thing, I understand, but I practice safety overall. Sometimes doing the touristy thing is the safest and easiest thing to do.
3. Know the number and location of your country’s embassy. This information should be stored in your phone as well as on your body at all times in case of extreme emergencies. You can find your embassy at this website address:
4. Be aware of how forward Tunisian men can be (especially to fair-skinned or blonde females) and take precaution! Men can sometimes be very upfront and disrespectful about how they feel about you (usually referring to your beauty or body). This obviously does not stand for every Tunisian man and should simply be taken into consideration as a mental preparation for your journey. Being stern and wearing a “bitch-face” will usually keep them at bay, but if not be sure to inform local police, guides, or anyone in earshot.
5. Learn at least some basic Arabic words to help alleviate any future confusion. Some phrases that may want to look up are “hello,” “ I am (American, British, French, etc..),”“How much?” and “Thank you.” As long as you are trying to assimilate into their culture, most Tunisians will appreciate your effort and be extremely helpful and kind in return.
Although it is always best to prepare yourself for the worst in any situation, it should never stop you from exploring! So much culture and adventure are in store for you here in the country of Tunisia! Enjoy it!