What to do if you see a protest while you are teaching English abroad.
This article is by no means a replacement for current up to date information in any country, but a starting point for people who may have never left their home country. We always recommend doing your own independent research from industry experts and making your own informed decision. What may be considered safe to one person may not be to another.
Imagine this scenario: It is very possible for you or anyone to be walking to the central square of your favorite city, with your best friend and all of the sudden you hear a commotion and loud megaphone voices. You are of course in a foreign country, where you may or may not understand the native language. You are curious about what all the commotion is about. In Latin American countries it is common for people to take to the streets for just about every occasion.
What you encounter is something interesting and somewhat peaceful. A group of people who are focused on a person who is speaking to the group. You see political party flags, and people cheering for support. What you don’t know is that this group of people is actually protesting.
To understand the root of all protests, you have to know a little bit about that country. It is very normal for people to protest, especially outside of North America, for a variety of different reasons. France comes to mind. The French are always protesting and in their culture, it is a very normal way for people to express themselves when they are unhappy about a particular subject. Many people in these cultures feel as if it is their right and duty as a citizen of their country, sort of how voting is in the US.
Back to the protest you accidentally stumbled upon in your favorite city abroad. What is the best thing to do? There are several different authorities that say quite literally – go the other way. And I agree with that 100%. The reason why? You probably have no idea what they are protesting about, and even if you did, there is a fair chance that police may be called in to separate them, and you do not want to be caught in the middle.
The subject matter is relevant as well. Again, if you have no idea what people are protesting about, you probably have no strong affiliation with them either. So again, just go the other way.
If you end up finding yourself in a market or storefront, and something ends up turning violent out in the street where you are about to exit, do not. Seek shelter in that store as long as possible before exiting. If possible wait for the situation to pass. Things could escalate quickly, and again you do not want to be caught in the middle.
Here are some other recommendations directly from the US Embassy Nicaragua website:
- Avoid demonstrations.
- Restrict travel during demonstrations, except in an emergency or to depart the country.
- Shelter in place if your surrounding area is affected by demonstrations or move to a safer location if your current location is unsafe.
- Consider arrangements to depart the country if you feel unsafe in Nicaragua.
- Maintain adequate supplies of food, potable water, and fuel if sheltering in place.
- Use caution when walking or driving at night.
- Keep a low profile.
- Do not display signs of wealth such as expensive watches or jewelry.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
So in closing, stay away from protests. Use big city rules when abroad. Always ask yourself, would you do this in New York City or Los Angeles? If the answer is no then you already have your answer. Be safe, and most importantly, enjoy living abroad!