5 tips for low-profile living in Europe

by MSgt Charles Larkin Sr.
USEUCOM Media Operations

Whether you’re worried about random acts of terror, criminal targeting or performing your unofficial ambassador duties, as a U.S. servicemember, civilian or dependent you have a responsibility to protect yourself while living abroad.

Take the next few minutes to analyze your daily routines and personal appearance to help lower your profile and possibly keep you or your family from being targeted.

1. Clothes

Don’t allow your need to wear an American flag t-shirt with cargo shorts and flip-flops outweigh your need for safety. Some common items you should avoid wearing are American sports memorabilia, baseball caps, bright white sneakers and other exercise apparel if you aren’t going to the gym.

Take a moment to observe the local residents where you live, do you and your family blend in or stand out? If you stand out, reconsider.

2. Language

Make an effort to learn the local language, but don’t worry if you aren’t fluent. Try to use words and phrases you know. You’ll find a little effort goes a long way in most European cultures.

When you speak English, try to control the volume and tone of your voice. Shouting or speaking in sharp tones when you’re excited is a sure sign you aren’t a local. Make a conscious effort to use calm casual tones during conversations.

3. Large groups

Travel in small groups of less than 10 people to avoid easily being targeted by terrorist groups or criminals. Traveling in a large group significantly increases your overall visibility while reducing the group’s overall situational awareness. You will find it’s more demanding to keep track of everyone in a large group and difficult to convince everyone to listen or follow directions. Complicating the situation with confusion or panic may create a recipe for disaster.

4. Patience and tolerance

Living in Europe as a U.S. citizen can be a challenging but rewarding experience, especially if you exercise a little patience. Daily routines vary from region to region so getting to know the local customs, expectations and traditions will make your stay more enjoyable.

From waiting in line at the local café to opening a foreign bank account, you will find challenges in nearly every activity due to the different expectations from both you and the community. Preparation is the key to successfully accomplishing tasks in any location.

5. Excessive intoxication

Alcohol consumption can lead to unnecessary attention and could create a bigger headache than just a hangover. Alcohol is available to a younger age group than in the U.S. and is more socially acceptable in Europe; however, intoxication is not.

Binge drinking, drunk driving and alcohol-related incidents are guaranteed ways to draw negative attention and increase the risk of any activity. If you plan to drink, consume responsibly, have a plan before you travel and always let someone know where you’re going.

Remember, make an effort to blend in with the local culture, learn the local language, practice patience and tolerance for others and drink responsibly.

For more information on Operational Security (OPSEC) and local threats, contact your Security Manager.

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