| Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2016

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Gender Issues

You may not be considered an ethnic, or religious majority in your home country, but by traveling to your host country you become, in a sense, a minority. As an international athlete, you are, in a sense, a novelty�someone new and different who stands out from the locals. In some cases, your outward appearance can also make you stand out, especially if the country's population is very homogeneous. Sometimes the locals' curiosity, interest, ignorance or misunderstanding of you can be unpleasant.

The following are important gender issues of which you should be aware:

  1. Standards of conduct for men and women in the host country
  2. Avoiding unwanted attention
  3. The importance of your style of dress
  4. Your behavior relative to the locals

Many countries differentiate between the rights and responsibilities granted to men and women. In some countries, women’s “liberation” may be equated with “promiscuity.” Therefore, native men may likely view friendly behavior as flirtatious and act accordingly. For example, smiling and extended eye contact are frequently misconstrued and flattering outfits are taken as an open invitation. The most sensible approach to protecting yourself from unwanted advances is to model your behavior after local women. Always err on the conservative side of dress and conversation.

Be aware of your surroundings and travel in a group whenever possible. If you are lost, act confidently, which will make you less of a target. Try to approach people who are unlikely to take advantage of you such as women with children. Most of all, notify others of your travel plans and your return.

Women Abroad

Acceptable treatment of women in the host country may vary. Also, women’s interaction with men may not be socially acceptable depending on the country. Western style friendliness can be considered as flirting or perceived as a sexual invitation. Even reacting positively or negatively to unwanted attention can serve to goad the other person. Additionally, since personal space and boundaries are also based on culture, make sure to clearly establish your intent.

To avoid unwanted attention, ask local women about appropriate behavior and attire. Although adapting to the local culture is important, safety and dignity should not be compromised.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are there certain styles of clothing considered inappropriate in the host country?
  2. What are the unwritten rules about gender roles in the host country? (e.g., How is direct eye contact or a smile usually interpreted by men?)
  3. What obvious differences exist between your behavior or actions and native women?

Taken from – Understand Gender as Part of Cultural Adaptation


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