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 How to be Street Smart as a Foreigner Abroad in Taiwan // VAGABONDINGIt’s arguable that being street smart is better than book smart on a general level, but as a foreigner traveling abroad, the former is.

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I was born and raised in the Bronx with my teenage years in Queens and my young adult life in Manhattan and Miami. Going to school since kindergarten in the urban ghettos has taught me how to be “street smart” from actual school to the actual streets.

And yet, I still get a bit of culture shock and situational awareness disorientation for the first few moments of arriving to a new country. But my naturally integrated street smarts makes this time seamless to handle.

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too street smart to go down any not-so-good street.

Dr. Seuss
Writer and Poet

Beyond the “initiation” stage of first becoming a foreigner in a new land, the time after this to all the way until you get the departure stamp on your passport, basic street smarts can enhance the experience.


How to be Street Smart Abroad //

Book Smarts /

As ironic as it may seem, book smarts can go a long way on the “streets” if used properly. A base knowledge of the new city or country you’re arriving in via the internet and guidebooks can help prepare at a very basic but necessary level. A quick study of your new locale should include currency rates, strange customs and laws to abide by, current political situation and other pertinent details.

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Blending In /

Dressing to blend in to a city is a good step to knowing how to be street smart. The second step is acting, moving and doing like the local people. Again, study and mimic but don’t copy outright. Blend in with your own style in mind. If the culture is significantly different than your own, blending in may be impossible but it’s far better than sticking out like a typical tourist.

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Everyday Carry /

Tools and equipment are meant to augment a person’s ability to do a variety of things and a proper set of EDC gear can do the same for your street smarts, if you know how to use them properly that is. Danger tends to be more difficult to see coming while in foreign territories so some effective defensive tools could be very useful. Follow the local laws if you’re planning on carrying a knife or other defensive weapon.

Camouflage /

Like combat and hunting, not visually sticking out in your surroundings is part of the survival skill set and it’s no different on the streets. As a standard packing list, clothing should be understated that can be “grey” in most settings. More specifically, after arriving to your new location, study the local people and mimic how they dress to at least a moderate level. Learn more about urban camouflage.

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Communication /

What to say and how to say it is significant part of knowing how to be street smart. Due to the nature of language differences of traveling abroad, this could seem difficult but it”s surprisingly not. English alone goes a long way in most of the world but knowing just a few key words and phrases in the native tongue can make you a street savvy tourist.

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Observation /

The more data you have to work with, the smarter the decision you can make. This is obvious but most people under-utilize situational awareness. You should actively try to notice details in the immediate world around you for potential dangers and suspicious activity. There are universally common patterns and specific behaviors that indicates imminent street crimes. Being observant can help you avoid and escape such incidents.

Knowing how to be street smart is best learned by growing up into it or naturally being street savvy.

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How to be Street Smart as a Foreigner.


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[The featured photo was taken in Taipei with a Hitcase Pro.]

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5 COMMENTS ///

  1. Lkso Niner

    On an unrelated note, I just watched the first season of The Wire for the first time and with my level of street smarts, I would last 90 seconds in that world haha.

  2. Lori Zabel

    I always wanted to know how to be street smart growing up in the suburbs. I get scared shitless being in bad neighborhoods in America but not so much traveling for some reason. Maybe it’s a traveler’s version of street smart.


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