As an expat, you are unlike ordinary people, much less the ordinary American citizen. Your mental wiring is beginning to change. It’s “neither here nor there” geographically and psychologically. You see many sides to an issue and you consider them, frequently. Travelling has given you a heightened sense of awareness and observation.

What’s more, you’ve come to sharpen some very keen observation powers and contextual thinking and overall, you know bad things can happen, but you’re not on the high alert that Americans are stateside. This is a crucial difference between what Americans who prefer to stay at home would call, being a little too adventurous. It will also become a tendency that visibly separates you from them, from now on.

Terrorism isn’t news to you, nor to the people of your host country. In fact, they’ve probably lived with it all their lives. Many have not known any other way of living. What’s important is that your alert level isn’t as elevated as the folks back home and your shifting political lens will quite possibly affect your relationships.

In 1996, I was standing on a Paris street corner, frustrated I couldn’t find a place to dispose of some street food trash. Every time I thought I saw a waste bin, the lid was bolted shut. It didn’t make sense. I kept muttering to myself, “Don’t’ they have any common sense to take the lids off?” Slowly, I learned they were bolted shut because they were being used to set off bombs by terrorists. Not too long before I arrived, the Algerian Islamic group killed and injured many people. So, Paris responded by bolting all 25,000 receptacle lids in a public safety campaign called Vigipirate.

Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions. Monitor media and local information sources and follow the instructions of local authorities. Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency with conventional and new communication including mobile, texting, Skype, and apps. Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).


Your “new” and endless variety of news sources are real, and that may be a news flash. It’s very likely you’ve heard first-hand accounts of what it’s like to live on the front lines of terrorism, not just from soundbites flashed across CNN. These days you’re accessing multiple media sources, from the global to the local host country papers. It isn’t uncommon to read several papers at once (the International Herald Tribune daily, the UK Guardian or Telegraph, and the English language local paper, all in one sitting.

The unintended consequence of this routine is that you’re digesting news broadly and while you’ve gained a broader perspective, you should also keep in mind the majority of Americans probably don’t share this view with you. The shifting understanding of terrorism, compared to how the garden variety American views it is crucial. Be prepared to catch flack for for being perceived as an apologizer, leftist, or anti-American.

Although everything about this new normal global conflict is disturbing, the objective of ISIS is to engage Americans in combat on the ground. This is relevant to you because the violent extremists is polarizing, but you can deny this “either-or” mindset and defeat it (mentally) with your “grey area” expat thinking.


While there is no guarantee of your safety abroad, you can minimize risk you by monitoring media and local information sources before, during, and after any travel plans. See the State Department’s travel website here for current travel warnings. Register with a U.S. embassy by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) here to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. 

At the time of this writing, the U.S. State Department warns American citizens that ISIS (aka Da’esh, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram) terrorist groups are creating increased global travel risks. As we have witnessed, an international warfare is being waged with conventional and non-conventional weapons in large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services. Yes, there have been attacks on the ground in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali (flying feels dodgy at time) so exercise a modest amount of vigilance in public places and when using public transport. Be aware of your immediate surroundings in large crowds or crowDed places. Use caution during the holidays, at festivals, or events.



A messaging app for iPhone and other smartphones. Uses your phone’s internet connection or wifi to message and call friends and family. Switch from SMS to WhatsApp to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, and voice messaging. 


Choose a few friends and family to help keep track of and the app will send a request for them to be part of your system for everyday safety and real emergencies.

React Mobile

Personal safety solution to call for help in emergencies. Pairs with the React Mobile safety app so that users can quickly send out a widespread emergency alert without having to access and unlock their phone.

Watch Over Me

Watch Over Me is a timer that calculates how long it takes to get to the appointed destination. Alerts your contacts if the location isn’t reached in time. Tapping the “I’m Safe” button assures contacts of safe arrival.


Personal safety app for college students, alerts trusted people when you need help. Includes six customizable alert modes to alert friends, campus police, local 911 or a combination of all three anytime. Contains “Watch My Back” option so friends know your location during your walk.

Circle of 6

App notifies either all 6 in your trusted circle or a specific person you are in need in two taps to send your location so anyone in the area won’t know what you’re doing. Also provides local area hotlines numbers.

I’m Fine

In the event of a crisis, attack, or incident of any kind, alert your family and friends of your safe status with this ever increasingly important app.

Visit my website Expat Whisperer for expat coaching packs or listen to my original podcasts on demand. You might also enjoy the always fascinating culture blog feed that deconstructs everyday life. Or, take one of my labs you won’t find anywhere else. I may be travelling somewhere in the world, but you can always find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.