Going to school in another countries carries with it a host of concerns. Will you make friends? Should you live on campus? What will your courses be like? Often, many students are concerned about their safety while alone in a foreign country. However, you shouldn’t let anxiety ruin your experience. The US Department of State has listed New Zealand as a low-crime area, listing the most common crimes as vehicle break-ins and petty thefts. This means your primary concerns should be safeguarding your personal property, avoiding accidents, and staying on good terms with law enforcement. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the possibility of accidents, theft, or being imprisoned.
Avoiding Theft of Your Belongings
While muggings and direct confrontations are commonplace in other countries, vehicles and empty hotel rooms are the far more likely targets in New Zealand. Even locking your bags in the trunk will not stop a determined thief. Keep your passport, money, crucial medications, and keys on your person whenever you go out. You can carry the most essential items in a money belt that you wear under your shirt and the money you need for the day in a wallet. Use your pockets for your medicine and keys. You should also have copies of your documentation, bank account numbers, and other crucial information stashed elsewhere or kept with family or trusted friends.
The most common accidents you are likely to encounter involve vehicles. Driving is done on the left side of the road in New Zealand. If you will be driving, make sure you take a driver’s course or have a Kiwi friend take you out for some practice before driving in populous areas. There is no turning on red permitted. As a pedestrian, look both ways carefully before crossing. Cars are required to give pedestrians the right of way at all crosswalks.
Local Laws and Law Enforcement
New Zealand is much like the United States and much of western Europe in that it does not have any enforced laws you will find strange or outrageous. The clothing you would normally wear is acceptable, smoking is in designated areas (marked with universal signs), and English is the predominant spoken language. Kiwis are known as a friendly, gregarious people, so don’t be frightened to ask for help if you need it. If you are female, approach another female for safety’s sake.
If You’re the Victim
The number for 911 in New Zealand is 111. Try to remain calm and retain details of what you’ve seen. Never leave the scene of a crime you have witnessed unless you absolutely must to reach a phone. If your passport is stolen, you will need to contact the US Consulate or Embassy. While the locals police will need a statement and will open a case, you will need the Consulate’s help to understand local laws and to help you replace your documents. There are embassies in both Wellington and Auckland, and both can be reached for emergencies 24 hours a day.
If You Unwittingly Break the Law
You will be expected to conform to New Zealand law throughout your stay, but this is not difficult. If approached by police, be respectful, disclose your visitor status, and apologize for the transgression. Kiwis are not usually hostile towards Americans, so don’t feel threatened. Often, any mistake you may make can be forgiven if you are respectful and contrite.
While visitors to the country are expected to know and abide by local law, New Zealand complies with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations if you are arrested. This means you have the right to have contact with the US Consulate General in Auckland if you commit a crime.
Knowing how to avoid crime and what to do if you are a victim, you can feel more secure as you navigate the streets of New Zealand. By remaining polite and calm with local law enforcement, you can also avoid trouble with the law. Don’t let anxiety rob you of having a great time in such a beautiful, diverse country!