..As Westerners residing & teaching overseas it’s easy to slip into believing we are somehow exempt from many of the realities to which host nationals are subject. In some instances this is most definitely true. But when it comes to the laws of the land, we are deceiving ourselves if we think we’re exempt.
Teachers will say they are law-abiding citizens. Overseas, however, one may not be aware of what’s considered an offense & quite innocently find yourself imprisoned. Something as benign as snapping a photo of a public building or making an angry hand gesture may be all it takes. In some countries, for example, just one drink is considered “under the influence” & punishable by law (as the bartender/police work in tandem to report your actions). Ignorance of local law is never an excuse…at least not one that carries any weight in a courtroom!
We’re all aware chewing gum in public in Singapore is a criminal offense, but did you know in Thailand it’s an offense to step on money (which no doubt has something to do with the fact the King’s picture appears on the currency)? So, the question becomes: What other little-known offenses might lead to a jail term throughout the world?
Be aware — If you are a U.S. citizen, for example, there’s little your government can do to help should you get into trouble overseas. Here’s what you can expect in the way of help from the U.S. government:
– An insistence on prompt access to you
– Provide you with information on the foreign country’s legal system
– Provide a list of attorneys
– Contact your family/friends
– Protest mistreatment, monitor jail conditions, provide dietary supplements
– Keep the Department of State informed as to your situation
If this doesn’t sound like much help, it isn’t!
Citizens of countries other than the U.S. can expect to receive more-or-less the same level of help from their governments. In any case, the legal systems of foreign countries can/do function in ways that may seem archaic by our standards. Yet, as guests in foreign lands we are not exempt from prosecution & our governments do not have the power to have charges against us dropped. ISR hosts Reviews & Articles from teachers detained overseas. The experiences are understandably frightening.
ISR recommends you learn the unique laws of your host country by consulting the Country Information web site of the U.S. Government or a web site from your home nation.
If you have personal anecdotal experiences to Share we invite you to inform your colleagues, below.