You attend your first meeting of the expat community in your new home. You have briefly introduced yourself and your family, and the community welcomes you warmly with a friendly round of applause. You go from table to table to introduce yourself again and strike up a conversation with one or two of the participants.

At one table, there is a lively discussion about crime in the country and kidnappings in particular. One of the expats had heard that there had been an attempted kidnapping of an NGO employee last week. The question being discussed: What to do if? What is the right behaviour? An older expat with many years of experience abroad in various countries says with the tone of conviction: “That won’t happen”, to which another asks: “Why not?” “Because it’s never happened,” replies the older expat. Another is of the opinion that if it does happen, don’t fight back. Yet another disagrees, “fight back with everything you’ve got”.

Who is right? Everyone and no one. There is no such thing as chiselled truth. Neither in the assessment of criminality nor in the manner. The assessment is very subjectively influenced, and the manner depends on the context. If you are in a country where kidnapping of foreigners never happens, it is highly unlikely to happen. If you are in a country where kidnapping is almost always for ransom, not fighting back is probably a good recommendation. However, if you are in a country where the kidnapping is about your life, defence is probably the better choice.

Be as objective as possible when making your judgement, and always check the context.

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