Legally Abroad or Experiencing Law Enforcement When Overseas

I got my very first traffic violation ticket yesterday.  Maybe I’ve been lucky or maybe I am a law-abiding driver (well…most of the time anyway), but the irony of the fact that my first citation happened in my own country didn’t escape me.  How did I manage to get in trouble in a country where I know the rules while I never did in other countries where I was not so sure of the rules?

It’s a good question and maybe the answer to it lies in “paying close attention” even in places we think we know.  But that’s not the point of this post.  My interaction with the police officer and my ticket experience got me thinking about our worldwide experience with police.  Having lived in many countries I’ve had my share of interactions with law enforcement (although not always about traffic violations).  What is the difference between these kinds of interactions at home and abroad?

Maya Angelou once said that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  And I find that this is especially true for me when I deal with the law enforcement.  I understand that it’s not their job to make you feel good, but can they at least not make you feel awful?

I cannot claim to have experienced dealing with the police in every country of the world and I am sure there are plenty of downright horrible experiences out there.  And there are also good experiences — I’ve had a few myself.  So what has been your experience where you are living now?  And how does it compare to your home country?

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2 responses to “Legally Abroad or Experiencing Law Enforcement When Overseas

  1. Pingback: Who owns the truth? « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

  2. My experience with law enforcement in Russia or Europe was nil except for the border crossings. My only memory that stands out is when I made a dumb mistake when tired one morning and I stood out. Normally I dressed in black jeans and a black leather coat which had served me well during my years of living in Russia. I had been asked to light cigarettes in Russian many times because of that outfit. This time I was running late and tired. I went into McDonalds and did not eat there. I began eating on the street. “so what” you may ask ? not a crime, certainly — but a cultural faux pas in Europe to not eat in a cafe and instead walking on the street. A grey jeep pulled up and the militia came towards me. I asked the Sgt in russian what was wrong. He did not answer and instead asked for my documents. I provided these and asked to speak to the captain in the jeep under various articles of authority of the constitution of the Federation. At that point the Captain came and spoke in English “Robert, you have done nothing wrong but checking your documents may take some time and you would risk being late to teach your class”. At this point I suggested a walk around the block, which the captain agreed to. During our walk, 1000P (about 30$) and an authentic pack of gold Marlboros’ from New York were exchanged. When we appeared again, all was forgiven and i was given a lift to my school. And that is my experience with Blat and the militia as being an identified foreigner that morning. My wife says i got off lucky and that she had to pay for many conveniences of life during her time in Russia as a citizen. It also happens here but more as a “friendly favor”.

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