March 16, 2014 -- Last week, I told you about unusual warnings issued by the State Department for U.S. citizens traveling abroad; warnings like, be alert in certain regions of Norway for polar bear attacks.
Now, it's our turn. What do other countries warn their people traveling to the U.S. about? Short answer: Crime, but also Mother Nature. When she's at her worst.
Foreign visitors might be warned about earthquakes, brushfires, tsunamis or even volcanoes around every corner, a view of America that seems to have great potential for an epic disaster movie. But that's not all.
Other unusual warnings that crop up involve alcohol and nudity (for the latter, see Germany). Let's go through these in alphabetical order.
Unless otherwise noted, most of these warnings can be accessed online via the country's equivalent to our State Department.
Crime: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade notes the U.S. generally has a "higher incidence of violent crime compared to Australia" but also adds that normal precautions should do the trick. On the flip side, travelers are warned of laws "that may appear harsh by Australian standards" but must be obeyed anyway and an accompanying video features an Australian consular official solemnly noting that the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 (it's just 18 Down Under). No mention is made of the sometimes puzzling liquor laws of Utah.
Weather and more: There is a lot of information on hurricanes and other phenomena including, "Earthquakes, fires or wildfires, floods, extreme heat, landslides and debris flow (mudslides), thunderstorms and lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes (Hawaii, Alaska and Pacific Northwest), winter storms (freezing rain, heavy snow and blizzards) and extreme cold." Wow. It's not that bad, really. Well, not all the time.
Medical care: Travelers are warned that while care here is good, it's not cheap: "Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel."
Crime: Our northern neighbor also talks about the potential for violent crime in the U.S. while suggesting it is often connected to alcohol and drugs, so visitors are warned to "remain alert and discreet while in entertainment areas." In other words, don't get blotto while out on the town which is good advice for anyone, anywhere.
Punishment: Canadians are warned to avoid committing crimes, but if they do, homesickness may not be a problem: "Canada and the U.S. have a treaty that permits a Canadian imprisoned in the U.S. to request a transfer to Canada."
England and the UK
Crime, weather, traffic: Her Majesty's government is somewhat concerned about crime, but notes such incidents rarely involve tourists. There is also interest in hurricanes (and even snowstorms) as well as U.S. highways and traffic. The Gov.UK site warns that U.S. "speed and drink driving [sic] limits are lower than in the UK" so, watch yourself.
Drugs: One more warning. "The plant Khat (or Qat) is an illegal narcotic in the US. You will be arrested and detained with the possibility of a prison sentence if you bring Khat into the country." Consider yourself warned.
Nudity: This unusual item was brought to our attention last fall by the Washington Post which quoted Germany's Federal Foreign Office: "Nude bathing and changing clothes at the beach stirs up public agitation and can lead to unpleasantnesses."
I tried to find this myself on the English language edition of the German government site, but after entering the terms "United States" and "nude bathing," was told my search "produced too many results."
Crime and weather: Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade actually says, "Crime remains relatively low in the US." However, the weather is another matter and there are numerous warnings about hurricanes including the fact that the season runs from June until the end of November and "can affect the whole of the southern US."
Temperatures: I suppose the extreme temperature variations in a big country like the U.S. could come as a shock to residents of this temperate isle, so they are drilled in the basics: "When it is hot, drink plenty of water and apply sun screen" and also, "When it is cold, keep warm with layers of clothes." Can't argue with that.
I admit my Italian is pretty rusty (okay, non-existent), but I couldn't help but notice a prominent link at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site which takes you to Cal Fire. This, as you might expect, is a website devoted (mostly) to brushfires in California. Luckily, there are no signs of raging infernos at the moment but the site also features some charming Arbor Week posters by school kids which may please art-loving Italians.
Finally, to our friends overseas or across the border, please come see us. I promise we'll warn you about any developing hurricanes.