Yikes! My husband asked if we will let our 15 year old explore Paris on her own. I never considered this. Is it safe? Help
Sure...with appropriate instructions and limitations...(ie not at midnight)...she will enjoy exploring the neighborhood without mom and dad looking over her shoulder...give her the sense of freedom without the risk of any big US city.
Beth, it does depend on your child's maturity.
Would you NORMALLY allow her to roam your city alone? OR would you consider her roaming a big city like New York by herself??
It also depends if you think she's capable of communicating with the locals what she needs, etc.
I am not 15, but I am very petite (4'9") and I find no fear roaming a big city on my own. Am I scared someone can snatch me?? Hmm... never really considered it, but I am careful about my surroundings, staying in a public place, and not flashing any bling or money.
Unless your daughter is very mature for her age, has visited Europe before, and/or speaks decent French, I wouldn't let her be totally on her own. If you go to the Louvre or D'Orsay and she wants to go off one way and you another, that is fine. Of course she should read Paris guidebooks to understand how to get around and how to deal with the people, as you should also. But if this is a first trip, stick together -- at least in eyesight of each other, learn the ropes and then on subsequent trips she can go on her own.
We are going to be there with her. She will have a cell phone and a map and a plan.
Anna at first was not sure she wanted to venture off. Now thinks it would be "cool".
We will be staying in the Latin Quater. I think she could explore the neighborhood and go off from there.
Beth, you asked for opinions and you got them. It's up to you and your daughter to decide what to do. Like it or not, there are risks involved, and it doesn't seem very fair to ask for people's opinions and then argue with them for giving them. No matter where they are, or where you are, kids can make wrong decisions. Your daughter's ability to handle the consequences of her decisions is what should guide your ultimate choice.
I would have had no hesitation allowing my daughter to explore Paris at age 15. We did this with my stepdaughter when she was 16 and it was a welcome respite on both sides to have some "alone" time. She did speak French - much better than either her dad or I - and was a pretty confident girl. And yes, bad things can happen anywhere - I'm not sure what Cincinnati is like but I sure allowed my kids more freedom in Europe than I did in our hometown (Atlanta). I'm sure you will do all the usual things and one thing to suggest is to ask at your hotel if there are any areas she should NOT go into. As long as she is up for it and not hesitant I think it would be great.
I can only hope that Jona adds her perspective (she lives in Paris)..The latin quarter is much safer than any large US City....I know that my wife was thrilled the first time she walked around Paris without me to guide her..she gained a lot of confidence about traveling in Europe, and I'm sure Beth's daughter will benefit in a similar fashion...we are not talking about her staying out all night. I found the comparison to the Natalie Holloway story to be a little sensational and makes as much sense as saying that she shouldn't go to college because she could be killed by a crazy undergrad with a rifle.
If she's a mature 15 year old who speaks some French and understands how to avoid (and extract herself from) certain situations (i.e., panhandlers, unwanted attention from men), then I don't see a problem with it during daylight hours. Especially in certain parts of Paris - the Latin Quarter is crawling with tourists and almost all the locals that work/live in the area speak some English. Montmartre, Versailles and inside any museum - also areas that I think would be fine for a mature teen to explore on her own provided you have established a designated time and meeting point to catch up with her later.
Natalee Holloway is a cautionary tale for older teens and young adults on Spring Break - she was drinking at a bar and went off with men she thought she could trust. Your 15 year old won't be drinking, but she should keep up her guard around strangers - no matter how "friendly" they are.
For the record, my mother let me explore Venice on my own for half a day when I was 12 years old - she made my 16 year old sister accompany me in Rome, and I travelled all over Italy and Ireland by myself for the entire summer when I was 17. Yes, this was about 20 years ago - but the same risks existed back then (and there were no cell phones to keep tabs on teens).
sorry nancy! I'm new to forums. I really did not mean to argue. Everyones opinions have been most helpful.
If you feel she is mature enough, please make sure she carries a card with the address and phone number of where you are staying with her. If it is a hotel, they usually have cards. I always take one in case I get lost. Last September I showed our card to our taxi driver in Rome when he did not understand what we were saying and he got us back to our hotel. I'd limit the time and the "adventure" in the beginning . Have a definite place and time to meet. I've had to do that with my mom who is alot older and tends to lose track of time. The first time I let my 16 year old neice alone, I thought I would be okay, but landed up worrying the whole time I had to wait for her. You could let her explore a museum on her own but have a definite time and place to meet at the end.
For what it's worth, when I was 17 I stayed for six weeks in Japan with a Japanese family who worked all day in their small sushi bar. I didn't like sushi so much, but had some and it was great! Anyway, since they worked all day, I had the days to myself and wandered all over town on a bicycle. One day I even took a train into Osaka, which is a city as large as Chicago. It was really fun and I'll never forget it. I think most here are right, you should know your own daughter well enough to gauge her ability to cope by herself. I even got lost while out by myself one time in Japan. I had my phrasebook with me, but I was in a panic! It got dark a lot quicker than I thought it would, and in the dark it was a lot harder to find my way back to my host family's home. Finally I got back and they laughed at me looking so worried. I was relieved then, it's important to get lost in life sometimes. I'd say let her go out by herself, but make sure she knows where she is going, and what time she will be back.
Frist, Japan is like one of the safest cities in the world , I think their crime rate is like zero, or soemthing, LOL Second male versus female.
We let our 14 yr old boys wander around the area near our hotels. Each boy went to Paris seperately , one with my hubby and one with me. My hubby stayed in the Latin Quarter and let son #2 wander around with just a time limit, usaully about 2 hours, usually after dinner, but before dark. It is light out till at least 10 in summer.
I was more cautious, but let our oldest son ( when he was 14 ) wander around the 1st( the area where we stayed) but I set a one hour limit. We didn't have cell phones so there was no way to check in.
I think alot is comfort level. I also think I would be more cautious with my daughter then my sons, and , yes I have a daughter coming with me this year and she will NOT be alone, but she is only just turned 12.
NOT because Paris is any more dangerous then my town, but because it is just as dangerous. My daughter is not a cautious person, she thinks everyone is her friend, and we have tried to educate her, but she still thinks the postman is her friend, and the delivery man isn't a stranger since he had his name tag on,, frustrating , LOL
My second son is naturally caustious and distrustful of strangers, so your childs temperament and maturity level do count.
I would set limits, start with a hour or two and work it up. Arrange easy meeting points. Hotel card in pocket, and secret stash of money for taxi, no matter where he/she is they can grab a cab back to hotel if needed, or if lost. Do educate duaghter about taxi stands etc.
And for goodness sake tell her not to start in with a french boy,,
PS, And wanna bet she can't get a drink,, LOL
Beth: You began your question with "yikes" and your initial gut feeling is something you shouldn't ignore. An important question that remains unanswered is what do you and your husband know and not know about Paris; and what level of "out and about" are we talking about? Have the parents ever been to Paris? If so, for how many days? How much does the mother or father know about any relevant cultural differences between America and Paris in terms of how girls are perceived by men. And how much do they know about safety and crime in Paris? They've gotta know Paris and have some understanding of cultural differences to make a wise decision. If they don't, they should err on the side of caution because of what is at risk.
I am going to go negative on this one. And the mention of Natalie Holoway reminds us that she was 18 and made a BAD decision. Do you think a 15 year old is more mature in making decisions or how to get out of a bad situation?
I think many tourists assume that when they are out of the USA/Canada it is really safe. Many are naive and think people are wonderful if they want to "help" them, etc. And while most people are truly helpful, some have ulterior motives. Statistically Paris may be safer than the States, but there are still a lot of things to watch out for.
I am a LOT older than 15 and have had men trying to strike up conversations with me and/or follow me in Paris. (???flattering at my age..mostly annoying) Somewhere I read that you should avoid making eye contact as you are walking along as that is a signal to guys!!!! And typically Americans smile
at people, this can be construed as a signal.Does she know how to extricate herself from a situation in French?
Believe me I am not down on Paris...I love it. But there are a lot of things to watch out for and your daughter may not be streetwise. Do you let her go to malls at home without a friend?? I would not let a 15 year old do this here. So why do you think it is different in Paris?
I think IF you are going to let her loose for even a very tiny amt. of time, you are going to have to spend a lot of time making sure she knows how to behave. And as suggested already, I would only do it in a controlled situation like the D'Orsay (better than the Louvre as it is too easy to get lost there).
There are places she should NOT GO TO..like the shopping mall at Les Halles where kids from the suburbs of Paris tend to hang out, the rue St. Denis,etc.
It seems to be that at 15, she could have a tiny amount of very controlled freedom and that's all. How would you feel if anything happened to her?
Teens are always too sure of themselves and think they can handle/control any situation. We know better.
The fact that your question started with YIKES made me think "probably not"...I suppose you could wait for the Jona anwser, but the recent Kent post gives reasonable advice. We live 20 mins by train from Paris, husband works in the city and mother in law lives there..but i can't say i KNOW Paris, or France, albeit after several years. Our son started going into Paris at 15 either with friends or to meet them at the train station, but never for "out and about alone" because he lived here. He now lives in the USA, 18, and not in a protective university cocoon, and is Mature...His advice would be "15 year old girl...okay by herself..but no way José for after dark" despite cell phone, map and metro tickets. Obviously the adventure is up to you..she'll probably come back with great stories...French men do speak English with a charming accent...
I recently took my 15 yr old to Paris. I had intended for her to get out on her own a little more, but we ran out of time. I did not want her navigating the metro or buses alone (although she was good at figuring it out) but she did go to a few neighborhood shops nearby, alone. I think that's what she should stick to-a few hours near your hotel. That will let her feel independent and gain confidence, but keep her pretty safe.
I grew up in Cincinnati. If you would feel ok letting her go off right downtown Cinti for a few hrs and meeting you back at Fountain Square, or walking around Mt Adams for a while, let her explore a Paris neighborhood. Very important to keep in mind, and explain to her, is that there are lots of streets in Paris that meet at confusing intersections and go off at odd angles. It's easy to get lost. I have a great sense of direction, but I got off track and turned around. You cross a couple streets at one of those multi-boulevard things, and you can't even figure out where you started!
Most important, if she's at all mild mannered or ditzy, have her go to a self defense class. She won't just learn fancy moves, she'll learn how to be aggressive and rude when needed, and how to be streetwise with an attitude. She'll learn to keep out of bad situations before they develop.
Good luck, keep her safe, but give her a little rope.
We were in Paris three years ago with my then 14 year old daughter. It was night and we became separted getting off a river boat cruise. We were on a tour. We watched from a long distance as a 30ish drunk man put his arms around her as she walked off the boat. He continued to embrace her as she walked. It was shocking to her and she didn't know how to handle it. Someone from our tour reconized her and told the man to get away. It kind of spooked her out. But, she was and is a naive teenager. I asked her opinion of this question, she just laughed! For her, she would not be interested, even at 17. She will have a hotel room by herself on our trip, and some independence in museums etc., but that is really all she wants.
Beth, after you consider all the advice above, I'd suggest that you "play it by ear". Once the 3 of you get settled and spend a day or so together, you can assess her abilities vs. your comfort level. Let her pick a destination and lead you there. Maybe separate at that time and meet back later? Cell phone can be a false sense of security but they are very convenient for keeping in touch. Definitely set time and distance boundaries. The Latin quarter is a great area to explore.
I'm really disappointed by many of the postings on this subject...it seems that a lot of people who are traveling all over Europe are really prisoners of fear and crippled with anxiety. Even Kent whom I respect, suggests that before you decide whether or not a child should do something, you should think of what is the best thing that can happen and what is the worst thing...with that criteria, none of us would ever do anything (let's see, Skiing...best thing, exhilaration, worst thing, death...nope too risky!
Do any of you seriously think that beth would allow her daughter to go to Pigalle at Midnight unsupervised? She asked as simple question (one that should be put in context). Is it safe? In the context of Americans, living in America, to ask if Paris is safe, the only answer is Yes, relatively speaking, a lot safer than most US cities.
An look what Jeff has to say:
Are you crazy? Don't do it....Don't let you 15 yr. old daughter out on her own in a foreign country!!!.
Jeff, if that's how you feel, why do you go to "foreign" countries?
Jeff, I undestand that you are making a point, but not all teenagers are alike.
I've been traveling around the world with my parents as long as I could remember. I traveled by myself when I was in my teens, being cautious and using common sense.
Beth and her family asked for our opinion on Paris, and if we would suggest it. I feel if her daughter knows what to do in case of an emergency or a given situation, then let her spend some alone time. She'll be in the same city as Beth, and she'll have a phone.
Also, Some kids don't want to be alone... so maybe that will be her choice too.
Hi there - we will be traveling to Paris with our family in December - 18, 15, 11 year old children.
We will let our 18 year old (high school senior) out on his own wiht his buddy who is traveling with us. For a variety of reasons I would not let my 15 year old daughter out on her own - she is naive, she is not very well traveled, she does not speak french, she is easily led astray.
I might let her walk down in the middle of the day from say the apartment to the store after we have been there a number of days and if it was very close by.
At night? No. For a long period of time? No.
Hope you have a great trip,
Bill do you have children. And, if you do are they teens. The world is not the same place as it may have SEEMED to be 30 or 40 years ago.
Frankly a very young female( under 17-18) should not wander around ALONE in a large city where they have little or no language, do not know their way about, and may be unused to deflecting male attention. The Buddy system does make a difference. Two 15 yr olds together are safer then one 16 old on her own.
Bill, I just get the feeling you don't have kids, or if you do they are well grown up by now, since you are not taking into account that in ANY city a young female can be prey.
A 15 yr old Parisien girl is likely running around alone of course, BUT, she speaks the language, likely knows the metro well, knows the " bad" versus "good " areas, and has many friends and family around to call at if she needs help. A tourist , 15, female , and alone, with no language, well you should be able to clearly see difference.
I do think letting them wander around a museum alone, or around your hotel area for an hour or two could be fine.
I am very paranoid about my daughter, she is extremely precious to me, I know I know, you can say the
" its only one in a million chance something may happen"
Well, at this point, if I can help it( am aware can't control everything) won't be MY ONE in a million.
In spite of all the controversy, I'm confident of one thing. Beth will make the right decision for her and her daughter. What amused me from the beginning was her Yikes! Because I remember so well those moments as a parent when the thought strikes us and we haven't prepared ourselves for it. It is truly an epiphany.
Only you and your daughter know your daughter...just don't rely on the "protection" of a cell phone, and not alone after dark..C"est tout...Everyone, even mom and dad appreciate a bit of free time to explore on their own..
Wow you all have been so helpful. So I'm new to this, does anyone want to know what we have decided? beth
Yes! We've been waiting to hear from you. You started all this! :)In fact, some of the replies are asking you how much you knew about Paris, whether you'd been there before, etc.
of course we want to know!!!...and perhaps a comment from your daughter about this "discussion"....
Hey I am a girl and I agree with Bill. If the girl is street smart, let her go on her own. If she's naive or you don't think she can do it, then don't.
IMHO, hold the girl capable. Why is it that its ok for boys to be "independent" but a girl must be feable and weak? Is it because our society sees boys are "smarter" than girls?? No wonder girls score lower in tests than boys... we hold boys to a higher level than girls.
isailtheseas, I've traveled the world... alone. Since I was old enough to carry a passport. I went alone to China when I was 17 for 3 months. I didn't speak the language, and incidentally lost my passport while in China. I didn't cry and collapse because I am a girl.
I'm now in my 30's and travel on my own (and also with the hubby). I am 4'9" tall and use common sense. That's the key.. is the girl capable of making good decisions? Isn't that what Bill said??
But now its time for me to get off MY soapbox.... this is Beth's post... so Beth... What did you decide?? LOL!!!
Right - all of the varying opinions expressed here are great, but the reality will be that once they are in Paris, it will become very clear what is appropriate to do. Whatever it is, I hope they all enjoy themselves very much in the world's most fabulous city!
Beth: Where are you? We're waiting for the word.
She went looking for her kid...
ROFL!!! Oh Fernando!
"there was something in the air that night.."
I don't know why but the Abba song keeps playing in my head.
I'd sure as hell allow my fifteen year old daughter to spend time alone in the Latin Quarter before I'd ask complete strangers in cyber space for parenting advice.
the Helpline posters are not Strangers -- we are a "family" who want to help each other.
If you and your husband believe that your daughter's head is on straight and she will be able to think for herself if she gets in a jam, let her go alone. The first time I went to Europe, my parents let me travel with a group of people we just met while staying in Salzburg for a day trip to Venice. Needless to say, these two cities are in different countries. I was 16 at the time, and my parents knew that I was mature and capable of making the right decisions for myself.
This would also be a good learning experience for all three of you. If anything were to happen, you and the hubby could sit down and talk it over with your daughter what and what not to do, so if your daughter were to ever travel abroad, especially on her own, she will have experience and better understanding of how to handle herself in various situations.
Kelly, your post above is not too clear -- you seem to be suggesting Beth and her parents would discuss a bad experience, after it happens, which I don't think you mean. My original post was a response to this. Now after several tries, what you mean to say has been clarified. I've revised my original post here, which caused so much criticism below. Clarity is good, people!
Kelly. how can you compare your experience, you were not ALONE.
Michelle, we are not saying girls are less capable(where on earth did you get that?) we are saying that a single young female will likely encounter more challenges then a BOY. My son never got hit on once in Europe, and he is very cute dear, has girls phoning here all the time. He was never followed, whistled at by older woman or pinched.
As a 23 yr old young lady I personally encountered versions of that behaviour in many europeon countries to some degree when I travelled with a friend over 20 yrs ago, I somehow doubt a single cute 15 yr old is any less likely to attract some male attention .
What all young women need to realize before they jump on the "anti-sexist soapbox" is that males and females ARE different, and get treated differently in the world, not nessesarily BETTER or WORSE , but Differently!!
Young males can be bothered by female attention, but young females are more likely to be..
NOt that it will be an issue for Beths daughter, its not like Paris is filled with salivatating maniacs,, LOL but still, LOL
Beth, I think the best advice you have heard is to know your OWN comofort level, and your daughters abilities, and do what is right for you, not basing your decsion on what others think is right.
PS Michelle, were you really ALONE in China, or on exchange?
Hi Beth -
Obviously by the responses to your post, you have hit on an issue where parents have different comfort levels. For me, the worrying I would do with my daughter out on her own in Paris would far outweigh any benefits. I wouldn't make a decision contrary to your maternal instinct based on other people's opinions. Have a wonderful trip.
Okay, okay I'll let y’all in on what’s been going on here. First off Anna just started reading your replies. She got annoyed with my obsession.
Some facts: she’s thoughtful, has a job, she has traveled with dad on urban rollerblading trips to NY city, Vancouver, Chicago and San Diego and dad has been most impressed with her navigational skills and maturity. That said she doesn't speak French, I've never been to Paris and her dad who traveled to Europe in college hasn't been back to Paris in 38years. What’s great is Anna has come to the same conclusions we have namely; no subways or buses, she’ll do all sightseeing with us (boring otherwise) She’ll explore our neighborhood (rented apt for a week) and maybe neighboring ones on her own after we have checked it out. When we go shopping it will be like at home. If we’re in a department store she can go to her depts by herself. If there is a store down the block she is interested in she can go and I’ll meet her there.
Josh, after these last couple of days these people do not seem like strangers. They are more like thoughtful friends trying to help someone navigate traveling with a teenager.
Bill and Jeff thanks for caring. I hope you don’t stay angry at each other. You are a good balance. Having some freedom is a good thing but you must always remember that bad things can happen.
Oh and we will take a self defense class before we go. I did it with my 27 yr old but forgot to do it with Anna
Congratulations Beth...a reasoned, well thought-out decision. I think, Donna, that if Beth had been going against her "maternal instincts," she wouldn't have felt the need to ask for advice. Another thing to consider, Beth, is you and her dumping "Dad" (and vice versa) so you, as individual parents, can get in some time together with her. I know my kids loved doing that when we travelled together, since they always saw us at home as "parents," not as individuals who might actually know how to have fun!
Beth, what a firestorm you ignited! Sounds like you've got a good plan.
About "forgetting" to take your younger child to a self defense class-when we bought my youngest a new pair of shoes for kindergarten, I realized I'd forgotten to teach her how to tie her shoes. The babies often get a bit neglected.
BG- Norm hit the nail on the head what I was trying to say. I would NEVER wish any ill will on anyone. I guess I'm coming from the mindset that if Beth and her hubby think and believe their daughter is mature enough to have some responsibility of exploring Paris on her own while having parents around, she'll be able to learn how to handle herself in certain situations, and have her parents to lean back on, get advice, and learn what to do. That way, she is prepared for travel in the future if/when she travels without her parents.
i just returned from Paris last week. i never felt scared or in any danger in Paris, but even as a person with a very good sense of direction I found it difficult to navigate through some of those back streets and find my way back. I had my 17 year old son with me, who is very mature, and didn't fell it was smart to let him go off on his own.
Thanks. What was your sons take on the situation
I will be going to Paris with my 16 year old daughter on Tuesday, and there is no way I would let her go off by herself in Paris (or any major city--anywhere). The point is not her maturity, I trust her. It is others I do not trust. Although most people are trustworthy, there are those who prowl looking for vulnerable teens to victimize, in a variety of ways. If I were in an area that seemed "safe" (lots of pedestrian traffic) I might let 2 teens go off together for a limited time.
I must say that I would whole-heartedly say no to this one.
I, myself, am only 20 years old and in no way would feel comfortable travelling a foreign city by myself. I'm sure that when I was 15 I would also think it to be 'cool' to travel around on my own, however - like any major city although I find moreso in this case, not to mention a great language barrier - there are definitely risks involved. Granted, your daughter will have a cell phone, maps, etc., I still find it a great deal without mom and dad around, and especially with the sheer lack of familiarity around.
Ultimately, the decision is yours and your husbands and you seem to have a comfort level with the situation. Perhaps I am a little less trusting, but I do not think that a 15 year old travelling a foreign city on her own makes for a risk-free day.
Beth, Applause to you and your family. Your daughter has a good head on her shoulder!
Pat: Alone in China. Not an exchange, but I was going there to study art and culture at a small school. I did not speak the language, but I am Chinese-American. People knew I was an American (based on look, mannerism, etc.) but I wasn't treated poorly. I ended up learning very fast how to speak key words (in order to find my class, find the mess hall, my dorm, toilet, etc.).
Actually Linda, the point IS her maturity. Maturity is not the same thing as trust. When my kids were 10, I trusted them to do their chores when they were asked, but I certainly did't think they were mature enough to take the bus downtown on their own. Maturity, in this case, would be the ability to recognize any dangers that may arise and know how to cope with them....street-proofing them as it were....an important role for parents once their children are old enough to understand it all. If we live with the fear that around every corner there is someone waiting to grab our kids, then we'll never let them go. I think Beth's solution is a good one...based on their assessment of her daughter's maturity, the local area as they assess it, and how they think she will be able to deal with it.
At first I thought, "What's the worst that could happen?" Thoughts of kidnapping, being sold into slavery in Asia or the Middle East, drugs, prostitution...
Having raised one teenage daughter with another getting there quickly, however, allayed my fears. If the worst really did happen, her mother and I (and brothers) would be spared those horrible teenage girl years.
It just goes to show you, there is always a silver lining.
P.S. They say, "He who laughs last, didn't get the joke." In case you can't tell, this is meant to be tongue in cheek.
I think you and your daughter have taken a reasonable approach to a difficult question.