I was in Brussels late last month (my second time in Belgium this year), as I was attending a conference. I was staying near Brussels Midi as the conference venue was near there. It also happens to be a neighborhood that has a high immigrant population. And for some reason, as I was walking along the streets, every now and then I would get this weird feeling that it isn't safe.
Maybe it is not safe. Maybe it is. But as I was looking back, it bothered me that I actually had that thought in mind, mostly because I really don't have any evidence that the neighborhood isn't safe, and the only thing I was relying on was the stereotypes I probably have developed over the years.
See, there were plenty of Arabs. Mostly Moroccans. The shops in the area would have Moroccan names. You find tea salons named "Cafe Tetouan" and they are all filled with Arab-looking males, all wearing black, no females around. This is not the typical scene I am used to, and perhaps the is the norm in Arab lands, but when I was in the area, I was just thinking that something was not normal, and my guard was up.
The thing is, this is indeed the case when I was in Morocco. In Tangier, there were plenty of tea salons whose patrons were all male. That was normal. And I spent 3 weeks in Morocco and I didn't feel unsafe. So I get this weird feeling that I am in a danger zone only because I am not used to seeing these situations in Europe.
In any case, I didn't flee. Nothing happened to me. And the next day, I explored another multicultural neighborhood, with plenty of Africans this time. It's all about getting out of one's comfort zone. Breaking out of one's bubble. Because that would eventually lead to the realisation that things can be different, and just because they are different doesn't mean that they are dangerous.