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Is it important to try and not stand out as a tourist, even in Europe…

Maybe you think:

– It’s part of the experience to try and blend in
– You’re less likely to be obviously targeted as a tourist
– You feel you get more respect

…Or do you think:

– The local’s are going to spot you a mile off anyway, so why bother
– You’re proud of your nationality and don’t want to hide it

Leave your thoughts as a comment below…

42 thoughts on "Is it important to try and not stand out as a tourist, even in Europe…"

  • Sandi says:

    I try to blend in but my white running shoes are the most comfortable shoes I own and I’m not giving them up. I wear jeans and t-shirts but neat and tidy — no slogans and not Levi style jeans. I don’t have a problem looking like a tourist — but I work on knowing some of the language, research the city/area, take the off-beaten track, ask the locals about their city and haven’t had any trouble traveling anywhere in Europe (so far). I’m American, living in New Zealand, and frequently travel alone. I research the area well and pay attention to my surroundings. I still carry a backpack and have had no problems at any time. I get asked for directions by other travelers (especially in Rome and Venice — and I get lost in Venice every single day!). Respect is the key word to treating the locals and being attentive to your surroundings keeps you out of grief. The street vendors try to sell, and I smile, shake my head, and keep going.

  • Gila says:

    I also vote for blend in with good manners and conservative clothing that match the country’s culture. Because I am an older woman and a Jew, I have a real sense of my immediate surroundings, and pay attention to people & cars/trucks & bags/packages near me, to which I notice many Americans seem oblivious. For security, I also put a local newspaper around my guide book as a cover, and tuck both it and my camera in my small shoulder bag, worn across my body on the street, as most women do in Western Europe. My inner waist money pouch holds my bigger bills, passport, airline tickets, etc., unless it’s in the hotel/hostel safe, and as a result, I’ve never lost anything of value. I write twelve phrases of the language of the country I’m visiting that
    express politeness on a 3×5 card, slip it in my pocket and
    memorize them. It works wonders in getting warm responses!

  • Leslie Thorson says:

    I vote for blending in. Not because I’m ashamed of where I’m from, but because I don’t want to stand out. I’d rather experience the countries I’m visiting as a native would–not to have a “tourist experience”. And I am asked for directions everywhere I go! Sometimes I even know the answer…

  • janet reider says:

    I feel my husband and I blend in well when we travel in Italy and it comes naturally to us as we dress pretty much as the Italians do when we’re in cities and villages. However, we had a “telling” experience when we were entering the synagogue in Rome for a special event memorializing the Roman Jews murdered in the concentration camps. The guard at the gate of the synagogue was watching everyone as they entered. As it was 45 minutes before the beginning of the ceremony there were probably 50 to 75 people coming in at the same time. The guard took one look at ME and said ” this is private affair – you can’t come.” I was stunned! How did he know I was not a member of the synagogue…my Italian teacher and people I meet in Italy ask if I am Italian as I seem to look like all their grandmothers! However – it was a cold night and I had on my warm RED hat. Not one single woman in the 100s there had on a hat let alone a RED hat. In the end the guard, hearing we were Jewish and that we’d looked forward all day to the event, let us enter. It also pays to learn the language of the country you visit frequently as the guard did not speak English and I believe was impressed that I was able to tell him in Italian how much we wanted to be there for this momentous and, as it turned out extraordinary occasion.

  • Emil says:

    A few basic words in the local language to say good day, good morning, excuse me, thank you etc., is generally all it takes to be welcomed in most European countries. Dressing similar to what one sees on the street is always smart. Bad behavior by fellow Americans is upsetting, especially when visiting other countries. However, anyone “embarrassed by being an American” regardless of who the President is, should visit a one of the numerous American military cemeteries scattered throughout Europe and reflect a little.

  • Michael says:

    Dressing respectfully and complying with local customs as much as reasonable gets you treated better and garners you respect in return. It can also lead to some fun experiences, such as this.

    We were returning from Amsterdam by train to London, and had to change trains in Brussels. While standing on the platform, we were approached by a family from Ohio. One of the ladies walked up to me and said, with a definite midwestern twang, “Pardon, monsieur. Do you speak English?” Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I replied with my best imitation of a Belgian accent, “Oui, madame, a little.” She asked for directions to her train and I helped her get everyone along to the right platform.

    She was thrilled to have talked to and been understood by a “local,” and I got a great story to tell!

  • John Clark says:

    I prefer not to call attention to myself, so I forego the stereotypical American tourist trademarks and dress conservatively. But I’m proud to be an American and don’t try to hide it, and I’ve always been treated cordially by people who obviously can tell I’m a tourist. It’s an advantage not to stand out in locations where petty street crime is high, but it’s unwise to be in those areas without a knowledgeable local companion anyhow. Probably more important than what you’re wearing is whether you can speak a few words and phrases in the local language. Just being able to say (in the local language), “Excuse me. I’m an American tourist and I speak very little [German]; do you speak English?” Even if the person you’ve addressed speaks little or no English, most will try to help, or they’ll find someone who does speak enough English to be helpful. It isn’t difficult to learn a few social greetings and some basic questions (and understand the answers) — good [morning/afternoon/evening]; please; thank you; you’re welcome; excuse me; how much does this cost; where is the [train station/restroom/museum], and the like, and it’s greatly appreciated by the locals when you make an effort to speak even a little bit of their language. Think about it: if a tourist from another country sought your help that way, in your home town, wouldn’t you go out of your way to accommodate him?

  • Mike says:

    I prefer to blend in. I feel more like I am experiencing the country. I hope they appreciate my trying to identify with them. No jeans? Well, the Italians would find that odd. Cologne, now there is a place that is fancier; Munich more casual. Jeans are fine, almost universally.
    Forget the “travel pants” and “travel shirts” though. While practical, only tourists wear them.
    Security wise, of course it’s better not to attract attention.
    Embarrassed by other Americans? I’ve traveled to many countries, and with a large group of young people, and I have never been embarrassed by the behavior of Americans. Loud? Compared to whom? Pushy? Uh, I could think of some folks who are, but I’ll attribute that to their massively urban culture.
    But, if you’re ashamed of being an American, I don’t want to be associated with you, either. Please don’t go around the world apologizing.

  • Arnold Davidson says:

    I had to travel for my job during the first Gulf War.US travelers were at particular risk then. I started wearing sturdy leather walking shoes instead of white sneakers, dark corduroy pants instead of Levis, and similar clothes that were preferred by Europeans. I also wore berets and wool caps instead of NY Yankees baseball caps. I have continued to mask my US origins over these many years. I also follow the advice of a wonderful guide, who told me that, if I was ever asked where I was from, to say “Canada” instead of the US. It seems that they are not as pissed off at Canada as they are at the US.

  • Brooke Paxton says:

    I think that it is very important to try and fit in as much as possible when traveling anywhere. Not doing so, especially in large cities is just asking to be mugged.

  • Calvin Lyons says:

    By all means, try to blend in. If nothing else it might protect you from pick pockets and scam artists. And, don’t carry arounc a huge folding map! The small pocket maps work just as well.

  • James says:

    Blend in.

    This does not mean adopt a ridiculous attempt at the local accent, but do learn the local colloquialisms and dress. MANY times in the UK, I have been asked for directions and watched the surprise when they heard me speak. 🙂 That is your goal.

  • Eric D says:

    I am proud to be an American and never deny it. I do my best to make sure that I represent the US in a way we can be proud of. I have been around – Europe, Central America, South America – and I haven’t seen “The Ugly American” yet. I have seen tourists who act boorishly, but they were not Americans. For those who never miss an opportunity to knock the US or their fellow Americans: If you don’t like America, buy a one way ticket!

  • Larry says:

    I have found it is very important to blend in when traveling, especially in Europe. Having knowledge of the appropriate dress, and trying to learn some of the language, is an important part of this process. As Americans we sometime feel people in other countries should adjust to us. This simply is not the best way to enjoy your vacation experience. When traveling in Europe it is easy for us to pick out the rude American in the crowd.

    Friends have commented it is impossible to blend in, especially in another country. I disagree. Recently we were in Rome, and my wife had an Italian nun approach her and ask for directions. It was at this point we realized we had accomplished our goal of blending in.

  • Eleanor Kohn says:

    Even if I don’t do a perfect job of “fooling” people, I do try to dress and act the way the locals do. Sometimes it’s fun, like drinking wine in Italy, and drinking lots of beer in Germany! It is a sign of respect to act the same way the locals act. I am proud to be American, but don’t want to offend.

  • Nate Han says:

    It’s nice to blend in with the locals if nothing else to respect and learn their culture; but in this day & age (post 9/11), it’s prudent not to draw attention to one self as well.

    Try and learn some of the local language and not expect everyone to speak English automatically.

    It’s a small world…and only getting smaller…

  • PAUL JOHNSON says:


  • Kathleen says:

    I also believe in blending in. I think that you’re treated better and one should also conform to the customs of the country. I witnessed a German guy being admonished for his lack of “politesse” at Notre Dame in Paris. They’re big believers in politeness and greetings. So, of course, I was very polite and said “Bonjour”. I’m telling you…one nice “bonjour” will open doors!

    And if people in that country see that you’re trying, then they will do whatever they can for you. Even in America, just trying to speak a different language to someone in an “ethnic” area will win you points.

    I was once told by this woman, in French, that she liked my scarf. I told her, politely, that I didn’t speak French and she said “that’s alright, say it in English”. It was a lovely exchange.

    The French think that Americans smile too much…and while I’m not going to not smile, I always temper my ebullience while I’m in a different country.

    I usually don’t wear jeans but if I do, then I wear a nice coat and no gym shoes. That screams tourist. And we also take care not to show where our money is as well. I once had this guy getting closer to and closer to me as I was checking out scarves. Trust me…he wasn’t interested in scarves. I was on my guard and gave him a look and he walked away. I guess I just don’t want to be pegged as an American but don’t mind if I am. After all, I am an American…that’s not so bad, eh?

    But respect the different cultures and you’ll have a much more interesting time!

  • Cie says:

    Blend in. Always try to speak the language if you want any help at all! Speak at a lower tone. Say THANK YOU in their tongue. Don’t wear expensive jewelry; they think we have too much money so don’t perpetuate this belief; it creates jealousy! Cover yourself in their churches and worship places, never wearing torn jeans. Be kind.

  • Ray Davis says:

    It goes back to the old saying: “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. In my travel experiences I have found this to be sound advice.

  • Ken says:

    Blend in is the name of the game. We lived in Germany for 5 years and during that time I was constantly being asked for directions and time of day – and no I am not very good in German language. Same has been true in France.

  • Karen Graves says:

    Trying to show some cultural understanding DOES result in better treatment from restaurants, shops, etc. From a safety standpoint what is more important is being prepared and looking confident about where you are going- do your homework before you go!

  • Roger says:

    Shouting your nationality is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. (Did you know that everyone loves you as much as you do?) When we travel with a mass of people(cruises, organized groups) we normally eschew the sponsored group tours and go out on our own with a private tour or guide.

  • Sandra Glass says:

    I usually travel alone so I try to blend in…not interested in looking like “Tillie the Tourist” by bringing attention to myself. I’m proud of being a Canadian but there is a time and place for demonstrating that pride (e.g. Olympics)

  • Paula Gjerstad says:

    I vote for blending in. I agree with the implication of other responses that blending in equates to behaving nicely, or as the locals do. I believe that most tourists of any persuasion are nice people, and that the badly behaved ones are the terribly noticeable exceptions. But we don’t want to be taken for, and treated like, that terrible stereotype.

  • Richard says:

    Depending on where you travel, as soon as you open your mouth people will most likely know your are not from “around here”. To me it’s most important to be respectful, listen and appreciate the culture you are in. Get away from the tourist traps and really find out what a place is all about. I’m an American. Am I always proud of my country and my leaders? No, but when traveling abroad you can’t let that define you totally. Be civil. If you are meeting someone for the first time and they say something like “you Americans work too hard.” Don’t argue, say “you might have a point”. Then focus on what makes the place you are in special. Blending in isn’t just about the way you dress, it’s about the attitude with which you approach your trip.

  • Alfred Michaud says:

    To better enjoy the country and people, i find it better to blend in. Sometimes, trying to be a good neighbor, we forget that all people do not think the same way and they may take offense to something that is common to us, ergo, blend in, enjoy the trip and make friends.

  • Tammie says:

    I think that blending in is the best policy. When I travel abroad I realize that I am a guest in someone else’s home. The best way I can respect that fact is to try to immerse myself in their culture, language, etc to the best of my ability. I wouldn’t be traveling abroad if I didn’t want to experience another country and explore the beauties that country has to offer.

  • Ray says:

    Absolutely American tourists should try to blend in. It will be difficult but when you see the proverbial “ugly American” it gives added incentive to downplay outrageous clothing! It’s not a matter of being ashamed of America… but it’s a matter of common sense (which is uncommon these days!). I have been taken as German (maybe because my family immigrated from Germany in 1744!). It’s hard to be embarrassed by our country… ever… but it is good to blend in to the extent that you can.

  • Paula says:

    I’m very proud to be American, but I try to fit in as a polite American – as others have said, dress respectfully, don’t be loud, don’t run into a store and start blabbing in English (I often wonder how some Americans would feel if someone on the street ran up to them in America and starting speaking to them in a foreign language – put off, right?). I speak several languages, but when I don’t speak the one I ‘ll need, I at least learn some basic phrases. Amazing how that helps. Most of the time, you still will be recognized as a tourist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good ambassador for the USA (despite Obama being our president!! – had to zing the Bush hater!) Shame on you for being embarrassed by being American! You should be thankful to live in our great land (rather live in Azerbaijan??), and by being a thoughtful tourist you can promote our good image!

  • Steve says:

    I solidly vote for blending in or trying to. Learning local customs of dress and manner always seem to make life more pleasant for all. Being polite and always trying to start a conversation in the local language also helps. As noted before, it also helps start conversations. While I doubt I have ever been mistaken for a local by a local, I was approached by an Italian couple in a Paris Metro station asking for directions. Luckily, I had just been to Italy so my Italian was up to the task. The only time I have been treated impolitely was in the Milan train station where — because my Italian is not perfect — I was told to “stick to English”.

  • Masrud says:

    I think it’s a good idea to try to be somewhat neutral. Wearing clothes that don’t ‘stick out’ and identify you as American, drawing attention to yourself, is a good idea in my opinion.

    Blending in by talking to the ‘nationals’ rather than remaining aloof is also something that will make your trip much more pleasant and cause the natives to be friendlier.

    Everyone loves to show off their country. Let them.

  • b. Beach says:

    We try to blend . I try to speak the language as much as possible. We travel to France frequently and we’ve made a lot of friends. They really appreciate you trying. The French are wonderful and we’ve never had a minute of someone acting rude to us.

  • herbert says:

    I don’t worry about blending in for the two reasons you mentioned. While I am proud to be an American (regardless of who is president), I am not proud of those fellow American tourists who behave improperly. I am ashamed of THEM, not my country. I figure my behavior can help neutralize another’s boorishness, so I certainly don’t want to hide the fact that I am an American.

  • John Qalle says:

    The best approach is to stay away from Europe. Crime is becoming a problem. Europeans seem to believe every American is a multi millionaire. The charge redicouls prices and are not friendly generally.
    There are wonderful places in N America Canada and the US that are safe and people treat you with respect.

  • Jeremy Powers says:

    I don’t expect to blend perfectly, but I’d rather not be the one American who stands out from 100 yards and even local children can spot you. Three rules I follow: I try to talk more quietly than I do when I’m at home, wear comfortable shoes that are no runners/trainers/whatever and try to wear conservative clothes. A loud American in pink checked shorts and pair of white Nikes can be spotted by radar.

  • Samantha says:

    I’ve been mistaken for a local in nearly every place I’ve gone, from France and Italy to the Republic of Georgia to South Africa, and it almost always results in good conversation and learning more about the local culture. In the cases where I was unable to blend in (China – because I’m whitey-white, and Azerbaijan – because I didn’t wear nice shoes), people were more apt to try to take advantage of me, often in rather harrassing ways. In Latvia, I was nearly pickpocketed by gypsies because they spotted me coming out of a tourist shop. In my opinion, it’s always better to blend in if you can.

    Aside from that, I’m often embarrassed by the behavior of other Americans in foreign countries, and prefer to distance myself from them. I was especially embarrassed by my nationality during the Bush years, though when I told people I didn’t vote for him they usually offered sympathy rather than censure.

  • Joan says:

    You won’t be able to pass a a local but you should attempt to blend in by not behaving in ways that are unacceptable or rude in that place. I have been so embarrassed by Americans whom I didn’t know but was in the vicinity when they: shrieked and shouted in Switzerland where people are beautifully mannered and do not make spectacles in public; wore shorts, low-cut tops, refused the coverings offered and still felt they were entitled to enter mosques and churchs; complained loudly in French restaurants about the menu not having any ‘American’ (meaning greasy and fast)food; pushed ahead when others are nicely ‘queued’; refer to staff in stores as stupid for not speaking English well enough when they are too lazy/stupid to even carry a Berlitz book. We can truly be ‘ugly’ Americans outside our country.

  • Jim says:

    While in most places it is almost impossible not to be recognized as a tourist it is important to try to blend in if you want to experience more of the local culture. If you look and act like a tourist then you will be treated like one.

  • Dale says:

    1. Locals can spot most Americans from dress, mannerisms, and loud speaking.
    2. Those most quickly identified will become the primary targets of thieves and maybe even terrorists. Quick & easy tip-offs: ball cap, tee shirt, jeans or shorts, a camera around the neck, a fanny pack around the waist = American = $$ to be shared.
    3. I try to fit in as best I can. Button down shirt, never jeans, camera and guidebook stowed in a small European shoulder bag around my neck, acting like I know where I am going. On a recent trip to Rome I was asked by Italians 7 different times for directions, or help in the Metro. Better than being pickpocketed 7 times.

  • Mike says:

    I believe in trying to blend in. If you do a little research, you will be able to do a good job of this. In France and Germany I have been approached by locals looking for directions on a number of occasions and have always taken this as proof of my success in blending in.

  • John Amos says:

    You should blend in wherever you travel. For instance, when I am in New York City for leisure travel I always wear a jacket and tie instead of a striped sport shirt. It is amazing how well you are treated.

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