Here’s what our Mobal World Phone users had to say on travel clothing and looking like a tourist…
1. You can’t possibly fool the natives that you are one of them
“You can’t possibly fool the natives that you are one of them, and fooling the other tourists is not the reason you are there, so why bother to be a “poser”?
If you don’t try to fake it, and act like a visitor who appreciates being there, including letting the natives know that you are interested in their home and you came here because you wanted to learn about it, then you will almost always have a better time than if you insist on trying to be self-sufficient – as if there is any book that could imbue you with the character of a native!
If you learn to say a passable “please,” “thank you,” “yes,” “no,” and “sorry, I don’t speak (xxx language), could you help me,” and if you also act like your mother taught you to act whenever you are a guest, you should be able to get along splendidly.
Of course, if you actually take 10 minutes to read the guidebook chapter about local history & culture, so that you can ask about it, you will win even more local brownie points.
Every minute you spend trying to be a native is a minute you don’t have to see the sights you came to see in the first place, for business or for pleasure.
Life is too short to not enjoy it in the quickest & fullest way possible.”
Chief Product Metallurgist
2. No matter how much I try to blend in they always seem to know I am a tourist
“I spend usually about 4 weeks a year in Europe. No matter how much I try to blend in they always seem to know I am a tourist (I do not carry a camera, do not talk and such but they do know). I have no worries about pic-pockets and such. I just exercise the same cautions that I would always do when traveling.”
3. One dead give away is men’s shoes, and I’m not talking sneakers
“Despite trying to blend in, North Americans seem to be easily identifiable. One dead give-away is men’s shoes, and I’m not talking sneakers. European men wear entirely different kinds of shoes than North American men, and socks as well. When in doubt, I always check out the shoes first.
There is some downside to trying to blend in in some places, especially if it means you have to wear plaid and stripes together, or sandals with socks.
Even in high fashion areas, American styles are usually a year or two behind, so we are out of date no matter how hard we try to look good.
Bottom line, you need a combination approach. It will probably never really be possible to blend in, but you shouldn’t try to stand out either. Never, never wear sneakers, and leave those baseball hats, jeans and sweatshirts at home if you want to play down your tourist status.”
Carol Shaw Southbury, CT
4. My biggest concern is anti-American sentiment and the possibility of becoming a target
“Sometimes it’s not possible to totally blend in, thanks to language difficulties. But I do my best not to stand out. My biggest concern is anti-American sentiment and the possibility of becoming a target.
I must be relatively good at looking German. The last time I was there, on at least 3 occasions German nationals came up and started talking to me… in German. I’ve been studying the language, but I’m not good enough to pass as a native-speaker! My blank looks gave me away.”
5. I sometimes find myself downright disgusted with “ugly Americans” who don’t even try to meet people in other cultures half way
“I think it’s important for Americans to blend in as much as possible when travelling outside the U.S. In some places, it’s impossible, such as where locals are, in general, of a different skin color or skin tone.
In other places, it’s worth a try to blend in, and in such places (e.g., Western Europe), if they can’t blend in, they should at least make the effort to speak a few words of the local language (French, Italian, etc.), no matter how imperfectly. They’ll be amazed at how much their effort will be appreciated.
I sometimes find myself downright disgusted with “ugly Americans” who don’t even try to meet people in other cultures half way. It’s little wonder we’re sometimes so reviled by others around the world.”
6. Only a jerk, like a Paris Hilton, would try to stand out
“Only a jerk, like a Paris Hilton, would try to stand out when one should behave as would be expected of a guest. This is, of course, not even considering the foolishness of indentifying ones self as a potential target or patsy.”
7. It is offensive to walk around with a wrist watch that costs more than most people make in a year
“I try to blend in as much as possible though when you have a camera on hand people know you are a tourist. I see it as much as minimizing barriers to being accepted by people I meet.
It is especially important in poorer countries where I think it is offensive to walk around with a wrist watch that costs more than most people make in a year. There are also cultural sensibilities that should be observed as with women not bearing their legs in many very Catholic countries in Central and South America, unless they don’t mind being mistaken for a prostitute.”
8. I vote “Blend in”
“Hi, I vote “Blend in”
Case in point: Recent events in Mumbai.
As an American, I enjoy it a lot when I am addressed in the native language of the country which I am visiting! It let’s me know that, at least occasionally, my wife and/or I really succeeding to blend in. Long pants and leather shoes go a long way toward blending! And, avoiding excessively loud voices sure helps too!”
9. As a single woman traveling alone, I find it safer NOT to stand out
“In this time of Post-9/11, it is very difficult to define yourself as an American in Europe.
When I stayed in London for a month in October of 2006, I was clearly told NOT to wear any clothes with an American symbol or statement on it. London? I couldn’t believe it! I WANTED to wear clothes with the American Flag or New York or Hollywood on it. I took a couple of pieces with me, but ended up wearing very neutral clothes and finding myself trying to blend in. The only way anyone knew I was NOT British was when I spoke…
As a single woman traveling alone, I find it safer NOT to stand out and NOT to wear anything with a statement. I get around as if someone is expecting me. I ask questions or directions in a safe environment. I make friends with the Security Staff at the Hotel I am staying at. I make friends with the Front Desk to keep track of my arrivals and departures. I make friends with the Concierge. It’s incredible how much these people will help you! With the right attitude, people will open up to you and offer their assistance in any way.
This year I spent two weeks in Tallinn, Estonia for a Feature Film Premiere. Even today when the Baltic Countries live in fear of Soviet Rule, I was honored to be an American and stood out from the crowds. Meanwhile, I dressed conservatively and showed incredible respect and gratitude to the locals. In Estonia, America represents Hope and Freedom.
Any Country you visit, be discreet, show respect, and don’t give the locals a chance to call us “Ugly Americans.” I find visiting ANY Country a privilege, not a right.”
Solange of Hollywood
10. Why go to the fashion capital of the world, and basically spit in their face?
I was in Paris a few years ago, and I did my best to blend. Everyone I encountered was polite, even though my French was limited. I had a couple of friends visit Paris just a couple of months ago, and they thought everyone was horribly rude, as they spoke no French.
I thought this was odd, until I saw their vacation photos- they were horribly dressed- baggy sweats, baseball caps, white tennis shoes, fanny pack.
Why go to the fashion capital of the world, and basically spit in their face?”
11. I have been pawed by pickpocket gangs in Prague and scammed by pros in Rome
“I don’t concern myself with either “standing out or blending in”. In most of Europe ordinary street dress in the US puts you in similar appearance as the locals, it’s the cameras, gawking, and map reading that set you apart and that’s all part of being a tourist isn’t it?
I have been pawed by pickpocket gangs in Prague and scammed by pros in Rome but I know how to protect my valuables (passport, credit cards), let them steal a few worthless objects (tissue packages, business cards), and be on our separate ways before they realize they have been scammed! On the other hand I was asked by a tourist if I objected to having my picture taken while savoring a midnight snack of cheese and wine along the Seine – she even complimented me on my excellent English!
You are a tourist so you have to expect to be asked to pay the “tourist price”, that is how some people earn a living, is that bad? When you are shopping in Budapest, Beijing, or Bali you should have some idea of your personal value of your proposed purchase – don’t compare it to what a local might pay, they probably don’t shop for the item – how much would you pay for it at Pier 1 back home? If you are in a bargaining culture, is it OK to just keep driving the price down like a game or make the purchase if you get it to the price you were
willing to pay?
Soaking up the culture of the place has little to do with your appearance, it is an attitude item. Do you seek out local places to eat and drink? Do you try to converse with people on the train or tram? Do you insist on only patronizing places that speak perfect English or are you willing to engage in friendly “point and grunt” requests in order to try something different? Are you willing to laugh at yourself for your cultural faux pas – I am always apologizing in shops in France for failing to begin with “Bonjour…” , am forgiven for my “typical American” insensitivity, and usually afforded pleasant service afterwards. I love to discuss political issues when they are brought into a conversation and I do not feel obligated to either defend or be critical of the USA – I want to hear different perspectives and offer my own.
I try to operate on a philosophy a dear friend and Citizen of the World imparted to me many years ago, “Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.”
12. I try to blend in as much as possible. Although it seldom works
“I try to blend in as much as possible. Although it seldom works, I think it is the best idea to minimize unwanted attention to your status as a possible target for crime, sales pitches, etc.
I never dress to impress but in some countries unfortunately that calls you out right away as an outsider. But I still go for comfort although I also minimize cameras, fanny packs, shorts when everyone else wears pants, etc.”
Rich O. St. Louis, Mo.
13. I just try to not make it painfully aware that I’m not a native
“I think the most important thing is to NOT be an ugly American, or an ugly representative of whatever country you hail from. Even if you were to wear only clothing, hairdos and skin tones native to the area you are visiting, it would still be obvious you’re not from around there. You have a camera, a carrying bag of some sort, guide books, street maps, etc.
So you will stand out no matter what you do. I just try to not make it painfully aware that I’m not a native, and I try to be a good representative of my homeland and of humanity.”
14. The greatest compliment I can get while traveling in a foreign country is being asked directions in the local language
“The greatest compliment I can get while traveling in a foreign country is being asked directions in the local language…people think I belong!
Having the physical attributes of a German or other Western and Easter European native helps.
My ancestry is German, so I physically blend in in Europe. (in Asia of course I stick out like a sore thumb) Wearing darker colors, good leather shoes, scarves, or sedate jewellery is always a good idea, and helps one blend in.
When I prepare my clients for a European trip, and they ask what colors or clothing to bring, I say black, black, and black.
Back Packs, white tennis shoes and loud voices earmark an American tourist right away. Americans talk and laugh way to loud. They point, and chatter like magpies in museums, and chew gum a lot. Americans are always rushing to get to the next place, the next activity, or the next shop. They forget to slow down and enjoy the moment, the place, and the atmosphere. they miss so much!
So, if you want to blend in, slow down, speak quietly, and dress conservatively, and take each moment of your trip as a treasure.”
Judith Berger ACC | Travel Leaders
15. It isn’t worth it to be such stand outs, that local folks sneer at you!
“I’m under no illusion that locals don’t know I’m a tourist/traveler, but I try to not be too conspicuous, just because it’s easier to interact with people if one isn’t too out of sync with the folks you’re visiting.
For instance, I leave the baseball caps, Bermuda shorts, stretch pants and loud voice at home.
I also hide and protect my guide book with a local newspaper cover that I put on myself. And I try to learn the money and a few phrases of the language of the country I’m visiting before I arrive.
I once saw a huge crowd gather about some “hippies” with dyed, ‘fro hair, dressed in local ragged clothes, in India, where the people pointed, laughed, even hooted, exhibiting rude behavior that was a bit intimidating.
It isn’t worth it to be such stand outs, that local folks sneer at you!”
Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment below…