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Why and how to blend in with the locals

6 reasons why you should try and blend in

1. Get treated better

“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.”

John Amos

“Trying to show some cultural understanding DOES result in better treatment from restaurants, shops, etc.”

Karen Graves

“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!”


2. Not so obvious a target for criminals

“Locals can spot most Americans from dress, mannerisms, and loud speaking.

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.”


“By all means, try to blend in. If nothing else it might protect you from pick pockets and scam artists. ”

Calvin Lyons

“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.”

Brooke Paxton

3. Get closer to the local culture

“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.”


“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.”


4. It’s just more respectful

“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.”


5. Help avoid unintentional disrespect

“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 offence to something that is common to us, ergo, blend in, enjoy the trip and make friends.”

Alfred Michaud

6. Help put an end to the stereotype of the obnoxious tourist

“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.”

Paula Gjerstad

8 tips on how to blend in

1. Study how the locals dress

“Leave the bright colors and man made fibers at home, especially in Europe. They tend to dress in much more conservatively in darker shades.”


“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.”

John Amos

“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.”


2. Act like you know where you’re going

“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.”


3. Research before you leave

“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.”


4. Be a bit quieter

“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.”


5. Make an effort with the local language

“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.”

B. Beach

“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”.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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?”

John Clar

“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!”


6. Avoid the big, obvious tour groups

“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.”


7. Keep the map/guide book out of view

“And, don’t carry around a huge folding map! The small pocket maps work just as well.”

Calvin Lyons

8. Carry a local newspaper

“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.”


Got your own opinion or tip to share? Leave it as a comment below…

Author: Emma

Emma is a Online Marketing Specialist at Mobal. She is responsible for our outbound marketing efforts including planning and executing email campaigns, social media and blog posts. She also works with the Web Designers at Mobal to update the website and to help to create a better experience for the user.

4 thoughts on "Why and how to blend in with the locals"

  • Charles Peterson says:

    Backpacks: I love mine–easy to stash “stuff”, frees my hands, but I suspect it shouts aloud that I’m American, and therefore a potential target for unwanted attention. Any comments?

  • Mark Anderson says:

    I travel often to Quebec and, although my French is heavily accented and I often ask for help with words, I am treated with patience and appreciation.
    In Quebec I have found that showing my US passport for identification or using a US credit or debit card frequently brings very good English from my hosts. If I want to practice my French, I have to be insistent. I have had several humourous encounters up there with me speaking French and the Quebecer speaking English.
    It seems once they know I’m not from Toronto the attitude changes. Vive la difference!

  • Kathleen says:

    My husband is a Mexican American and fluent in Spanish. He will often ask if someone speaks Spanish in Paris and we’re surprised at how many have taken classes and want to practice!

  • Eric says:

    Americans speak too loudly, especially in restaurants, wear shoes available only in the U.S., and when eating cross their ankles under their chairs. It’s nearly impossible to escape the notice of a professional pickpocket and hard to pass as anything other than an American.

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