Ways to Look A Bit Less Like A Tourist
“I wore only black socks, because I had heard that white ones were the classic sign of the American tourist. Black ones though,- those’ll fool ’em. I supposed I hoped the European locals’ conversation would go something like this:
PIERRE: Ha! Look at that tourist with his camera and guidebook!
JACQUES: Wait, but observe his socks! They are…black!
PIERRE: Zut alors! You are correct! He is one of us! What a fool I am! Let us go speak to him in English and invite him to lunch!” Doug Mack
Becoming invisible as a traveler is difficult and the skill takes a long time to master. Don’t get discouraged and let the act of “trying to fit in” ruin your trip, You are who you are.
Learn a few words of the language, Good day, good evening, please and thank you are a good start. I can say coffee with milk and no sugar in any country I have been to. It was particularly difficult for me in Turkish. You aren’t going to pass for a resident but it is a way to ingratiate yourself with the locals and at least get better service.
Speak softly in public. Speaking loudly in a foreign language can lead to unwanted attention from pickpockets.
If you are in a city where people are stylish, it is best to not walk around in sweatpants and flip-flops, unless you are in Rio where people do wear Havianas. Casual chic is good. American casual is not that common outside of the US. Scarves are a nice accessory when traveling. I’m not perfect. I do bring a cute baseball hat for the sun in cities. It is an easy to pack hat but also a dead giveaway no matter how casual chic the rest of my outfit is.
Wear the colors that local people are wearing. Black is good in many cities but not in the Caribbean or India. Wear the right swimwear if you want to fit in. In Brazil, your bathing suit will look like pants on the beach. All the men wear Speedos in some countries.
Use the typical condiments of your host country when eating. If you can’t eat without ketchup bring some McDonald’s packets with you. If you can’t eat without ketchup you should not be traveling anyway. Don’t ask for decaf. It is not a thing in most restaurants in the world.
Eat the local food at the local meal time. Use local table manners. If everyone is eating with chopsticks, you should be too. In many countries it is rude to walk down the street eating. Tipping is a dead giveaway. Learn the customs of a country before you go.
Don’t chew a lot of gum. It’s an American thing.
In certain areas, it is best to live a little less through the lens of a camera. Camera-toting tourists are an easy target for theft because not only are they showing off expensive equipment, but they are also distracted from their surroundings. I still take lots of pictures in my travels, but I make sure to be discreet. I am guilty of wearing a camera but being from New York, I am always aware of my surroundings and keep it out of sight when necessary.
There is a difference between awareness and fear. The more authentic travel experiences you have, the more you learn how to travel.