How to Not Look Like a Tourist…When You Will Always Be One
Americans are easy to spot abroad. Our accents make us stand out – made famous by Hollywood films. Our dress is often deemed too casual – as usually people dress for comfort (such as casual jeans or yoga pants, sneakers, and a t-shirt) while traveling rather than style. However – these are things that can make us stand out as tourists, which can then also lead to targeted pick-pocketing and petty theft.
An accent is harder to change – so that won’t even be breached in this post. On the other hand, one can still be comfortable in clothing but in a way that has you blend in more.
For example, in France, scarves are more than just a fashion statement. If you are a woman not wearing a form of a scarf, you stand out as not belonging or being aware of the social norms. Usually people who fit into this category also carry more cash than those who are well blended, as tourists often feel unsafe leaving expensive items at a hotel.
Dressing in darker and muted colors will also make you stand out less. If you are confident enough to wear a bright pink skirt, people will notice you as they are walking. Thieves might also notice you and think that the pink skirt is flashy and “showing off wealth.” This thought process then continues to “I wonder how much their watch costs?” or “What do valuables will they have in their purse?”
If you are in a busy area, step to the edge of the sidewalk and look at how other people are walking. In large cities like Washington, D.C. and New York City, public transportation is a necessity for many. Tourists stand on the escalators looking around at the sights – not realizing they are blocking the way for someone who is late to work. In the United States of America, standing is on the right side and the left side will be for those who need to get someplace quicker – and are not afraid to let you know their speed. (Slower people to one side and faster to the other might also occur in other cities – but pay attention, as cars and “speed walkers” might be on the opposite side than what you are familiar with!)
Another aspect could be religion. If you are a female from a western part of the world and are visiting a dominantly Islamic part of the world, you need to be prepared to wear more modest clothing than what you are otherwise familiar with. This might include wearing a hijab, as a symbol of respect.
When preparing to travel someplace, do some research on what clothing is common. This might get you to rethink leaving the neon green purse at home with your grandmother’s heirloom jewelry.
Other examples of how to not look like a tourist can be found here: http://www.diversityabroad.com/article/study-abroad/tips-on-assimilating-into-london-and-not-looking-like-a-goofy-tourist