Maybe the best part of going on a trip is experiencing something new. Languages, customs, foods, clothing, architecture, the land – everything about travel is completely saturating. With so much that’s different, it’s easy to feel self-conscious. No one wants to stick out as a tourist. That said, blending in really isn’t too difficult, no matter where you’re going. Here are some ways to fit in while you’re abroad.
Learn the Language
No one expects you to be a fluent speaker in every country you visit, but it’s a good idea to pick up a little bit of the language – before you go. Walking around with a dictionary is fine, but when you’re in the moment, fumbling through just to find the word for “please” isn’t going to be appreciated. The best thing to do is learn some key phrases. “Please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “hello,” “goodbye,” “bathroom,” and “where is…” are all words and phrases anyone can learn. If you can’t figure out how to pronounce a word, try to find a video online. Or else, listen once you arrive!
Americans are quite a casual bunch, but overseas courtesy is crucial. A simple smile doesn’t go as far as a poorly pronounced “I’m sorry.” Study customs ahead of time. Look to guidebooks and travel sites which have lists of local protocol. For example, in France, you must always say hello and goodbye when entering and leaving a store – always. If you learn these small details, you’ll fit in easily.
Dress the Country
Khaki shorts may be practical, but they are utterly American. Opt for a pair of jeans – even in summer. Sneakers are perfectly acceptable – although you should try for trendy kicks, not your practical pair for a trip to the mall. Check out some fashion magazines for ideas.
Europeans dress in neutral, minimal tones, very little patterns. This is a good cue no matter what continent you’re visiting. Loud clothing will make you stand out, so if you keep it low key, even if you don’t have the local style in your closet, you’ll blend in a lot better.
The fanny pack is the mark of the American tourist. You don’t need to buy a designer satchel, but a shoulder bag, for either a man or a woman, is ideal. Essentially, anything that’s not a fanny pack or backpack will work.
Use Public Transit
If you’re visiting a city, use public transportation to get around. You’ll interact with locals in a more organic way, plus it’s a more authentic experience. After a while, you’ll probably pick up some of their habits, too.
The key to fitting in at any country is to adapt to your new environment, and to understand that it won’t work the other way around. Just a little research and observation is all it takes to be like a local. What are your tips for blending in abroad? How do you prepare?