(How not to stand-out like an obvious tourist in a foreign country)
At the very outset let’s make one thing clear. As a tourist you are never going to blend in a 100 percent and all the time. There will be occasions when you will stand out or be recognised for who you are – a visitor. That’s all right. The trick or rather the art is not being boorish and stick out like a sore thumb.
We hope that some of the following pointers will help you to blend in, enjoy your vacation and not fall victim to those many and varied tourist disasters and faux pas.
Take a little time: When you are planning your trip abroad take some time to learn about your destination. It will be invaluable to know the weather at the time of year you will be travelling and some of the local customs and etiquette.
Clothes: This is the most frequent and obvious blunder that mark tourists like a neon-lit sign. Avoid those ghastly sneakers, flip-flops, baseball caps, cargo pants and ugly, clumsy-looking cargo pants and shorts or other items that belong on the beach. Hairy legs and knobbly knees sticking out of weirdly-coloured shorts that are either too short or overly long are another give away. Try not to look dishevelled and unwashed if you are going the backpacker route.
Another big no-no is wearing clothes featuring national flags, football and college sports teams. Jeans, light cottons or other breathable materials are good choices. Don’t wear round-neck T-shirts to dinner as a guest at someone’s home or a nice restaurant. Sandals accompanied with socks are a dead give-away. Take the time to change after a day out sightseeing.
Keep the expensive jewellery at home. Those expensive earrings, chains and watches will make you an unwilling object of thieves’ attentions.
Camera: The person with a camera permanently stuck to their eyes or draped around the necks is the image of the archetypal tourist. Fight back the desire to photograph any and everything. There are excellent compact, convenient digital cameras readily available. So there is no real need to have those cumbersome, big-lenses and highly expensive cameras on your neck. Get one you can slip into your pocket or purse.
Fanny Packs: These ugly inventions scream ‘tourist’ in every country. Keep your money, wallet, documents and valuables in a shoulder bag. Fanny packs are also very vulnerable to the attention of pickpockets. They can be easily unzipped or cut open without your being aware of it happening.
Consulting Maps and Guidebooks: Tourists standing in the middle of busy sidewalks unfolding maps and struggling with them in the wind is a sight we have all seen. That puts you in the cross-hairs of scam artists, pickpockets, thieves and other undesirable types. Consult your maps and guidebooks in your hotel room before leaving for the day’s outing or fold the map into a smaller section of the area you will be covering. Make notes of names and other details you might need. However, if you still need to consult your map duck into a coffee shop or store and do it. Discretion is the watchword.
Loudness: Tourists have been noted for their loud voices when chatting amongst themselves. Unacceptable and insensitive remarks about local conditions, facilities and sometimes ignorant comments about landmarks and traditions in loud voices are a good way to give the wrong impression and possibly antagonise the locals. Keep it down, avoid exaggerated arm movements and the too often, ‘take a look at that.’
In ending… It will be really difficult to become completely invisible or fit in when travelling abroad. Don’t let that spoil your holiday but follow the tips above and you will be less likely to stand out, offend and possibly be liked.