Sometimes when you travel you want to be armed with some ways to avoid looking like a tourist. The reasons are inconsequential: you might be a “serious” traveler who wants to be disassociated with the crowd (some get a bit snobby like that); you might want to blend in to better immerse yourself in a culture; it might be a question of safety; or, you might to just simply appear less naive when bargaining for a great deal at the soukh. Whatever your reasons, here are some ways to avoid looking like a tourist.
One of the obvious ways to avoid looking like a tourist is to lose the map. If you feel you need one, step into a shop or less public place to consult it, or look locations up on a smart phone. You can also plan your outing ahead of time while in the hotel room. Don’t have a camera hanging around your neck, carry it discreetly in a bag or purse. If you brought a guidebook, wrap it in plain brown paper or past the cover of a novel to it (preferably in the host country’s language). Better yet, just tear out the section you’re visiting on that particular day.
It’s difficult trying to blend in while eating in restaurants, but there are some things that give you away immediately. Eat the local food as much as possible, and avoid eating condiments that might mark you as a tourist, such as ketchup. Order your food like the locals - in some places; salads are eaten last, for example, if at all. Order off the local menu rather than the English-language one if possible. Don’t ask to be seated in the non-smoking section - in some places smoking isn’t allowed in public places, while in others, smoking is allowed everywhere. Use local table manners - in some countries, eating with your hands is fairly normal, and other countries use different utensils, like chopsticks. Don’t rest your arms on the table.
Casual dress isn’t as common in other countries than it is, say, in the US. Use colors the locals are wearing -Europeans tend to wear more black, while people in the Caribbean wear more vibrant colors, for example. Avoid location clothing (not many Londoners would be wearing an “I love London” t-shirt, for example). Try to avoid clothing with any kind of logo or advertising. Avoid athletic shoes, flip flops or rubber clogs like Crocs. Instead, wear plain shoes without obvious logos. Dress for the local weather.
Only tourists carry backpacks and fanny packs (bumbag), so avoid carrying them. Leave behind baseball hats, water bottles, and big bags, especially those with any kind of logo on them. If you must carry a bag, make it a locally-purchased one, and carry obvious tourist items inside, like cameras. For cash, cards and other important small items, they are better placed close to your body-for example, in a pouch on a lanyard hung around your neck but concealed under your clothing. Be sure your socks match your pants, don’t wear athletic white socks unless it’s the norm in that country (Brazilians, for example wear white socks with shorts). Sometimes, it’s what you’re not wearing that gives you away. If hats and scarves are the norm, then be sure to wear them. A hat or scarf worn incorrectly can give you away.
What is considered good manners in one country can be vastly different in another. Americans, for example, tend to be louder than people from other countries, which can mark them as a tourist. Pay attention to the personal space the locals give each other. Many people shake hands when greeting each other, but many don’t. In any case, shaking hands may be fraught with unwritten rules - shaking a woman’s hand may be unacceptable, or you may be expected to extend your hand to the oldest or most important person present first. Do your homework to learn the most polite way to greet people in the host country.
Learn a few useful phrases in the host country, but also learn a few expected responses. Learn polite words like “please” and “thank-you,” as well as some common greetings. If you’re not understood, don’t repeat the words in a louder voice; volume doesn’t increase understanding. If you must use a dictionary while talking or trying to read a menu, do so as discretely as possible.
Be discreet with money. Hidden money belts don’t work if you have to unbuckle your belt every time you pay for something, so be sure that it’s hidden but easily accessible. Do not wear things that indicate wealth of any kind, like expensive jewelry. Not only do you risk losing it but it’s unlikely the locals are advertising their wealth (or lack thereof) and may be resentful. Know the local currency so you’re not holding other people up when paying for things.
How do you feel about this? Does it make any difference to you when on vacation/traveling?
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