I’ve traveled quite a bit in my day. Obviously, not as much as some of my good friends, but I’ve done my fair share. Living in Europe has given me a unique window into the views on tourists. As I was (somewhat) integrated into French culture, I was able to see what the French see every time an unassuming tourist comes over to take a little vacation.
Don’t get me wrong. The French like tourism. In Paris, it accounts for a good chunk of their revenue. But here are some ways to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb when you’re abroad. Every time I travel or move to a different country, my favourite thing is to try and act like a local. It’s kind of a game now, but it can also help you to have an easier time and to avoid theft or harassment!
Tip 1: Do your research
Before you travel, take some time and google! What is the common language of the country? What is the city I’ll be visiting? What kinds of transportation are available? What kind of currency do they use? Often, if the country speaks a language that I don’t know, I’ll take some time and learn some travel phrases. I even check out tourist stops and public transportation, just so I know where I’m going!
Tip 2: Mind your manners
Never underestimate the power of manners. When traveling, realize that you are a guest in someone else’s country. Behave as if a co-worker invited you over for dinner. Be pleasant, patient, use good posture, and keep your elbows off the table! I even brush up on my table manners before takeoff.
Tip 3: Get off on the right food
Literally. At least in Europe, people will look at your shoes. I have two “no no’s” that I tell people never to wear: flip flops and workout shoes. Even though they may be more comfortable to wear and walk around in, they are tell-tale signs that you’re not from around “these parts”. In France, flip flops were only appropriate at the pool or beach. And workout shoes were only appropriate at the gym or during a sporting event. Instead, try cute flats with a sturdy sole or some casual sneakers, like Keds!
Tip 4: Dress to impress
This doesn’t mean that you have to rock sky high heels or wear your best party frock. But bump your personal style up a notch or two. Instead of a t-shirt, grab something that you’d wear out for lunch with a boss or a casual dinner with the girls. I still wear jeans while traveling, but I make sure that the cut is a little sleeker and that the wash is dark. Don’t skimp on accessories! Jewelry, makeup, and bags are all important, too.
Tip 5: Go digital
No one likes to fiddle with a map or open a guide book. It’s cumbersome, annoying, and it guarantees that you’ll look like a tourist. When traveling, I always buy an app or two on my iPhone/iPod that have the public transportation maps or a plan of the city. That way, you can cut down on the fluff in your suitcase (and save room for souvenirs) and seamlessly blend in.
Tip 6: Open your eyes
Be present when you travel. Sit in a cafe and people watch for a little while. Be an observer. The best way to travel is to “disappear” in the hustle and bustle of the city. This is my favourite tip of all, because it allows you to just absorb your experience and be flexible. Don’t worry so much about seeing “this” or “that”. Part of travel is the experience, not just the sights! Slow down and enjoy the moment.
And there you have it, some of the best ways to blend in and get the max out of your trip!
Do you have any great travel tips to share? Let me know in the comments!