When you're traveling to a new country, it's important (and beneficial) to not draw too much attention to yourself.
In the U.S., we tend to have some key identifiers that make us stand out when we're traveling... louder voices... American brand t-shirts and caps... sports jerseys... huge backpacks... Though these are not necessarily "bad", they could land you some unwanted attention or make you an easy target for scammers.
When you do your best to blend in, you're doing yourself a favor while also demonstrating some level of respect to the country you're visiting and showing that you've done your research to learn about the place (what to wear, how to speak, etc.), which is quite commendable.
So to avoid totally looking like a tourist, here are a few simple ways you can keep a low profile while traveling to a new country.
1. Dress like a local
Americans tend to be more casual than the rest of the world (unless you're from New York). We wear flip-flops and high-waisted shorts to lunch, we wear sweatpants or yoga pants like there's no tomorrow, and usually sundresses and t-shirts are fine for dinner. This might fly in some tropical destinations... but in many countries, including those in Europe, Asia, and South America, the dress is more formal. Casual clothing might even be offensive, looked down upon, or you might be turned away from restaurants or bars. So wherever you go, do some research on what you should and shouldn't wear to that region.
2. Minimize extravagant accessories
Again, Americans sometimes like practicing the art of showing off everything they own at once. Diamond ring here, amazing camera there. Think twice before you 'splay your valuable possessions! You risk being a target for thieves, you risk looking like you have a lot of money to spend (which in most cases, will not work in your favor), or you'll just risk losing it altogether.
3. Avoid Carrying Large Maps
This may seem obvious, but some people don't do the prep work (loading maps on your phone beforehand), and actually end up having to be that person who is standing in the middle of a city-centre, map sprawling three feet wide. So, as mentioned above, load your maps onto your phone beforehand, or ask for directions from your local host and get acquainted with the city's layout before heading out.
4. Learn key terms in your host country's language
Learning the local language of any country you visit is not always possible, but nailing down a few key phrases – like Where is xxx? or How do I get to xxx?, (or if you want to be very impressive, learn how to ask for coffee or wine), is a great way to avoid ringing the alarm that you're an American. You're also showing respect by not expecting others to speak your language in their own home country.
5. Don't be louder than your surroundings
It's no secret that Americans tend to be openly loud. We talk loudly, we laugh loudly, and we are generally expressive...compared to the rest of world. So when you're visiting a new country, you'll want to keep your conversations quiet, otherwise you'll stand out like a sore thumb. Especially if you don't speak the local language, you don't want your voice drowning out others in a bus, train, or at a cafe.
6. At the end of the day, remember you are a tourist, so tread gently
Remember that no matter what you do, you are in fact a tourist. Trying to blend in by learning about your destination country is one thing, but forgetting you're not a local isn't quite respectful, especially if you don't know the language, the culture, the people, or the norms. So tread gently, leave all places better than you found them, and remember to keep an open mind to the new culture. You are in someone else's home country, and their way of life will inevitably be different from what you've known.
Though you may never blend in 100%, these tips will help you maintain a low profile throughout your travels. So keep these in mind next time you go abroad, and you'll be on your way to cruising through a new country with the locals.
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