The most interesting part about travelling is learning about the cultural quirks and idiosyncrasies of the country that you are visiting. Locals appreciate when you make an effort to be a part of their culture, rather than just traipsing through it as an outsider, and doing so often leads you to have a more authentic experience. Here are a few tried and tested tips to help you blend with the locals and transform into a traveller rather than being simply a 'tourist'.
1. Pick Your Clothing Carefully
Nothing can make you stand out more than wearing short shorts in Italy or head-to-toe black in California. If you are wanting to be left alone by beggers, scam artists, and pick-pockets, attempting to blend in in terms of fashion is not a bad idea. My suggestion is to check out street-style websites and, when in doubt, pack neutral clothing that you can layer with local items. Avoid logos and showing too much skin.
2. Pay Attention to Accessory Trends
When I was in Italy years ago, everyone (men and women) was wearing huge Jackie O-style sunglasses. I got a cheap pair and suddenly people were coming up to me and asking me for directions. It’s amazing what a trend can do to help you blend in.
3. Attempt to speak the Language
Learning even a few words of the local lingo shows that you are making an effort. Phrase books and language apps are great, but I also suggest writing down a few words and phrases on a cheat sheet to keep in your pocket. My go-to words are: hello, goodbye, thank you, yes, no, excuse-me/sorry, how much and numbers 1-10 (higher if you are heading to a market where you will need to barter).
4. Pay Attention to When you Pull out Your Map
Though pulling out a map will label you as a tourist, it is a necessary part of travel. Try folding it into a small square so it shows only the area you are walking in and pre-plan your route so that you don’t have to look at it every block. Smart phones are great resources as well, but avoid using them if you are travelling in areas where having expensive electronics will make you a target for theft.
5. Walk With Purpose
Walking around like you are lost or in such awe that you keep bumping into people will not only annoy the locals, but will also make you a target for scam artists trying to get tourists to pay for overpriced tours. Keep your head up and, even if you are completely lost, walk like you know where you are going.