Cities Journal

Being A Tourist Doesn’t Suck Completely


It seems like people tend to be much more forgiving if you’re not from the area and make some kind of weird social mistake. So, what are all the advantages when you are carrying your camera and looking like an idiot to locals?

People will stop and help you. If they are not in a rush and you and your group of people is hanging out by a street corner with a map and a guidebook, they will be more apt to stop by and ask if you need some help.

You’ll be spoon-fed in a language you can understand. If you are hanging out in an Asian country where you don’t speak the native tongue, most conversations will begin in the local language — at least until you open your mouth and other people quickly recognize you’re a foreigner.

Other travelers will approach you. Single travelers like to befriend other single travelers because it’s the least scary. When you’re assumed to be different, it erects an imaginary boundary for whatever reason.

You will also be less susceptible to crime. This sounds counterintuitive since common sense dictates standing out puts you at a higher risk for crime but that’s not necessarily true in this situation. In certain countries like China and Vietnam, crimes committed against foreigners have harsher sentences than if they were committed against locals. The reason for reducing crime against foreigners is that it improves a country’s national image to those residing abroad.

You’ll make new friends quicker. The more you accept that you’re likely to be a local curiosity, the more you can use it to your advantage socially. It’s easy enough to sometimes flash the person who’s staring a quick smile and a wave. This is usually met with a big smile in response and maybe some small chatter, if you feel like it.

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