Cities Journal
Travel Tips

Blending With the Locals

When it comes to traveling, few people like standing out like a sore thumb. As the Independent Traveler describes, not only can standing out as a tourist change the way people interact with a traveler, but it can also be a source of danger as pickpockets and other petty thieves tend to be more inclined to target wealthy visitors than the average local.

Learning how to blend in can also give visitors the chance to explore and experience a new culture from a perspective that might not have been available to them as a tourist. Here are some tips for blending in with the local population while traveling to a new location.

Watch Clothing Choices

Clothing preferences are an easy way to stand out in a crowd. As Christine Sarkis wrote on USA Today, it is best to find attire that ascribes to the local dress codes. Similarly, avoid colors that are meant to draw attention to the wearer, team names, or sports logos. When people are overseas, these can be especially distinguishing as nonnative. Those who are feeling a bit adventurous might even consider buying a few local articles of clothing from the area to really start to blend in.

Become Familiar With the Currency

The Independent Traveler writes that when traveling overseas, being unfamiliar with the local currency can be an immediate red flag that the person in question is a foreigner. When a person is dealing with their native currency, they can typically tell what amount they have in their hands without examining it too closely, for example being able to pull a quarter out of a pile of nickels and dimes. Take a few minutes to become more familiar with the local currency to reduce the need to inspect when out making purchases. This will reduce the obvious target for pickpockets as well.

Do Not Carry an Obvious Camera

While everyone likes to take pictures of their adventures, walking around with an enormous camera around the neck immediately signals a tourist. Instead, carry a camera discreetly in a purse and only take it out when it is time to snap a few key pictures.

Avoid Major Tourist Destinations

Multiple experienced travelers recommend that those who are interested in experiencing the authentic local culture should try to steer clear of major tourist destinations. Most locals tend to assume that the people at the tourist attractions snapping pictures are tourists. Instead, try to spend some time in areas where locals tend to go to enjoy themselves. This can include trying the local cuisine at neighborhood favorites, attending local festivals or celebrations, or just joining everyone else at the local water hole. It is a wonderful way to make some memories and see the culture in action.

Make Notes of the Language

Those venturing to a new country should make an effort to learn at least some key phrases and vocabulary in the host country’s language. Even a basic effort at speaking the local language can help locals warm up to a traveler and make it easier to get around non-tourist oriented areas.

Similarly, pay attention to volume. Speaking in a loud manner tends to draw attention to the speakers, especially if they are speaking a foreign language. In general, pay attention to the volume the rest of the locals abide by. Many cultures have different expectations regarding public conversation, especially in enclosed places such as restaurants, and paying attention to these expectations can avoid attracting unwanted attention.

Blending in with a foreign culture offers travelers the unique chance to experience the local lifestyle, which takes the journey to a new area to an entirely new level. Experiencing a culture first-hand makes the adventure much more meaningful and worth remembering than just visiting monuments or shopping at tourist locations. Following the tips above should help visitors avoid attracting attention and see first-hand what the place is all about.

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