Fitting in and looking like you belong in a foreign country is no easy task! Many places are vastly different in fashions and customs, even within the same country, so it can be hard to know what you should or shouldn’t do. But making an effort to blend in can be rewarding. You may get a more intimate look at the area and the people than you would as a typical tourist, and you’re less likely to stand out as an easy target for thieves. It’s not as hard as you might think to look like you belong, either!
Here are our top tips on how to fit in with local customs while traveling.
Do some research
The easiest way to look out of place is not knowing what to expect. Many places in the world dress very differently, or might even have laws about how you can dress. If you notice you’re the only woman in the airport in pants, you might want to consider changing. You should also do some basic research into the language and customs of the country you’re going to visit. Knowing some common phrases will make your life much easier, and understanding the different customs can save you money and prevent an accidental insult.
Bring versatile clothes
Items you can wear to dinner, for a walk and out sightseeing are your best bet. Not only will you not have to change all the time, you’ll also look like you’re just going about your daily business. Of course, to do this, you might have to avoid clothes that are designed for traveling. Jeans and a t-shirt are pretty basic in almost all parts of the world.
Take your cues from the locals
If you notice a big crowd, feel free to investigate. If you see something you think is amazing, but the locals are basically ignoring it, follow their lead. Monkeys might be amazing to you, but they’re a nuisance in many parts of the world. Additionally, watch how people interact with each other. Say hello, acknowledge the people around you, and keep a sharp eye out for different customs you might run across. That will keep you from standing out too much and gives you a great opportunity to learn more. Plus, who doesn’t like people watching?
Avoid bright colors
Items that stand out, flash in the sun or sparkle in the streetlights are bound to draw attention to you. Jewel tones do the same thing, so unless you’re attending a celebration or parade, bright colors are probably not your friend. Additionally, you probably want to avoid shirts with logos or designs. Sure, the Super bowl is popular in the US, but it’s a yawn almost everywhere else. It can be difficult to figure out what the general feeling is towards companies in the rest of the world, so it’s really best to save those branded options for home.
Try and dress down
You don’t want to show up in a Gucci outfit, or really anything else that screams “Money! Money over here!” That often makes you a target for attention, regardless of how well you blend in otherwise. Instead, dress more on the low-key side of things, including jewelry. If you feel like you do need to wear some jewelry to an event, keep it in your bag while traveling. You can always slip it on once you’ve arrived if the atmosphere and occasion feel right!
Buy clothes there
After all, you want some memories from your trip, so include a little spending money for clothes in your budget. When you’re doing this, however, you should keep your research in mind. You might be looking at an entirely different measuring system for clothes, or you could be expected to haggle about the price. You may also find yourself fumbling with a foreign language or miscounting strange money. So make sure you practice! If you’re nervous about it, just sit back and watch a few transactions by the locals. They’ll make it look easy, and you’ll have time to try and remember some of the language you learned (you did learn a bit of the language, right?).
Learn the style
In some places you might have no problem tossing on a new get-up. Other places, however, might take some getting used to. Don’t be afraid to buy something just because it seems complicated, though. Most hotels have free-wifi, so just look it up on YouTube! And don’t necessarily avoid trying something for fear of cultural appropriation. There’s nothing wrong with trying to respect another culture and blend in with them, so long as you don’t turn around and try to sell it, make fun of it, or claim any expertise on it. Context is a vital part of cultural appropriation, so while Halloween might not be an appropriate time to try it out, visiting a country and learning about the customs is.
You may want to make some effort to try and blend in, but there are always times when it’s just not going to work. Don’t try to blend in so hard that you either loose some enjoyment for the experience or can’t be yourself. You’ll find people everywhere who are happy to get to know you so long as you’re happy and friendly towards them. You might be surprised at how far an open mind can take you!
This is a guest post by Kacey May Bradley.
Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective. Throughout her life, she has found excitement in the world around her. She graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations, cultures, and styles, while communicating these endeavors through her passion for writing and expression. Her love for the world around her is portrayed through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.