How To Avoid Looking Like A Tourist


When Americans venture out of the states, we have a hovering red, white, and blue flag indicating “foreigner.” Whether it’s wanderlust from first time travelers or naively ignoring cultural norms, it takes no genius to spot an American abroad. We need to take extra caution to avoid being scammed and squandered. I don’t know all the tricks or treats out there, but a little research will help avoid trials and tribulations.

Know the dress code. 

To avoid standing out or offending any cultural par, try to blend in. In Morocco it’s still unacceptable for many women to expose their body. Sporting short sleeves or pants will peg you as a rich westerner, soon to be overwhelmed with locals offering their knowledge of the city for an expected generous compensation. I’m not saying to buy a Djellaba or a head piece, but respect the culture and you might gain some in return. 

People watch.

Take time to observe how people interact. Pay attention to details- what areas or interactions do they avoid or gravitate towards? A venturer in Paris for the first time was intrigued by a gambling game on the street near the Eiffel Tower. A woman playing was up by a good amount of money, so he took his chances only to lose $200 a half hour into his voyage. A vender later told him they’re scam artists. A humbling experience to say the least.

Know the public transportation. 

Arriving into a new city, is intimidating. Instead of hopelessly hopping in the nearest cab and spending several times what you’d save using a bus or metro, plan ahead and seek out the most common and efficient way to commute. Some might overcharge tourists thinking they’re rich and ignorant, so download a metro or bus app on your phone, or screen shot google map routes to be less of a target.

Know common phrases in the native language. 

While English is spoken sufficiently in many cities, approaching everyone in English is perceived as rude and arrogant. We expect foreigners to speak English when they come to the states, so don’t be a hypocrite. Some people might even answer back in English, but either way will be pleased with your efforts to respect their culture. 

Live like a local!

If everyone who came to New York only saw Times Square, they’d have no idea what real life is like in New York City. They’d be overcharged to drink, eat, buy souvenirs, and miss out on the best views. Don’t make the same mistakes! Find out the best local places by talking to locals. You can meet  people by attending a couch-surfing get together. You don’t need to invade their couch to indulge in their city. 

Talk to other travelers. 

Travelers are the hunters and gatherers of our world. Strike up a conversation and ask about their experience in the destination. “A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from others.” 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in wonder when in a new city, but don’t fall so in love that you become blind. Yes, it’s a new and exciting place, but don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The way to know a culture is to know the people who carry it. Sight-seeing a destination does not mean you’ve experienced it! You can sit on your own couch for that. Whether or not you end up enjoying a destination depends largely on your experience. While I can’t guarantee things going perfect, I can guarantee your reaction will be much more rational the more prepared you are. 

Also published on Thought Catalog

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