Looking like a tourist

One of my friends is about to go to France for 2 weeks, so we were talking travel and debating how to/not to look like a tourist.

I have to bust this right now- there is no way to not look like a tourist.

I know, we all want to blend in so we’re not a target or whatever- but it actually can’t be done.

Sure, there are ways to minimise it-

You can dress well, carry a normal handbag, use maps on your phone instead of holding one, speak some of the language, walk with confidence and please, God, never carry a backpack on your front… but you’ll still be a tourist.

The reason being: we all look different.

The French, for example, move their mouths differently to English speakers because they make sounds in their language English speakers do not. As a result, their mouths also rest differently while not speaking. That’s just a truth.

The dominant genes in every nation create a distinctive look- only defeated if, perhaps, your parents come from two wildly different nations.

Let me give you a “for instance”: about a year and a half in to my life in London I was standing in line at Starbucks. I hadn’t ordered yet, so no one had heard my accent. I was dressed entirely in clothing bought in London. I am a tall, pale, blonde- and my blood line is almost entirely British. Still, the man next to me abruptly turned and said:

“You’re Australian, aren’t you?”

When I stammered “Yes, how did you know?” his response was, “Because English girls don’t look like you.”

I have no idea what that means, but I do know it means I didn’t look English, despite my best efforts.

In fact, the only time I haven’t been pegged as Australian is when someone assumed I was German. To be fair, Germans travel a lot, are often tall and blonde and I was in Prague, speaking German.

North Americans look distinctly North American. South Americans look distinctly South American. Antipodeans look distinctly Antipodean. Scandinavians look distinctly Scandinavian- and so on and so forth. It’s in our very bone structure.

Furthermore, we all walk differently, we all have different manners, we all move our mouths differently; no matter what language we’re speaking, we all dress differently because we have different ideas of what dressing “normally” looks like…and then we all open our mouths and have different accents.

This is not a bad thing! How nice that the world has become so small we can all meet each other, have a look in to each other’s cultures and history… it’s just super unlikely anyone will mistake you for a local.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, I’m sure there are some magical creatures out there who look as if they could belong anywhere- but for us ordinary folk- you will probably be recognised as a tourist no matter what.

My advice is to just accept it and make sure you are comfortable and safe while travelling. You don’t need to put your personal items at risk for the sake of looking local. You don’t have to hurt your feet or back by wearing inappropriate shoes in an attempt to avoid sneakers with jeans.

That said, there is no excuse for wearing your backpack on your front. Don’t be that person.

Now, get down with your culture and go meet some others! Wooo!


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