The Invisible Tourist
Part of the excitement of traveling is learning about new cultures and experiencing things from a local's point of view. Whether learning some language basics, immersing yourself in the history of your destination, or sampling the regional cuisine, your trip will be much richer if you step out of your comfort zone.
That also means respecting the customs and traditions of your destination and blending in a bit. No one wants to stand out so much that you practically have the word tourist stamped on your forehead! Fortunately, SafetravelRX, an app designed to keep you safe while on the road, has tips on how to avoid being a tourist cliché.
1. Dress appropriately.
American society has become so casual in terms of dress that many people think a baseball cap and shorts are appropriate attire anywhere they go. That’s not the case in many parts of Europe. Don't expect to go into that exclusive restaurant in Rome with white trainers and a t-shirt. That doesn't mean you have to dress formally but conduct some research about your destination in advance. It’s more respectful to dress appropriately for your environment.
2. Try to speak the language.
As Americans, we assume everyone speaks English. However, that is not always the case when you get out of the more touristy areas. So, why not make the effort and try learning a few words of the local language before you go? At the very least, you should know how to greet people, thank them, and ask for basic directions. And downloading a translation app in advance is always a good idea.
3. Embrace the differences.
Don't travel somewhere expecting everything to be the same as it is at home. After all, the whole point of a trip abroad is to try something new. So, respect the local customs and don't demand exceptions. For example, many restaurants in Europe don't allow dishes to be customized, so there may not be a gluten-free option. And if you are in Italy, don't even think about ordering a cappuccino after dinner because Italians only drink them at breakfast. Espresso is your only option if you want a hot beverage after dinner.
4. Turn down the volume.
The stereotype about Americans is that they speak too loudly. So, be conscious of that in public places like restaurants or museums. As interesting as you might think your conversation is, chances are that the people around you don't want to hear it. And if someone doesn't understand English, speaking more loudly won't help either.
5. Quality over quantity.
Food in Europe is a significant part of the culture, emphasizing quality, not quantity. Portions are usually smaller, and people tend to linger over meals instead of rushing through them. So, don't expect supersized portions, free refills on your drinks, or doggy bags. And make sure to take the time to relax and enjoy the experience.
6. Enjoy the local cuisine.
If you only want to eat things familiar to you, like burgers and fries from McDonald’s, consider whether traveling to a foreign destination is right for you. One of the best ways to get to know another culture is through its cuisine. So, find the restaurants that the locals frequent and sample some of the regional delicacies.
7. Skip the logos.
While wearing your N.Y. Yankees baseball cap may symbolize your pride at home, it makes you stand out like a sore thumb in Paris. Not only does it brand you as a foreigner, it also makes you recognizable to thieves trying to target unsuspecting tourists. So, leave the branded merchandise at home.
8. Be on your best behavior.
Good manners, along with a dose of humbleness, go a long way.
Rather than walking in like you own the place, remember you are the invited guest. Don’t make unreasonable demands, and always err on the side of formality when addressing strangers or older people.
9. Buy local.
Instead of spending your money at souvenir shops in touristy areas, find out where the locals shop. You will not only be supporting small businesses but will also most likely find more authentic merchandise that isn't mass-produced.
10. No object left behind.
Traveling sustainably means leaving as little imprint on your destination as possible. Try walking instead of riding, recycle, avoid single-use plastics, and turn off lights and electronics when not in use. And, of course, don’t be a litterbug!
Traveling invisibly doesn’t really mean that you have to be invisible. It just means that you aren’t advertising that you are a tourist. By respecting the customs of the local people, you will likely receive a warmer welcome and leave a much better impression when you depart. And the authentic experience will make your trip much more memorable.
For more information about how the features in the safetravelRX can keep you safe while traveling, click here.
The safetravelRX app is available to download on your mobile at the Apple Store and Google Play.
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