No one likes feeling like they don’t belong.
Maybe you’re a tourist in a foreign country who wants to experience the location authentically, without being treated like an outsider. Maybe you’re a country boy who just moved into some Manhattan real estate and you don’t want to seem out of place. Or maybe you’re a globe-trotting super-spy trying to lay low from the ninja assassins hunting you down.
Whatever the case (except for the spy/ninja one; if that’s your situation, you should really have had some professional training already), sticking out like a sore thumb can be as painful as, well, having a sore thumb. Next time you’re on vacation, move to a new city, or undertake a dangerous top-secret mission to save the world, try the following tips.
Do Your Research
Before you go wherever you’re going, make time to sit down at your computer and do some research. This is a great way to prepare yourself for what you might be getting into. You can look up maps, business locations and hours, important phone numbers, public transportation routes, and the like, and print them off to keep for future reference.
Now, you can also find out important laws and news events that might impact your travel experience, and look up information on the local culture and customs, which is helpful for avoiding stumbling into a regrettable faux pas.
You can even do a search for images or videos of public areas where you plan to visit, allowing you to not only familiarize yourself with those specific locales, but also get a sense for what the locals dress and maybe even how they act.
Speaking of dressing like a local, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between blending in and trying too hard. Hypothetically, if you find out that blue is a popular local color, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should dress ups like a Smurf.
Mimicking regional or foreign cultures can keep you from looking like an outsider, but going overboard and turning someone else’s culture into a costume isn’t just attention-grabbing, it’s often insulting.
In many cases, the local “look” probably won’t be too different from the style of dress that’s popular where you’re from anyway. That’s why it’s often a better tactic not to attempt to appear like you belong, but rather to disappear. In other words, simply don’t be noticeable.
Avoid bright or flashy outfits, excessive jewelry and makeup, or trendy accessories. Most importantly, don’t wear your most expensive fashions. That doesn’t just make you an outsider. It makes you a target.
Always Stay Calm
One thing that locals almost never do is get excited to see the same sights they see every single day. That’s why it’s important to keep a lid on your emotions when you are surprised or impressed by something. That doesn’t mean you can’t stop and enjoy things, but always be cool and collect when doing it. And, for Pete’s sake, if you’re going to snap pictures, keep it to a minimum.
Likewise, one thing that a lost or otherwise out of place person doesn’t do is act nervous. Always walk confidently wherever you go, even if you have no idea where that is. Don’t stop and spin around and don’t dart your gaze in every direction. Don’t change direction.
If need be, you can always stop in a public place, like a shop, restaurant, or other business, and either ask for help or simply turn back the way you came without being obvious about it. Confidence, real or otherwise, is key.