There is a common delusion among tourists that, if they try their hardest, they can ‘blend in’. Everyone has seen – and been annoyed by – tourists when they’re being really touristy, but no one identifies with it. ‘That’s not me’, they think, ‘I’m the right kind of tourist. I could even be mistaken for a local.’
Nope. You could not.
Here are just a few of the giveaways ensuring that, despite your best efforts, you stick out like a dog among cats…
1. Your body language
However many local customs you pick up, people visiting unfamiliar lands will always emit non-verbal cues. The faintly indecisive walk, the heightened attention to personal space, the eyes tilted upwards to drink in their surroundings…
You simply can’t fake the purposeful autopilot that comes with true residency. If you don’t feel like a native, you won’t look like one.
2. Your camerawork
In these enlightened times people are snap-happy at home and abroad, but locals will generally only take photos featuring points of interest that might look good on the ‘gram. They do not take photos of taxis, street signs, or the ordinary buildings they pass on their commute.
Of course, if you own a selfie stick you not only look like a tourist, but also a… well, let’s leave it there.
3. Your clothes
I truly don’t understand why tourists dress like Indiana Jones when they are traveling. Like really, we are not animals and you are not going to the wild. pic.twitter.com/uMSt9u16Ng— Catha 🌸 (@cahdoria_) September 6, 2019
Cargo shorts, hippy pants, anything vaguely out of season – the common or garden tourist wears clothes that are comfortable, multi-purpose, and survive being scrunched into a suitcase. Locals don’t usually select outfits on this basis.
Then there are the giveaways that you are both a tourist and an unfashionable one at that. Socks and sandals. Socks n’ crocs. The bumbag – the sartorial equivalent of sticking a sign on your back pocket reading ‘passport and valuables here’.
4. Your language skills
We’ve all been there. Determined not to be just another yahoo assuming everyone speaks English, you memorised the phrasebook on the plane, practised pronunciation to the mirror, and were able to ask your waiter the way to the bathroom with perfect regional intonations.
“Down the corridor, first on the left,” they reply, in perfect English.
5. Your food choices
Seeing all the out of town food bloggers eating at horrible tourist trap restaurants makes me want to cry.— Fatgirl Hedonist (@FatgirlHedonist) May 17, 2014
Locals know where to eat, and, just as importantly, they know where not to. If you’re chowing down a £20 pizza just off the main square, the natives will peg you from 100 yards.
6. Your souvenirs
No local has ever wandered the streets in flip-flops emblazoned with their own flag, and we’d wager at least 80% of the world’s snow globes, key rings and fridge magnets have been bought abroad. No one cares that your other half went to some far-off land and all you got was this lousy t-shirt, and there’s no excuse for wearing Che Guevara past your mid-teens.
And if you must buy an ‘I Heart New York’ T-shirt, take it home and use it as a pyjama top. Do not wear it while still in New York.
7. Your money
Most developed economies are approaching cashlessness, so if you’re paying your bills in freshly drawn twenties extracted surreptitiously from your money belt, you’re either a tourist or a money launderer.
Denominations are another giveaway. If you’re asked for a dime and hand over a nickel, you’ve been rumbled.
8. Your Segway
Before boarding one of these two-wheelers to go sight-seeing, one must answer two essential questions: ‘Should I ride a Segway?’ and ‘Can I ride a Segway’.
A lot of tourists wrongly believe that the answer to these questions is yes. Even if it is yes, you probably won’t look like your average local commuter.