How To Blend In With The Locals

Foreign Exchange

Have you ever wondered why, when you’re on holiday, street vendors and souvenir sellers seem to descend on you like flies on a picnic? Do you sometimes feel as though you have a large neon sign saying ‘Tourist’ above your head? Because, let’s face it, generally we Brits aren’t that good at blending into our surroundings on holiday. This article offers some helpful tips on how to fit in with the local crowd when you’re out and about.

Learn The Lingo

The best way to ground yourself in local culture is to speak the language. Now, it’s unlikely that you’ll be fluent in the language of the country you’re visiting, but learning a few key phrases such as ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ is a good start. Even though many local traders speak rudimentary English nowadays, they will secretly be delighted that you’ve made the effort to learn their own mother tongue and will treat you differently from the legions of other tourists who haven’t bothered. When I holidayed in Spain last year, I found that attempting to speak Spanish – even though I was clearly from foreign shores – resulted in more smiles from shopkeepers, more beers ‘on the house’ and even a complimentary plate of Tapas whilst I waited for my meal on one occasion!

Dress To Impress

‘Brits abroad’ are easy to spot a mile off. We’re just so predictable – arriving in droves by budget airlines in our shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses, regardless of the weather or local conventions. As a general rule, if you dress like a tourist you will be treated like one. There’s no harm in doing a little research before you go if you want to make sure that you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. For example, in many Middle Eastern countries it is considered offensive to bare your legs or back in public, so strolling down the street in your swimwear won’t ingratiate you to the locals! You should be able to pick up some of the local garb from shops in most towns, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how comfortable (and cheap!) it can be.

Beefeater Tour Guide

Sunny Side Up

The British have an odd attitude to sunblock. Sunburn can be very painful and over-exposure to the Sun’s UV rays could damage your skin in the long-term. Those who live in hot foreign countries understand this, and have adapted to the threat by either evolving to have more melatonin in their skin, or liberally applying sunscreen whenever they plan on spending some time outdoors. In Britain, we simply haven’t had the practise of preparing for hot weather, and many therefore don’t bother. You can usually identify a British tourist in a hot country by the red, peeling skin that adorns their torso. If you want to blend in on your travels, avoid this common mistake by using the sunscreen.

Cultural Considerations

It’s always worth checking on the social conventions of the country that you intend to visit. After all, there’s nothing worse than unintentionally offending the local population because you didn’t do your research. For example, in principally Muslim countries like Egypt, the consumption of alcohol is forbidden on religious grounds, even though you may be served wine on the flights there. An innocent night out on the town could be perceived as disregard for the local custom. In Thailand, showing the palm of your hand to a stranger is considered an affront. Shoes should always be removed before entering a home in Japan. These are only a few examples! If you want to blend in with the locals on your holiday, make sure you know how to act like them!

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My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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