The summer travel season is almost here and if you’re gearing up for a foreign adventure you must read this hilarious essay by Seth Stevenson on How to be Invisible in the April 19th issue of Newsweek. He focuses on the stereotypical American tourist ensemble, and highlights the ever-present tube socks and sneakers. Jokes aside, maybe look for comfortable walking shoes if headed to Europe and keep the workout shoes for that…working out.
The message is, to really discover the joy of travel one must blend in, not stand out. Wearing American flags or even favorite team jerseys and caps is a tip off that one is not from the country one is visiting. Although humorous, the advice is simple: Why not pack light and buy a few items as you travel? That way you have great souvenirs as well as shedding the distinct American imprint.
When out of the U.S., I love to head to pharmacies and five and dime type shops to stock up on small items like lip balm and packages of tissues. I always look for fun socks and t-shirts, hats, hair accessories and of course shoes and bags, a girl can never have enough shoes and bags! Even your jewelry, haircut and makeup can tip you off.
When I lived in France, folks often asked me how my teeth were so white. This was before teeth whiteners were chic and I just chalked it up to good American dental care. Germans often wear sandals with socks and very short shorts. Brits can be spotted with sunburns, Russians bejeweled and glittery, Spaniards always seem to have great shoes.
These are clichés of course but I always notice how well the French maneuver their cutlery. Often it’s the little things that give away one’s nationality. So if you are headed abroad think about these details as you plan your adventure and decide if you want to be taken for a local.