What benefits, you ask? How about being able to observe a culture from within, having more opportunities to practice the language, or getting to know the people on a deeper level? Blending in has practical advantages, too. You’ll be less likely to get ripped off by taxi drivers or shop owners, and you’ll even be a less obvious target for crime.
So how can you make sure and blend, like the travel-savvy pro that you are? Here are five simple ways:
1. Dress the part.
Sure, you want to be comfy when you travel, but cargo shorts and Tevas won’t cut it if you want to connect with, say, café-goers in Milan. Look around at what locals are wearing, and try to reflect that in your own choices. As a rule, keep it simple with neutral colors and styles. Jeans, baseball caps and baggy t-shirts with loud logos, on the other hand, tend to scream: I JUST STEPPED OFF THE TOURIST BUS!
2. Put the guidebook away.
Why not take a good look at it before you leave the hostel, then pack it away? You could jot some things down in a pocket-sized notepad or, even better, put important info in your iPhone. You’ll blend right in—locals will think you’re checking texts from friends, not bus schedules!
3. Attempt the language.
But you don’t know Moroccan Arabic, you say? Don’t worry; it’s still easy to blend. Memorize how to say hi, please and thank you, in the local language. These words are appreciated in any country and knowing them is a gesture of respect that will give you an added “in” wherever you travel.
4. Be conscious of customs.
It’s hard to blend when you offend. Going to a mosque in Indonesia? Cover those shoulders and legs. Ordering a drink in a London pub? No tipping, please. I was once followed out onto the street by a barman who insisted on handing me my two pounds back! To better blend, brush up on customs before you go.
5. Consider going solo.
Traveling with a group is easy and safe, but being part of a pack can also isolate you from the local culture. Take your tourism to a deeper level by venturing off on your own. You’ll be more approachable, more likely to talk to locals, and free to go where any adventure may lead you!