Recently I did a trip overseas, ready for lots of things. I usually travel light, this was no exception. I dress functionally but I don’t dress up when I travel. I prefer neutral colours, no bold prints, no easily recognizable brand names etc. I have the Grey Man approach in mind.
Or at least so I thought. Faaark!
Here’s a bit of the stuff I consider;
The secret to traveling overseas and maintaining a low-ish profile is to be smart about it, so that you are a sophisticated tourist, aware of his or her surroundings, and not aimlessly stumbling about a foreign country snapping selfies and waiting to become a victim.
Yep, check on that. I’m ticking all the boxes, ready to display my Grey Man knowledge and be ready to blend in. Or?
You should know the area to which you are planning to travel, such that if plopped down in the middle of a chosen city, you will at least be oriented and familiar with your surroundings.
Well, yeah. Did that. Sort of. At least in the hotel area where we were going to be. But I missed to research the airport. It turned out that the airport closed after we landed so there was no taxis, no rental cars, no buses, fucking no means to get downtown. What the actual fuck…?
It sorted itself out in the end but that was not a high ranking experience…
Dress like you would if you were headed downtown to see a movie. Dress normally, for God’s sake.Leave your American flag shirts, sports jerseys, and other identifying T-shirts at home. In many countries, people dress more formally than we do here in America. Shorts and a muscle shirt are not always the best idea if you are looking to blend in.
Avoid looking like a photojournalist.
I was in the US. And I was over dressed as fuck. I’ve never felt over dressed in jeans, runners, t-shirt and a softshell jacket before but I stood out and felt watched. I’m not sure what a photojournalist looks like (all I can imagine is the khaki vest and massive camera) but I don’t think I was even close…
Paying attention can prevent you from being mugged or becoming a victim of some other type of crime. Do not let picture-taking come before situational awareness.
Oh I was paying attention alright! I didn’t get distracted by anything as we did a trip to the local mall. If anyone would have approached us they would have had a very loud and obnoxious surprise…
Despite the big similarities in culture (or perhaps the Americanization of the western culture) the differences were striking. I did not expect to stand out as much as I did and I sure as hell did not expect to not be able to blend in. I guess it’s not the same everywhere in the US but next time I will have done my homework better.
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