/// How to Adapt + Blend in While Traveling Abroad
Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.– H. G. Wells
The advantages of fitting in like a local will vary from location to situation with some commonalities:
To be treated with more respect and attention, be in a safer position from crime and danger and be more welcomed by the overall culture.
How to Adapt + Blend in Abroad :
Research & Observation
Do what you naturally do and use your 5 senses to observe the new foreign environment. Pay attention to how the locals go on about their day and try to assimilate it to yourself.
PRO TIP : Eat, play and shop where the locals are to get the most out of your observations. Also great to people watch beyond sightseeing.
Its best to wear neutral and subtle clothing that can work in any country as some cultures frown upon what another culture could find sexy / stylish / funny. Ladies should be particularly careful with revealing pieces in certain countries.
Looking like a typical tourist can get you unwanted attention from potential thieves as well as teased from the locals or even a bad attitude from them.
PRO TIP : Shop for clothing where the locals get them when its time to restock. Its an effective way to look the part and often costs much less.
Every Day Carry
While the clothes you wear has a major impact on your ability to blend in while traveling, so does the gear you carry with you every day (EDC). If you must carry full size DSLR cameras instead of a compact digital or smartphone, never use specialty camera bags.
Excessive jewelry, luxury handbags and watches should be avoided for safety and social purposes. Anything that shows obvious wealth has no positive effect while traveling.
PRO TIP : Dirt, scratches or signs of wear on your backpack, purse, wallet, edc adds a bit of camouflage and is less attractive to the eyes of thieves.
Vagabonding from country to country means constantly using new currency. Before heading out and using new money, master the conversion rate as well as how each bill is designed so you can differentiate each denomination.
PRO TIP : Unless your quick with math, try rounding numbers to whole numbers when converting in your head – don’t mind the change too much. If staying in a country for a while, you’ll adapt to use their money like its your own.
Lingo & Phrases
You can look like the most touristy tourist but if your fluent in the foreign land’s language, you instantly blend in. But this is rarely a possibility and if you have a terrible accent, it can throw it all off.
So if you do know the language, brush up on the sound. More commonly however, its good to know a few useful phrases to get you by. At the minimum, you should know how to say “hello” and “thank you”.
PRO TIP : If your having trouble communicating with a local, don’t speak louder and slower – its offensive and does not help at all.
Social & People
Meeting other travelers is a great thing but to blend in, its better to meet and befriend locals – and you’ll get a deeper cultural experience. Hanging with locals around town gives you a seamless way to adapt as well as instant blending by mere association.
What’s more is you’ll experience many more things with a local that’s not possible as a solo foreigner.
PRO TIP : Making friends with the locals is easy; Couchsurfing meet ups, hostel staff, etc. Locals are often genuinely interested and kind to foreigners.
Etiquette & Demeanor
For some, behavior and personality may be the hardest to adapt to in a highly alien environment but it may also be the most important to blend in. It goes without saying that you should always be kind and respectful but cultures can be so different that showing signs of affection in public or eating the wrong way can make you a social pariah or even land you in jail.
Do your research and observe the people and you’ll be fine.
PRO TIP : Be humble when talking about your own country, avoid heated discussions about politics and never say your country is better than theirs.
Its not always possible to blend in for some people in certain places due to elements that can’t be changed like physical attributes or extreme differences in culture. In these scenarios the best approach is to try not sticking out by utilizing the same techniques.
Adapting and blending in is the vagabonding way.