Whenever I travel, I at least make the attempt not to look like a blatant tourist. There are some places that you visit, that you will invariably look like a tourist. China comes to mind, Ghana might be another place to come to mind.
But, despite that, I still try to do my best to fit in. Wrong or right, when I travel through the Middle East (as I have been liking to do, lately), I grow a beard. When I travel to most cities, I wear dark clothes, either suits, or at least dark jeans and a sports jacket, and more arid climates, I generally wear lighter clothes–kakhis, light shirts. Mind you, I’m not trying to fit in just to be cool, my reasoning is two-fold: (1) I want to reflect my respect for the people and culture that I am visiting, and (2) fitting in generally enhances security, whether from pick-pockets, or worse (a sad fact, but the way of life).
All that said, planning for my trip to Chile, I was reminded of a friend and my discussion some months ago, of his experience visiting Russia during the Cold War. He and his team were visiting Moscow, in a crowded market and were picked out of the crowd by the folks they were intending to meet for two reasons: (1) They were looking up (it was a sad time for Russia, so many were looking down), and (2) their shoes.
Often times, I think many of us, consider what type of clothing may be appropriate to wear in a particular destination, this may just be colors, or it may extend to fabric or style. But until the aforementioned conversation, I never really thought about my shoes. In hindsight, it’s total common sense. But, for me at least, it takes a lot for me to break in shoes, and I don’t give them up until they are falling apart. As far as the body language, that’s something that takes a lot of practice to adapt.
How much do you alter your attire or appearance to fit in when you travel?