Being a tourist is a beautiful thing. You get to roam about in your very own pace, check out as many or as few sights as you please and when you’ve had enough from exploring the town you’re in, you can just relax over a cup of coffee and some local delicacies. For many travellers however blending in is part of the experience which can be tricky if you’re not going to spend more than a couple of weeks at your destination. So for a quick crash course on blending in better during your short stay abroad, try out our 3 basic tricks to look less like a tourist and more like a local.
1. Escalators - Stand on the right side only
If you’re not walking up or down the escalators, simply keep to the right at all times. The left side is reserved for hurried commuters trying to get to work on time in the morning or wanting to make it home in time for their kids’ bath time in the evening. To catch or not to catch that tube leaving 2 minutes earlier than the next one can make a huge difference to someone who is rushing for a long distance train out of town which may only run every 30 - 60 minutes. Most tourists are innocently oblivious to this daily rush and so it is inadvertently pretty obvious that you’re not “from here” when you casually step onto the escalator and just plot wherever your feet landed first.
2. Don’t read maps and guidebooks while walking
Many tourists tend to run around unaware of their surroundings whilst frantically trying to make sense of the directions shown on paper maps and guidebooks. Nothing screams tourist louder! It may be better to take a step aside on the pavement to get your maps out and calmly (re-)orientate yourself. Once you’re clear on your next moves, put them away safely and keep moving until you may need to check your map again. Until then remember to appear confident as if you knew exactly where you were heading even if you don’t. If you do need to ask someone for directions, don’t be afraid. Most people are very helpful.
PRO TIP: You can download city specific google maps on your phone and make them available for offline reading before you arrive. Most locals will be on their phones too so it won’t be obvious that you’re actually looking at a map.
3. Cameras - don’t hand them to a stranger
We all like to capture our best moments abroad with our cameras. Real enthusiasts don’t rely on built-in phone cameras but actually bring along the big gear. The high resolution digital cameras and maybe even the big lens for extra zooming capacity. Whilst the majority of people are honest and kind, be aware that tourists in busy cities are an easy target for pickpockets. Don’t just hand your camera to a stranger with the request for them to take a group photo and in any case always pay attention to your surroundings even when taking photos yourself. The few seconds you take to focus your lens on a nice sight could be enough for a stranger to remove items from your backpacks or shoulder bags if you’re not careful. The locals may seem blissfully unaware of their surroundings but they are simply more practiced in keeping their wits about them at all times. Passively paying attention to what’s going on around you is just another way of separating yourself from the oblivious and obvious tourist.
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