“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”
Blending in with the locals is an art which one needs to master in order to travel smoothly. Well, this doesn’t mean you’ve to abandon your identity and emulate them mindlessly. But, to be respectful and polite to their culture and traditions one should try to commingle as much as possible. More importantly you need to feel safe and secure so it’s better to mix then to stick out as a sore thumb. Also “Blending in” is more crucial when you’re visiting conservative places or countries like Kashmir in India, parts of UAE , Jerusalem or other conservative tourist destinations. Although many places are quite liberal but one needs to understand that even if it’s not forbidden, it’s still frowned upon so better to be safe than sorry. Modesty is the best policy and a little inclination to learn can help manage untoward scenarios.
However if you may ask me, I’d say it’s just impossible to pass up by a local due to physical appearance but that doesn’t matter because the aim isn’t to travel incognito but comfortably. And I don’t think that’s any hassle as nobody would want to appear disrespectful or silly due to the selection of their clothes and mannerisms, Isn’t it?
Travelling like a local may sound simple but is slightly tricky to execute. Don’t you worry, I’ve listed below few tips and tricks to blend in which would eventually help you to extract the maximum out of your trip.
1. Dress appropriately –
This is one of the most important factors which one should consider when travelling anywhere in the world. If you’re in an extremely conservative place then be sure to dress in a way that you don’t offend the locals. I know you may want to wear those crop tops, skimpy gingham dresses but it’d be advisable to control the fashionista in you while you’re there and try modest clothes. Moreover, dressing respectfully and complying with local customs wouldn’t only make you feel at ease but also earn respect. If a place demands covering your head, legs and arms then do that without thinking twice because it’s for your own good.
There’s no denying the fact that one can’t blend in completely but at least you can try to be a quasi- local, Trust me it’s good enough and It’ll protect you from various undesirable situations.
2. Do some research about the customs-
When you get to know or learn a new culture, it definitely makes you a better and wiser person. Energies never lie so if you take interest in learning others culture then stay assured that the people of the host country too would be genuinely inclined towards you.
Learn to know the dress code, general etiquettes and way if living. Make sure to avoid bringing up the topics of politics or religion unless you want to be in hot waters!
3. Acting touristy is a big No No-
While there’s nothing wrong in being a tourist and looking like one but acting touristy at places which are not very tourist friendly is a big time No-No! Don’t let your behaviour scream “Hey! I’m an outsider”. See if you’re hanging a camera around your neck, holding maps, and walking wide- eyed around the place then for sure shady people are going to take advantage of you as you appear to be vulnerable and you just can’t take chance where your safety is threatened.
4. Learn a few key phrases-
I’ve always found this one to be really interesting, it’s a win win situation because you not only get to see a new place but also learn a new language, however broken it may be!
Well I’m not asking you to learn the country’s constitution or recite their national anthem (that’d be way too impressive though lol) but there’s no harm in learning the basic phrases like: Hello, How are you?, What’s your name?, Nice to meet you? and etc etc. See even if you speak terribly but at least you tried and that would for sure break the ice and make things simpler.
5. Be flexible
Last but not the least, Tolerance is of paramount concern. One has to realise that you’re a guest in someone else’s state or country so show the best version of yourself. Go with an open mind and learn as it’ll widen your horizons eventually making you a better human being. Sometimes it happens that we’re accustomed to a particular lifestyle and expect the same thing in other country too, but we need to do reality check and understand that even our own place, region or country lack in various things so doesn’t matter if for instance the place you’re visiting is not good enough in certain things . The point is not to judge, criticise, put down any ones cultures or customs but to make an effort to make them a part of your trip and eventually learn from it. The aim should be to soak in, feel and evolve.
Travelling like a local doesn’t mean you’ve to discard your own sense of self or get into a new character to fit in, Nor does that imply to put famous spots off your itinerary list and it’s certainly not about immersing in just to not feel like an outsider. It simply means to respect others, to meet some great people and make memorable moments.
Pro tips –
1. In a traditional country it’s better to wear something that goes past your knees. You may wear palazzo kurta with boots and team the outfit with a long chic statement shrug or coat.
2. You may wear jeans with a long tunic which covers your arms and reaches below your knees. A great handbag can complete the look.
3. Always and always carry a dupatta/scarf with you and to cover your head as the need arises.
4. In conservative places, Do not ever commit a blunder of wearing plunging necklines. Wear conservative tops which doesn’t show even a bit of skin.
5. You don’t need to wear a veil or burqa but wearing lose clothes covering your entire body is advisable. And as told above, you can accessorise your outfit with chic sunglasses, stylish handbag and trendy footwear.
Are you ready to explore a new place? Have to ever thought of blending in with the locals? Have you ever felt uncomfortable because of not following the above mentioned tips? Do share your experiences in the comments below.