Alright Alright Alright (in my best Matthew McConaughey voice). So you’re going to Europe on a trip and you desperately want to blend in, as do most of us Americans. How can you accomplish this? After traveling throughout the years I’ve paid close attention to fashion, mannerisms, physical looks, and the mentality of many Europeans and their cities. Let’s call it the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of European lifestyle. For me, I have medium brown hair, green eyes, and fair skin with a yellow undertone. So I fit in really well in Eastern Europe. Take me to a Nordic country and I’ll stand out like a sore thumb.
There are however ways that you can make yourself blend in more. So without further wait, here are my favorite ways you can easily blend in, and make yourself look more European in Europe.
1. Shoe Check!
The most obvious one of them all: Your shoe choice. Before you leave your flat or hotel, give yourself a brutally honest shoe check. What do my shoes say about me? Do they say I’m breaking in my new hiking shoes for that Mount Everest trip I look like I just booked? Do they say I wore these to the first ever jousting tournament in 1545, and still going strong? If any of these apply definitely give yourself a go at another pair of shoes. As I’ve said in other posts, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for style. Even brands like Nike and Adidas are fashionable right now. You just need to know the right ones to buy. And, under no circumstances whatsoever are you to wear flip flops, ever.
2. Opt For a More Fashionable Bag or Backpack
Ladies leave your DIY demin bag at home, and guys ditch the REI backpack. Okay, so no one probably makes those god awful DIY fabric totes anymore (I hope, *cringe*). But now you have a lovely visual to go along with my point. I find that leather or fake leather is always the best choice for a more fashionable backpack or bag. If you’re looking for a cost effective way to carry your stuff that is still fashionable, I recommend Steve Madden for this. They make great looking bags that are decently priced and always practical.
3. Your Makeup Says it ALL
This is probably the biggest mistake American girls make and, consequently, my favorite advice I can offer. Less is more in Europe. I find this in almost every European country. Forget your heavy foundations at home, and opt for a more natural look in Europe like this or this. All you really need is a little concealer and mascara! Some days I will wear a dewy looking moisturizer and nothing else. This will 100% help set you apart from the tourists and make you fit in. I’ve been turned to and spoken to in many languages before because someone had assumed I was from their country. Personally, I think it mostly has to do with a simple and more natural choice in makeup.
Note: I’d like to expand on this topic as a whole separate blog post in the near future. Keep an eye out!
4. Again, Less is More
You don’t need an impressive 2 hour hairstyle to look your best, you don’t need to go out of your way to buy a wardrobe full of Parisian staples, and you don’t need to weigh yourself down with accessories. In fact, you shouldn’t do ANY of these things. Instead, pay attention to how women style themselves in Europe. For instance, Europeans tend to prefer a middle part vs a side part, and the French and English are notoriously known for looking a bit undone yet chic. Think a middle part low bun that’s a bit unkept. For an easy way to keep things simple, finish putting together your outfit for the day and take off two pieces of jewelry. And THAT is the magic of the less is more.
5. Be a Discreet Photo Taker
When we usually think of the biggest giveaway someone is a tourist, it’s the typical excessive photo taking that comes to mind. Ahhh yes. There really is no way around this. I mean what kind of a person would I be if I told you to not take any photos?! Here are some tips for photo taking:
- Be casual about it.
- Know your space.
- Have a plan.
Be casual and be quick about it! Pretty self explanatory. I find that knowing your surroundings and observing what’s around in proximity to your body can also help you to take a photo with ease. Often times I see tourists stepping back to grab the perfect photo, not aware of what or who is behind them, and then clumsily bumping in to someone or knocking something over. Don’t be that guy, and know your space before you snap. Lastly have a plan. Think of the best angle for a photo before you start snapping. Know your lighting and choose the right preset so you don’t have to mess with your camera. As an alternative, iPhones really have amazing quality and are MUCH easier to blend in with. I do most of my photographing abroad with my iPhone and I love it!
6. Learn a Few Local Phrases and Master Them
It’s not enough to just try and get by with some phrases you Googled. Pick a few phrases and absolutely master them. Also, learn if the locals approach them any differently or have patterns when they use certain phrases in different situations. For example, I would often observe the French saying ‘Merci, au revoir’ when they would leave a store. It may seem enough to just learn the phrase for bye, which is ‘au revoir’, but observing that the French use the other phrase much more in natural conversation is key! Really work on mastering accents as well. And lastly, be confident in what you are saying! Unless you have no idea what you are saying, then just stick with English.
7. Understand The Street Flow
Best way to spot a tourist? Watch them obey every single traffic law. After my time in San Francisco and traveling abroad I’ve learned to just go with the flow and follow along with the locals. I don’t recommend this in certain situations and obviously always use caution when outside and in the streets of a big European city. But, if you want to blend in, then I suggest paying close attention to the flow of traffic and studying when it’s appropriate to walk, and when it’s not.
8. Ditch That Map
It’s easy to look like a nervous wreck of a tourist when you’re trying to figure out directions. What I do to combat this is I will memorize where I’m going before I leave (yes, I somewhat memorize turns and street names). That way I’m not stopping local traffic by pulling out my phone and scrambling for some direction in the middle of a busy street. Maps are an absolute no no if you want to fit in. I know what you’re going to say, “but my phone won’t work overseas with mapping directions.” Correct, but there is away around this. The GPS in your phone will work and you can pull up maps and follow yourself to your destination. That’s why I like to memorize where I’m going and then I just follow my blue dot! You can also drop a pin on the cross streets, and when you get close enough you’ll see your destination anyway.
9. Clothes are 30% Attitude is 70%
Usually when people want to fit in, that means a whole new wardrobe. But remember, everyone wants to fit in; it’s a popular notion. So more than ever Americans are wearing clothes to try and fit in which can actually backfire. Now the clothes that have been marketed to you as being so chic and ‘Italian’, are just another way for you to be spotted as a tourist among the locals because that’s what they’ll expect you to wear. I remember seeing another blogger post her outfit that was supposed to blend in, and a commentor saying “but this is exactly what we expect people trying to fit in to wear.” So lesson learned? It’s not ALL in the clothes you wear, rather it’s about your personal style and attitude. Coming back to that je ne sais quoi of European lifestyle. It’s the way that you carry yourself that counts.
Hope you enjoyed this! You are now on your way to looking more European abroad. Do you have any tips or tricks to fit in more when you’re traveling? Leave a comment below!