don’t be a tourist

i’m leaving for florida tomorrow to visit my mom. no new blogs until next tuesday. but the trip has got me thinking.

actually, the trip, along with the huge woman in tight shorts and a jesus t-shirt who walked in front of me this morning at the corner of broadway and 49th, has got me thinking.

how does one avoid looking like a tourist?

maybe you don’t want to avoid looking like a tourist. if that’s the case, more power to you. be comfortable in your own skin. let everyone else squirm and snicker. good for you.

the rest of you, listen up. i have a great deal of expertise in this department. i’ve lived my whole life in areas with tons of tourists, and have traveled extensively.

i should clarify. it’s not necessarily bad to look like a tourist; you should just do so when the context is right. for instance, if you are a tourist walking in times square, it’s perfectly acceptable to take out your camera and take a picture. you are on vacation, as is nearly everyone else. that, in and of itself, is not worthy of an eye-roll.

however, if you are a large woman taking a picture in times square, and you are wearing a small t-shirt with a picture of frogs on it, and a large slogan is imprinted below those frogs, and that slogan reads “don’t croak without jesus”, and your shorts are just way way too tight, then i am going to notice you.

and blog about you.

and other people are going to look askance at you, and not just the locals. the better class of tourists will look askance at you as well.

and for me, it has nothing to do with jesus hating, or religion bashing. although for others it might. it’s the overall impression you are making.

here’s the key: be low key. be unobtrusive.

do some research ahead of time. where are you going? new york or another comsopolitan city? in that case, stick to monochromatic colors. you don’t have to wear all black–just be sensible and blend in a bit. leave any clothing that identifies your hometown locale in your hometown dresser drawer. there are certain cool people in large cities who can ironically wear a t-shirt that screams iowa, and you know that they are not actually from iowa. if however, you wear your iowa t-shirt, it’s a lock that everyone will assume you are actually from iowa. see the difference?

by the way, if walked down broadway in a t-shirt that screamed iowa, everyone would think i was from iowa. i’m not very cool. but i’m a good observer of cool.

don’t be loud. talk quietly. be minimal.

attempt to speak the language if you are in a foreign country–don’t just start with english and assume that everyone will answer in english. they probably will answer in english, but at least try. how would you feel if you were walking down the street in your hometown, and someone walked up to you babbling in hungarian, and got mad when you didn’t answer in hungarian?

don’t point at things. don’t laugh at people. don’t flash your cash. don’t travel in large packs and take up the whole sidewalk. don’t stand on the subway without holding onto anything, and loudly talk about how it’s “just like surfing”, and then fall over on me. don’t talk about how weird or different things are. don’t talk about how much better things are at home.

don’t talk about how much cheaper things are at home.

do have fun. do revel in the differences and enjoy them. do tip everyone generously, even when the tip is included in the bill. do take lots of pictures.

and do have fun. just don’t look like you are.