Seriously. I did an internet search with the search term "how not to look like a tourist in Italy" and got over a million hits.
I spent way too much time this morning on a chat forum on the Rick Steeves website reading what people had to say about the issue of NOT looking like a tourist. Such a lot of palaver. And the upshot is that no matter what we do, how much we try to "blend in," we probably will be unsuccessful. And even if we do perchance blend in briefly, once we open our mouths we'll have given the game away anyway.
|Didn't realize that I was "blending in" with the café decor. Paris, 2015.|
But other than being safe, being comfortable, and being respectful of local customs, I think we shouldn't worry about what we wear. Okay, okay, I can hear the guffaws. I didn't say I wasn't going to worry about what I wear. I always worry about what I should wear, and what I should pack. That's a given. I just meant that I don't worry if I'm spotted as a tourist, or not. That, my friends, is an exercise in futility. With my round face and colouring, only in Ireland could I have any chance of being mistaken for a local... and then, as I said, only until I opened my mouth.
And even with research, and all good intentions to appreciate and respect local customs, we get it wrong sometimes. Hubby and I looked like clueless tourists in Buenos Aires last year, when we naively headed out to the restaurant recommended as a great place for dinner by the lovely young man who worked in reception at our hotel. We were surprised to find the door open but the restaurant empty at almost eight o'clock. We entered, sat, and glanced around us for a few minutes. At the back was a clutch of waiters, chatting among themselves, ignoring us. But at the stroke of eight, a horde of locals converged on the place, every seat was soon taken, the waiters flew from table to table, were especially nice to us, and we had a fabulous meal.
|Norte in Buenos Aires after 8:00 P.M. February, 2017|
Turns out that the restaurant doesn't even start serving until eight. None of the restaurants serve until eight, said the lovely young man at reception when he apologized for not alerting us to the fact. "Never mind," we said, "we thought it was hilarious." Kind of reminded me of years ago when a friend and her husband tried to go for dinner in a small city in Arizona, popular with retirees. In fact my friend's parents wintered there for years after they retired. At seven-thirty they found many of the restaurants already closing. Turned out that everyone else ate at five. Ha. When you "come from away," as we say down east, you gotta go with the flow of wherever you are.
But going with the flow, doesn't mean, in my books, being afraid of making a mistake, or ashamed of being a tourist, a traveller, or a visitor... however we describe ourselves when we're not at home. Last year I was chided by a travelling companion for asking too many questions, for not "figuring things out for myself." In truth I think they were embarrassed by my queries. But I think that as long as we're not strident, demanding, or rude... there's nothing wrong with seeking help or assistance from locals. Of course you have to choose carefully whom to ask. In my experience most people are only too happy to help. In Dublin when Hubby and I exited the Guinness Storehouse from the wrong door (NOT attributable to the sampling we did inside, I might add) and had to stand with our city map for a moment to take our bearings, we were approached by a young mother pushing a stroller who spent fifteen minutes chatting with us after she directed us to where we wanted to go. In fact, if I hadn't become so sanguine about asking questions we might still be driving around County Kerry, looking for the Ballaghbeama Gap. And we might never have met a leprechaun. But I've told you that story already.
|Captain Stan's Smoke House in Georgia, 2014|
So, yeah, we're excited about becoming tourists again very soon. We've done our homework, researched as much as we can about where we're going, what we're going to wear, and what we want to do. Hubby and I are not much for group travel, we'd rather paddle our own canoe. Well actually, Hubby does most of the paddling, in or out of the canoe. Ha. I'm the navigator. We'll no doubt do a couple of guided tours, half or full day. We've always found these to be wonderful, whether in Savannah, Georgia; Derry, Northern Ireland; or Machu Picchu, Peru. But we also love just wandering, exploring, and sometimes even getting a little lost. We know we won't be mistaken for local Italians. But hopefully we won't look too clueless.
And, you know, we're okay with not looking like we're from wherever we'll be, but just once we'd love it if someone we met guessed that we were from Canada... instead of from that other big country to the south. Not that there's anything wrong with being from there. Just that we're not.
Where do you stand, my friends, on looking like a tourist?
Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.