How To Be A Chameleon Abroad

Whilst on holiday, you may not always want to ‘shine bright like a tourist’



There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Wanting to absorb the people and culture in the most authentic way possible
  • Not wanting to be a walking target for theft
  • Not wanting to offend the locals
  • Not wanting to be pounced upon by curious locals or tourists

Much of how you ‘choose to blend’ will depend on the destination you are in.

A photo by Cory Schadt.

General tips for a ‘blending-in day’:

  1. Leave your backpack in the hotel and opt for something more ‘every day’.
  2. Trainers and sports wear should be reserved for the gym unless the locals generally dress sporty, and give five inch heels a miss.
  3. Those of us who don’t live in the tropics, relish the opportunity to dress for the heat, but the locals often cover up more.
  4. Don’t wear anything fancy and outlandish, or that screams out ‘designer brand’ (unless that’s the order of the day where you are). Furthermore, its a bit insensitive to be flashy when (in some cases) one designer item might cost more than the local villager makes to feed their family each month. At worst, your display of wealth can evoke feelings of resentment from locals, as well as a red flag to would be thieves.
  5. As boring as this might sound, the less colourful your clothes, the more you tend to blend in and go unnoticed  – anywhere.


    Don’t wear this. Spotted at a flea market in Tobago #howtogetnoticed

  6. Watch vlogs and read blogs/reviews before you go, paying close attention to how locals look and behave out and about in footage and photographs.
  7. Leave your selfie sticks, GoPros and giant SLR lenses in the hotel, just make do with a small compact camera or phone. Don’t keep your camera dangling off you the entire time you’re out – put it away, try to be subtle. photographer-1029391_640 Source
  8. Buy a couple of outfits from where the locals go shopping.
  9. Get to know your money, i.e. what coin is what. 2862362402_46c2e6190c_mSource
  10. Never stop and stand in the middle of a public place looking lost or confused – always look purposeful, composed and relaxed.  Smile through your confusion. If you lose your bearings, find somewhere to sit (cafe) or stand on the side somewhere and style it out until you work out where you’re going without drawing attention to yourself. (You could also just quietly ask a local). boardwalk-1209671_640
  11. Keep jewellery to a minimum – no brainer.
  12. If you are wearing a hotel wristband, try to disguise it with a watch, sweat band, bangle etc…
  13. If the language isn’t English. learn a few useful phrases and greetings
  14. Avoid using hand gestures; many that we take for granted at home are considered offensive in other cultures.
  15. Accents are a give away, so if you’re naturally loud, you might want to lower your voice. A western accent can be like a red flag to a bull for would be thieves and scammers – who will assume you are wealthy.
  16. Going to a foreign country without bothering to find out anything about it beforehand is an insult to that country. Make sure you familiarise yourself with customs, manners and behaviours so that you can adapt, and at worst, avoid breaking some unknown law. For example, it is illegal to wear anything in the name of fashion with an ‘army print’ in Tobago – you will be arrested. Ignorance is not an excuse and nor is it bliss in this case.


    Get to know your destination before you get there, the internet is overflowing with free info, as well as countless travel guides you can buy

  17. Avoid pointing, gasps and expressions of shock and awe every time you look at something.
  18. Don’t wear a bum bag.

The above points are not suggested rules – just tips for those times when you decide you want to try and blend in as much as possible – which may be never, depending on where you are and how you feel.


3 thoughts on “How To Be A Chameleon Abroad

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