Showing posts with label Tourists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tourists. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Not To Look Like a Tourist in Paris or Anywhere Else

With summer upon us, I hope that you have a wonderful vacation planned.  If it's a trip to Paris or some other overseas destination, even better.

My experience has been that the best vacations are ones where you blend in with the local culture.  In so doing, you can have some very special experiences.

That said, in order to blend in, you need to do a little homework before you leave.

I spent most of my adult life on the coast of Northern California and no one seems to understand that Northern California has nothing to do with Southern California.  There is a reason why each wanted to secede from the other.  But it's the weather that differs most of all.  I can't tell you how many times I would tell people I was from California and how many times they would extol its weather virtues and I could tell they were talking about Southern California. Likewise, now that I have moved to Seattle, everyone wants to know how I could leave sunny California for the rain and gloom of Seattle.  They can't believe it when I say we came for the Seattle summers.  For two to three months a year, it's warm and sunny.

In Northern California, it is cold in the summer!  Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he ever spent was the summer he spent in San Francisco. In summer, when the fog rolls in, it's cold.  It's a joke among locals in San Francisco as to how you can spot a tourist.  Tourists are those folks wearing shorts (no one wears shorts in San Francisco) and an "I Love San Francisco" sweatshirt because they didn't bring any warm clothes and were so cold they had to buy one!

That's just a little anecdote to illustrate the pitfalls of not doing your homework.

When I travel, I don't want to look like a tourist.  I want to blend in and hang with the locals.  That often means keeping my mouth shut so I can observe.

Hubby's job used to take him to the U.K. quite frequently and his office was in a small town about 60 miles west of London.  While he worked, I would play.  But occasionally I would head down to the launderette (that's Brit speak for the laundromat) to do some needed laundry.  Unlike many of our laundromats, it had a person running the place, and I could eavesdrop on him and his interactions with the ladies doing their wash. I could feel like I was one of them.  One time I arrived and there was no hot water.  That being the case, the local ladies decided they would have to do their laundry another time and left. They couldn't fathom washing their clothes in cold water. The fellow running the launderette said to me, "Well, I know they do their laundry in cold water all of the time in America."  I responded and blew my cover, but he and I engaged in an interesting conversation.  

The point is, blending in, not proclaiming that you are American (especially talking loudly, which is an American stereotype over there) and seeking out the locals can lead to all kinds of interesting encounters.

So if you want to blend in and try being a local, you need to also look the part.

Nothing screams tourist more than a baseball cap with an American team on it, a windbreaker heralding said team, athletic shoes and carrying a map.

This is an American tourist.

Sorry, Hubby.

Though Paris can be casual, I would say they dress a step up from what we Americans consider acceptable.  You are not likely to see a Parisian wearing flip flops, a fanny pack or a baseball cap, though, of course, there are exceptions.  And scarves are de rigeur.

This is an American tourist who could "pass."  I have actually been asked for directions by a local.

However, if you want to meet other Americans, the baseball cap works well.  Hubby and I were standing outside this crepe shop in the Marais, Hubby with his ever present Mariners cap on, and we were approached by a young woman who noticed Hubby's cap. 

She was not only American, but from Seattle and had been living in Paris for several months and longed to speak English with someone.  We had a lovely conversation and she recommended a wonderful bistro where we dined that evening.

It's also a good idea to at least try to speak the language.  Parisians can't stand you mangling their language, so as soon as you make the attempt, they will usually start speaking English, but they usually appreciate the attempt.  I took eights years of French and my attempts are usually met with, first a look of confusion, then disgust, then English.

However, good manners require that you always say "Bon jour" when entering a shop or encountering a local in Paris.  I learned this the hard way when my ticket for the Metro didn't open up the little gate to let me in.  I scurried over to the ticket taker and said in English, "My ticket doesn't work," to which he replied with dripping contempt, "BON JOUR."  I had skipped the greeting and got schooled!

So when you travel to other countries, do you homework so you have some idea of what the weather will be like, learn a few phrases, dress appropriately, learn the currency and not only don't talk loudly, but sometimes it pays to not talk at all.

If you want to blend in and not look like a tourist, you would NEVER do stuff like this!



But who cares!  Have fun!
What are your travel tips? 

See you Friday for

"Top Ten Things to Do This Summer"
The Week in Reviews

 Thanks for Reading!
And check your local library for travel guides to help you read up on your destination.
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