our Disneyland fanny pack circa ’83 is fully stuffed, SLR with attached zoom lens is swinging wildly, and those dark socks surely need one last pull skyward. But before you go breaking in those shiny, new white sneakers on cobblestone, I implore you to go through this checklist carefully to assure you won’t be mistaken as a local.
The away uniform:
When a sports team goes on the road they always wear a very different uniform than the home team. The same rule applies with travel. Most importantly WEAR SHORTS. Though many locals somehow withstand the heat in fashionable flowy dresses, long skirts, linen pants and leather sandals or cute loafers, it’s best not to take a chance of being momentarily uncomfortable. I suggest pairing shorts with socks and comfortable athletic sandals. You could buy a hat like the locals wear at your destination, but packing the matching fluorescent Disneyland ball cap will really tie the look together.
Don’t forget that there is no other way to be comfortable on a long flight than a Juicy Couture sweatsuit. Sure they make cool comfortable cargo pants that feel like pajamas, but still look fashionable, or leggings tucked into boots, but those don’t come with a matching hot pink hoodie you can tie around your waist.
A great tourist dressing guide can be found in the back of many of todays hottest fashion magazines, just look for the images with black bars over their faces.
Shout and speak very slowly:
People in other countries have tiny earholes so increasing the decibel level of your voice is essential for communicating. Even when you are in a small intimate restaurant and everyone else seems to manage to understand each other using their ‘inside voices’ why take a chance on having to repeat something?
Also, don’t forget that they don’t speak your native tongue, and therefore aren’t too bright, so speak very slowly in the same manner you might speak to a small child. Learning how to say a few simple phrases like please and thank you in their language is probably a waste of time.
Shock and Awe:
Instead of planning ahead, marking and folding your map to the right spot before you set out on the streets it’s best to wait until you are at a fairly busy intersection and unfold the entire map wide, turning it upside down and then giving confused, angry, gaping-mouthed glares at any passerbys who seem to know exactly where they’re going. Yelling “who the hell designed this dumb city anyway” may assist you in finding your way.
Even though the locals may enjoy cafe culture and lollygagging the day away gazing into each others eyes having intimate conversations and sipping wine for a 2 hour meal. You have things to do. You might be late for that 2 pm appointment you have to wander around aimlessly lost in the streets of Paris. So when eating with your travel companion it’s best to use that time wisely planning your next destination with stacks of guidebooks on the table, uploading to Facebook a photo of your fish dish that came with the head intact and choking down the meal as quickly as possible, immediately demanding the bill with large, flamboyant gestures.
Speaking of dining, when you’re on vacation there’s really no reason to force your taste buds to travel too. AVOID local markets with mystery meats grilling on half drums or off the beaten track cafes full of locals. The familiar foods of home are just what the doctor ordered to comfort you in this strange land. The best way to find what you’re really craving is to look for the English menu or tourist menu often conveniently posted outside the restaurant so you can be assured they’re serving up an ‘American-style’ burger with a side of freedom fries. Now don’t be surprised if this gourmet food comes at a premium price compared to where locals dine, but you’re on vacation after all, so splurge! Even if you’re on a budget there’s usually a McDonald’s or KFC in almost every city. Just point to your protruding belly, and repeatedly mime the arches over your head for friendly directions.