We hate being treated like tourists when we visit another place, and yet sometimes it’s our actions that send up a red flag that we’re strangers. Here are 5 ways you might be tipping your cards about being a tourist (and how to get a poker face).
1. You Walk Around With Your Camera Over Your Shoulder
Certainly, you want to take photos on your trip, but you’re immediately a tourist target when you wear your camera. This is more of an issue in crowded cities full of pickpockets, but still: don’t you think seeing someone with a camera over their shoulder might make a market vendor less inclined to offer a lower price?
If you want to look like a local, put the camera away until you’re ready to take photos. I bring a cloth shopping bag with my camera in it so I can easily pull it out when I find a great photo opp.
2. You Only Speak English
Fair enough; you might not speak French. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a tiny effort and learn the basics, like:
You can get surprisingly far simply by putting a little effort into it. I found that fewer people spoke English in the less populated parts of Provence than, say, Paris. So study up a little before your trip (Duolingo has a great free language app) and you’ll be treated with more respect.
3. You Want Things American Style
When visiting Au Temps des Mets in Pignans, the restaurant owner placed a bowl of ice on the table. We looked at each other blankly. Ah! It was because we were American, and she was used to Americans asking for ice.
Don’t ask for ice.
And don’t rush to the nearest McDo or Quick for your hamburger fix. You. Are. In. France. Eat bread and cheese! Things aren’t supposed to be like they are in the States, so stop asking people to accommodate your whims.
4. You Rent a Giant Car
Okay, I’m poking fun at myself now. We rented an American-sized car while in Provence — wait! I’ve got a good reason! stop laughing! — so we could shuttle our visiting family members to and from the airport with their giant luggage. Still, driving through the narrow village streets set my teeth on edge.
Not only will you stand out with a big ass car, but you’ll also find it very stressful to find parking. We found one parking garage we had to back out of in Nice, because our car did not fit. Feel Euro and rent a teeny hatchback. I guarantee your stress level will be lower.
5. You Reject Local Customs
Snails? Ewww. If you’re one of those Americans, not only will you offend locals, but you’ll also miss out on a lot of culinary adventures.
For me, that adventure was pastis. I’d read about this high alcohol content beverage in every book on Provence I devoured before my trip. But I detest licorice. I used to give my dad all the black jellybeans. Not a fan.
But my mother was the one to be brave enough to try it. She ordered it, and the bartender’s mouth gaped. I was surprised. She tasted it and…she was over it. Not to be outdone by my own mother, I had a sip (I did the same in Ireland with Guinness, despite not liking beer at the time). Let’s just say: I can now say I have tasted pastis. It was the first and last time.
Funnily, I talked to the bartender about how pastis is such a cultural component of the area. He agreed wholeheartedly. Then I asked if he liked it. Non. I asked what he did like to drink. Rosé. Naturally.
The fact is: you are a tourist. But if you want to minimize how obvious that is, try to act like a local. Show respect for the culture. And be open to trying new things.
This was originally written for Perfectly Provence.