Tourists get a bad rap wherever they go. Do they deserve it? Probably. We’re not speaking for all tourists here, but a great deal of them tend to act a little...bizarre when leaving their home country. Maybe it’s the excitement and thrill of adventure that turns them into grown-up toddlers tottering around Times Square or drooling over the Eiffel Tower. Or maybe we just need a better knowledge of how to act when travelling abroad. Knowledge, here we come.
To save ourselves any more embarrassment when overseas, we are going to point out the telltale signs of annoying tourists. We’re talking selfie sticks and oversized maps! Then we’ll show readers our top ten tips for enjoying a truly authentic experience in a foreign country. As much fun as it is being a tourist and even embracing the hilarious stereotypes at times, it’s also fun to feel and experience a country like a local. This is the only way to appreciate a country and its culture. No risky landmark selfie can replace an authentic traveller experience abroad.
If we work together, we might slowly be able to stamp out that annoying tourist stereotype and get ourselves a better rap throughout the world.
20 Wearing an I <3 NY t-shirt in New York
Each year, 60 million tourists flock to New York and we’re guessing at least 30 million of them invest in an I <3 NY t-shirt to wear during their stay. This kind of shirt screams I’m a tourist! It’s one of the annoying things tourists do when they visit the Big Apple. Maybe it’s the excitement of being in NYC, but it’s not exactly the most authentic way to experience the big city. But it’s not just in NYC that tourists wear this kind of t-shirt. They’ve also been spotted in other touristy locations like London, Tokyo and Paris.
We might as well write in big, bold letters ‘’I’m a tourist’’ on our forehead.
19 Nearly taking someone’s eye out with our selfie sticks
Selfie sticks are like the most ridiculous invention ever. What happened to bringing a friend along on our holidays to share photo duties or asking a friendly person close by to snap a picture of us in front of St. Peter’s Basilica? Now we rely on these great big protruding metal sticks that are nothing more than a safety hazard.
Just to get the ‘’perfect’’ picture, tourists are almost taking peoples’ eyes out with their careless selfie stick shenanigans. It’s about time we start bringing friends along to do the task for us, or asking others. We look less of a loner that way anyway.
18 Holding a huge map (that's what phones are for, people)
People are glued to their cell phones. All. The. Time. Yet when they arrive in a foreign location, it’s as though all their grey cells go blurry and they forget what a cell phone is. That’s got to be the only logical explanation for why we see all those tourists walking around with huge maps. This is followed by reckless pedestrian behavior, bumping into others as they keep their eyes fixed on their map.
What happened to cell phones, to Google Maps? This is one of those cases where having a cell phone is super useful and saves an immense amount of aggravation from locals.
17 Staring up at the tall buildings until we get a sore neck
From Shanghai Tower to the Burj Khalifa, the world isn’t short of tall buildings. It is, on the other hand, short of smart tourists. Why is it that some tourists spend half a day staring up at tall buildings until they get a sore neck? We know they’re probably trying to take in the immensity of them, but all that neck craning has got to be painful! Sometimes it feels like we as tourists follow a handbook of annoying things we need to do as a tourist, and one of those things is spending half a day staring up at tall buildings.
16 Taking the cliché tourist pic and looking ridiculous while doing so - e.g. Leaning Tower of Pisa
It feels like we’ve seen every possible version of the selfie taken in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, doesn’t it? It’s almost become a trend to look as ridiculous as possible while doing it and people haven’t failed in their quest. It gets boring when seeing the same old thing all the time. We’d like to see something more original.
In the end, it feels like a place is defined by a specific tourist trend and that’s just sad, because those places have so much more to offer. Seriously guys, we’re never going to shed the annoying tourist label if we keep acting like this.
15 Ordering USA-Italian food
Like pineapple pizza. In the US, we have loads of different varieties of Italian foods, but how original are they? We’d be surprised to know that a lot of the dishes we order that we think are Italian don’t even exist in Italy. In other words, don’t expect to order them when you arrive in Italy. Italians will probably turn their noses down on us for our lack of cultural respect. That goes for ordering spaghetti with meatballs and fettuccine Alfredo – they aren’t traditional Italian dishes either.
Before visiting, it’s a good idea to check out what dishes actually are authentic Italian.
14 Assuming everyone speaks English – they don’t
Don’t visit any country (aside from English-speaking ones of course) expecting everyone to speak English. While in touristy areas, most people we meet will speak English, it’s a lot less common to encounter English speaking locals in the more rural, less tourist-driven areas. Some tourists just expect everyone to speak their own language which is a major mistake. Anyone who goes to a foreign country with that attitude is sure to receive an irritated reaction.
Many locals consider us ignorant for having this attitude when we visit their country and to be fair, they are right. Stick to tourist locations if you want English speaking people.
13 Blocking sidewalks and crosswalks
In busy cities like New York, nothing infuriates locals more than tourists blocking sidewalks and crosswalks. New Yorkers are busy people with places to go. The last thing they need is to wait behind groups of tourists dawdling and taking pictures, when they’re already five minutes late to work. It’s not that all locals have a problem with tourists, but it’s these kinds of behaviors that really get on their nerves and give tourists a bad rap.
When tourists affect the locals’ daily lives, that’s when they become an issue. Tourists need to burst their bubble and remember real people with real jobs and real responsibilities live there too.
12 Holding up the line over a Philly cheesesteak order
Anyone who visits Philadelphia absolutely must try a Philly cheesesteak. But if it’s a cheesesteak one is after, we need to make sure we know how to order one first to save a lot of aggro from the local customers behind us. Locals get angry with the tourists who spend forever dawdling over their cheesesteak order.
These people have things to do, places to go, and they just want to order their food as soon as possible. That’s why it’s frustrating to them when tourists hold up the line. All we have to do is order it, state whether or not we want cheese or onions and that’s that.
11 Not following the rules – like swimming in the trevi fountain
For some reason, when people visit another country they seem to forget about rules. That mindset results in some wild and often unacceptable behaviour. For instance, Italians get sick of tourists ignoring the rules, like when they use the Venice waters as a toilet when they’ve had a few too many at the bar. Another issue they see often is tourists climbing up iconic statues made by the likes of Canova, Bernini and Michelangelo.
Bathing in the Trevi Fountain is also unacceptable. Tourists need to remember that although they might be on vacation, they’re still in a country with rules and laws.
Here are our top 10 tips for a truly authentic experience in foreign lands.
10 Blend in: Skip the neon florals and fanny pack – basically, just dress normally
Being a tourist and dressing up like a tourist can be fun. But if we want the authentic travel experience, we need to get treated like a local and that starts with swapping the neon florals and fanny pack for normal clothing. Just wear what you would wear at home, depending on the weather of course.
Just because we’re on holiday, doesn’t mean we have to strap on a fanny pack if we wouldn’t wear one back at home. The best way to get treated like a local is to act like one, instead of like a tourist. Stay curious, by all means, but don’t be a tourist for the sake of being one...if that makes sense.
9 Blend in: Enjoy the sights without a camera
While a camera enables us to capture moments and beautiful sights, nothing takes in a wonderful sight better than our own eyes, without the lens. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in taking the perfect picture, we forget to appreciate what we’re looking at. Then we miss out on truly experiencing the beauty of it. We’re not saying leave your camera at home or anything, but maybe focus less on taking the perfect selfie and more on enjoying the sights. Stay in the present and enjoy your surroundings. It’s actually way more fulfilling and we’ll remember it more vividly than through photos.
8 Blend in: Learn a few phrases of the language before arriving
Learning a language fluently would be too time-consuming and near on impossible if we have a vacation coming up, but learning a few basic phrases...simple. It doesn’t take long to learn a few phrases that we can use the next time we encounter someone who doesn’t speak English or better yet, we can try our phrases out on every person we meet. It’s more rewarding than expecting everyone to speak English.
The locals will also appreciate our effort in attempting to learn their language. It also gives us a better glimpse into a country’s culture and it’s fun too!
7 Blend in: Head off into the backstreets to escape tourists and explore the unknown
We know there’s a pressure to tick off everything on our to-see list, but why do them all if some of them just aren’t our thing? Just because it’s a famous cathedral doesn’t mean we have to see it if we have zero in cathedrals. It’s better to focus on the things that fit our tastes. When we’ve finished doing that, it’s time to escape the tourists and see some of the country’s true culture. That means heading off into the backstreets and exploring the unknown. This is one of the best ways to gain an authentic experience in a foreign country.
6 Blend in: Embrace the local cuisine
What’s the point of visiting a new country and eating what we always eat back in our home country? Where’s the fun in that? It’s much more fun to try the local food and see what they have to offer, but not all tourists do that. After all, we won’t be able to try the same stuff when we return home so we should take advantage of the opportunity when we are in the country.
People say we can learn a lot about a country’s culture from the food. Not only is a great way to experience a country’s culture, but it’s a tasty way too.
5 Blend in: Research the country’s culture and customs
Every culture has its own culture and customers. We can actually easily offend people by not understanding or respecting their culture. For instance, in Dubai, wearing revealing clothing would be considered highly rude and distasteful. It’s the same in India. We can’t go around showing off lots of skin without offending someone there. That’s because it’s not done in their culture.
To show respect, research their customs beforehand so you can get prepared and prevent a lot of shame. No country is the same. It is always wise to learn a bit about the country’s culture before visiting – it’s also more rewarding.
4 Blend in: Take a cooking class
Especially in foodie countries like Italy, Nepal and India, taking a local cooking class can be an incredible learning experience. However, do make sure it’s a local cooking class taught by a local – not a foreigner trying to earn a living. That’s the most authentic way to do it. Not only is it a fun way to learn about the country’s food culture, but it’s also a great way to meet other people. There are so many plus points to taking a cooking class abroad. And just think, when you get back home you can dazzle your friends with your new cooking skills by hosting a dinner preparing everything you’ve learned.
3 Blend in: Explore local grocery stores and markets
Another way to gain an authentic experience abroad is to visit the local grocery stores and markets. If we stick to the touristy areas, we’ll usually only find the stuff we get back home. But if we venture out into the local areas, we can gain a deeper perspective of the country and its culture by visiting the stores and markets. Anyone who loves food will find the market visit fascinating when they get to buy fresh produce that tastes so much different to what we get back home. It also shouldn’t be expensive if we go to a local market.
2 Blend in: Take local transport – it’s cheaper too!
We can slash our travel budget in half by swapping taxi rides for bus and train rides. As convenient as taxis can be for getting us from one place to another fast, there are two downsides to catching a taxi abroad. First of all, it’s generally more expensive than local transport anyway. Secondly, it will be even more expensive when the taxi driver realizes you’re a tourist. In their head, that means charge triple. For an authentic, less annoying experience, try using public transport instead to get around the city.
It’s cheaper and gives us a deeper insight into the country’s culture. We get to see how people live and how they get around in day to day life, which is something we miss out on with a taxi ride.
1 Blend in: Try staying in an Airbnb
Because Airbnbs are hosted by locals, staying in one means we get to stay in a local’s house and meet a local. If that’s not authentic, we don’t know what is. Plus, it’s usually cheaper than staying in a hotel. The best part about it is that we get to pick the brain of the local and ask for their advice. They’ll be able to tell us what to see, where to eat, and how to have the best experience during our stay. It doesn’t get much better than that. Although Airbnb isn’t for everyone, it’s worth trying at least once to see if you like it.
References: nycfuture.org, travelandleisure.com, smartertravel.com