I’ve always been a proud American but over the years, I’ve learned not to dress like one when traveling internationally. I remember on my maiden trip overseas (to Europe, photo above), it really hurt when I first heard that we are stereotyped as ‘Ugly Americans.’ Ugly American? Who, me? My friends? No, that can’t be true … Sadly, the derogatory term has been around for decades and the perception has only gotten worse
Any frequent traveler will tell you that a basic tip for international travel, no matter where you’re going, is to ditch the typical tourist look and try to dress more like the locals do (I’m not talking about traditional garments). That means get rid of the baggy clothes, loud t-shirts, college sweatshirts, American flag clothing or worse, MAGA hats.
Actually, you might get better service if you wear a MAGA hat when visiting Russia, Belarus, Syria or North Korea so that’s up to you. But often, some travelers prefer not to let people know they’re American, mainly so as not to stand out as a tourist and become an easy target to get robbed. In the past, some Americans have even put Canadian flags on their luggage or backpacks when traveling just to avoid being negatively stereotyped.
For those who think this is a myth, I can confirm it to be true in my experience. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world and have had countless locals say, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re an American. You’re so nice, polite, educated and soft spoken.” Prior to Donald Trump, maybe it was reruns of The Jerry Springer Show that instilled this belief … ??
One thing people don’t usually say is that I’m so well dressed but … I can live with that.
So, if you’re traveling this summer or any time overseas, leave your stereotypical American clothes at home so you’re not a target. And if you really want to blend in, then go shopping when you arrive at your destination and buy clothing that’s more in line with what the locals are wearing. I also used to carry a local newspaper or magazine even if I didn’t read the language when I rode the train or bus and you would be shocked how many people asked me for directions.
“Comfort has its place, but it seems rude to visit another country dressed as if you’ve come to mow its lawns.”
― David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day