It's not easy being green, and it's not easy blending in with the locals when you're travelling, either--particularly if you're surrounded by a very different culture. But camouflaging yourself can have all sorts of benefits. You'll feel less conspicuous, so it will be easier to relax. You won't stand out as a target for pickpockets and scam artists. And you may have the chance to try out a different style--more conservative, more stylish or more casual--than you sport at home. Here are five tips for fading into the crowd.
- Cover up (unless you're in Sydney or South Beach). Like several of these tips, this one applies particularly to women (hey, I don't make up the rules; I just report them). In many locales--particularly the Middle East and parts of Asia--bare arms, bare heads, tank tops, short skirts and open-toed shoes are frowned on, if not banned completely. It never hurts to pack a scarf, no matter where you're travelling. (I regretted not having one in my purse during a recent trip to Richmond, B.C., when I visited a Sikh gurdwara where all visitors--male and female--were required to cover their heads.) And no matter where you go, bathing suits are rarely appropriate further than 20 metres from a body of water, unless you're still in nursery school.
- Speaking of scarves, make sure you bring one to France. It may be a cliché, but it's a true one: a beautiful scarf is most French women's most important fashion accessory. In Paris, at least, every female over the age of 14--from university students on bikes to elegant grandmothers walking equally elegant dogs--seems to sport one. But don't ask me how to tie one. Despite my best efforts, I always look like an oversized Girl Guide.
- Ditch the white running shoes. Sure, they're comfortable. But unless you're running the Boston Marathon, they're like a flashing sign saying "out of towner."
- Stow the camera. OK, you'll need to take it out to snap the photo, but try not to leave it hanging around your neck when you're not using it. In many cities, it's an open invitation to muggers.
- Leave the flags at home. You rarely see a Canadian flying a flag at home. But put a Canadian on an airplane, and he or she suddenly becomes more patriotic than Johnny Canuck (a genuine Great White North superhero, in case you're wondering). Suddenly, red-and-white maple leaves bloom on every lapel and backpack. It's OK to leave the flags at home, my fellow Canadians. Honestly. They'll know who we are as soon as we open our mouths and say "eh."