There’s nothing like European travel for opening up your mind to other cultures. Likewise, there’s nothing more embarrassing than sticking out like a sore thumb and getting stared at because your clothing just isn’t quite right. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and want to fit in with the locals, you might need to rethink some of your wardrobe choices. While it’s important to choose the most comfortable clothing for your trip, it’s important to remember that, in most cases, clothing is a bit more formal overseas than it is here. Toward that end, you’ll want to choose items that are comfortable yet tasteful and versatile enough so that you can wear them in a variety of settings without attracting unwanted attention — or worse, eye rolls and giggles.
It might be a sacrifice for you, but if you want to look like a local, you’ll need to ditch the baseball cap. Baseball caps are a uniquely American clothing item and are largely unappreciated anywhere else. The same goes for sun visors, which simply aren’t part of the European fashion scene. If you wear either one, you’ll be recognized for the Yankee tourist you really are.
Nothing screams “tourist” like a bulky, bulgy fanny pack. The trend for fanny packs began a couple of decades ago when travel experts touted them as being safer than a purse or wallet. Fortunately, travelers began to realize that there’s no such thing as an attractive fanny pack, and the convenient money belt was born. Today’s tourists know that a money belt is not only safer and less bulky — it’s also securely out of sight and won’t mark you as an unsuspecting tourist just waiting to be scammed.
Visit any European city, and the vast majority of people wearing shorts will be tourists. Plus, if you want to visit some of Europe’s most beautiful cathedrals, you’ll discover that wearing shorts in some of these iconic venues is very much frowned upon. European clothing styles are simply more conservative than in the US, and long pants are the norm for both men and women. If you really want to look American, khaki cargo shorts seem to be the new signature look for yanks traveling overseas. But if you want to blend in with the locals, swap out the shorts for a casual pair of long pants or capris.
Flip-flops were made for the beach, and that’s where Europeans wear them. Outside of the beach, you’ll never see a flip-flop — unless it’s on the foot of an American tourist. Frankly, the Europeans are right about this because unless you’re walking on sand or in water, flip-flops offer no support or protection for your soles, arches, heels, or ankles. Likewise, while Europeans wear sneakers, they wear them in tasteful colors or black — never white. White sneakers will mark you as an American tourist before you even open your mouth.
A lot of Europeans wonder why so many Americans drive rugged SUVs when they don’t live anywhere near the mountains — and the same goes for wearing hiking gear in the city. Unless you’re hiking or camping out in the wilderness, wear something that’s preferably more urban in style.
Many popular European tourist destinations happen to be in countries with a strong conservative religious ethic. By wearing a top that’s cut too low, a crop top, or hemlines that are cut too high, you’ll offend the locals, and their disapproving stares will make you feel uncomfortable. Plus, you might encounter restrictions when you try to enter certain places of interest — not just cathedrals but also tourist attractions and even restaurants. Leave the skimpy stuff at home, and bring along a scarf in case you're ever asked to cover yourself up before entering a particular venue.
Big backpacks are very American-looking. Europeans favor packs that are much smaller and are carried in front. Plus, carrying your pack in front will keep your belongings safer from would-be pickpockets.
In fashion-conscious Europe, bling just isn’t a thing to be flaunted in public. Simply put, it’s a matter of good taste not to show off your jewelry. Plus, for American travelers, it’s also a question of good sense. Bling attracts attention — including the kind of attention you don’t want. Leave the bling at home.
If you really want to fit in, you’ll need to leave the loud prints at home, and that includes camo patterns and Hawaiian shirts. Europeans tend to favor more neutral shades, especially black. To keep from attracting attention, avoid neon colors — and for a real European look, go for a solid neutral color topped off with a single bright accessory, such as a colorful scarf.
If you want to show off your patriotism, then wear your American flag proudly. But if you don’t want to attract attention as just another American tourist, you might want to avoid clothing covered with patriotic symbols. By wearing these things, you’ll be advertising your identity as an American tourist — and this could lead to unwelcome attention from those who prey on visitors from other countries.