“You look like a tourist.”

There are many ways you can lightly—or not so lightly—take a jab at someone’s fashion sense and telling them they look like a tourist ranks pretty high on that list. Yet, it goes deeper than sartorial choices.

The word ‘tourist’ conjures up a certain look and demeanor: fanny pack, bermuda shorts, camera in hand, and face etched in perpetual awe or confusion. In certain circles, the term is hissed out with disdain, as if there’s a hierarchy to the types of people who want to see the world: traveler, wanderer, and nomad seem to occupy higher place on this imaginary stratum.

‘Tourist’ on the other hand, usually pronounced with an eye roll, is generally reserved for guests or fellow foreigners who are loud, annoying, and disrespectful. It’s a bad case of stereotyping, but looking like one unfortunately lumps the decent with the bad.

But what’s really so wretched about looking like a tourist? In some or most cases, it’s downright impossible to not look like an outsider. Also, if there are indeed distinctions between tourist and traveler, they’re generally not particularly obvious to the locals, fanny pack or no fanny pack.

On that note, the fashion crowd has breathlessly announced that fanny pack is having a comeback, so haters can lay off the hip purse.

Fanny pack making a comeback

Looking like a tourist mostly means practical and comfort dressing, be it tanks in sweltering heat or trainers paired with shorts. Some iterations include the “I love…” T-shirts, baseball caps, and backpacks.

Of course, there’s the argument that dressing like a tourist simply invites malice. Someone who clearly looks like they’re not local might be a target for scam or petty theft; hence, the adage: “Blend in”.

Blending in or trying to do so is not about not wearing socks with sandals. Rather, the focus should be on deference to local customs and respect for the people and environment that will continue their existence long after you leave. The gestures can be quite small, like observing silence in sacred land or wearing a head scarf when visiting religious spots, but the impact is potent for your experience.

Okay, maybe mind your clothing a little bit, but it’s just common courtesy, really.

Whichever title you choose for yourself, you are a tourist. However, worry less about looking like a caricature and be a savvy one. You’ll have a much more enjoyable time this way.

Images courtesy of The Fashion Spot and Dubai Tourism.