How to Appear Less American While Touring in Europe

1 Look at what others are wearing. Are they wearing sneakers? Boots? Heels/dress shoes? Take a look around and notice trends. Most Europeans do not wear sneakers, so wear boots, flats, or anything that suits your fancy. Make sure that they are comfortable as well.

2 Carry a coat. Get one that’s not too bulky, but warm. A lot of European countries get a considerable amount of rain and some are very cold, like the United Kingdom and Poland. Make sure your jacket keeps you warm and dry.

3 Dress casually. Don’t wear shirts with American brands or slogans on them. “American Eagle”, “Hollister”, or “Abercrombie & Fitch” are probably not a good idea.

4 Try to blend in. Speak quietly and don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t behave like a tourist, and be polite and courteous. You probably won’t fool people thinking that you’re European for long, but you can leave them with a good impression of yourself.

5 Don’t assume that everyone speaks English. Even if they do, they might not answer. Remember that those who do would still greatly appreciate a word or two in their native tongue and who knows, they might even be nicer to you! If they have great vocabulary and pronunciation, tell them. They’ll appreciate it and treat you better.

6 Make sure you know at least a little bit of the language. Attempting to speak the country’s language is showing respect towards the nation and its people. Good words or phrases to know include are “hello”, “please”, “goodbye”, “do you have…?”, and “do you speak English?”

7 Don’t wear any clothing that screams “American”! Examples include: shirts with the American flag on it, “I Love NY” shirts, shorts with anything written on the buttocks, etc. At the same time, don’t pretend to be a different nationality; it might get you in trouble and put you in the position where you either have to lie or make a strange excuse.

8 Dress fashionably. You don’t have to sport all the latest trends, but try to put effort into your appearance. Clothing articles like hoodies and sweatpants probably won’t make you very European looking, so try to stay away from the outdated and sloppy look.

9 Speak quietly in public. In the United States, a “notice me” approach to public volume is acceptable, but in Europe, your accent and loud talk will be unappreciated. You don’t have to whisper, but try to act civilized and polite.

How to Travel Beyond the Tour Bus

1 Try the local food. Ask a local where they get their groceries. Visit restaurants where there are mostly local faces—your patronage will be appreciated, and your budget will benefit since often more pricey dishes in foreign restaurants are less expensive than an average meal back home.

2 Walk around and explore. Don’t just go from tourist destination to tourist destination without lifting your head. Strike up some conversations with the locals, or even sit on a park bench and people watch.

3 Look out for crowds of locals. Often a place where there are lots of locals there is an authentic cultural experience lying ahead of you.

Use an “off the beaten path” guidebook like WikiTravel, Lonely Planet or Rough Guide and figure out what most interests you. Try to find neighborhoods within walking distance or easily accessible by public transit (if at all possible) that have a lot of things that you are interested in.

5 Follow your passions. Do you love food? Ask if you can get a “tour” of your favorite kitchen. You love glass sculpture? Find the artist and see whether you can be her apprentice for a day.

6 Be willing to be uncomfortable. Don’t go everywhere first class—one of the richest experiences of your life might be on a third class train in India on a wooden bench for over 14 hours, where you could meet a woman who invites you to her house, where they have one bed between 5 family members, and she says to you, “If you give an Indian your heart, they will share with you everything.”

7 Expect to be moved by your experiences. Reflect on what you see, hear, taste and touch. Allow for transformation because if the journey doesn’t affect your perspective, your sense of humanity, beauty, and the wonder of life, then it is time to do a little soul searching for a way to connect to your heart.

8 Be willing to pay the price. Be respectful of where you are, and act in a manner that will bring credit to where you came from. Ask questions, and really, really listen. Realize that even though what you are doing is perfectly acceptable where you come from, others may find it insulting, or awkward. Be extra courteous to make up for unintended insults.

9 Have fun! Laughter is a universal human language.

10 Share your stories with others. You will find that there is a whole world of kindred spirits who call themselves travelers, and avoid the tourist mentality. Remember how it feels to share your stories with people who aren’t interested, so when you do find a fellow traveler, if you really want to know about their trip, clear your calendar and pack your bag. Your adventure awaits.