Sep 17 2007

Top 5 Tips for Not Looking Like an American While Traveling in Europe

Published by at 11:04 am under Crete,Greece,Travel

Tourism is Crete’s #1 industry, and this means that restaurants are big business here in Hania. The harborfront is crammed with restaurants, all claiming to serve the most authentic Cretan food, and all charging a significant markup due to their waterfront location. Many restaurants employ aggressive greeters, who are paid to stand outside and convince passing tourists that their restaurant is the only one of the lot that truly serves the Greek fare you came so far to taste.

The application process to be a greeter must consist of a test to judge how accurately the applicant can guess a tourist’s nationality based on appearance. They are remarkably good at sizing you up in a glance, and selecting the appropriate language with which to harass you into patronizing their restaurant. Americans are a favorite mark, probably because we travel with money, and because everyone knows we’re a long way from home. It is therefore in your best interest while travelling to not look American (along with one million other reasons). Your ultimate goal is to confuse the wolves by looking like a European of unidentifiable identity. With that in mind, I present…

The Top 5 Tips for NOT Looking Like an American While Traveling in Europe

1. Don’t Shave
For whatever reason, American and British men tend to be far more clean-shaven than the majority of Europeans. You probably only speak English, so you need to make every effort to disassociate yourself from your brethren in every other way possible. As long as you can keep your mouth shut, a little facial hair can go a long way toward your successful camouflage as a European of questionable origin.

2. Wear Dark-Colored Shoes
White tennis shoes are an instant tip-off that you’re American. Dark-colored shoes are the norm around most of the rest of the world. And if you can pull off the look, outrageous-colored Pumas are worth bonus points.

3. No Undershirt
Many American men (myself among them) are in the habit of wearing a white undershirt beneath their outer shirt. We do so to prevent shirt stainage, odor emanation, chest hair sightings, and pokey man-nipples. Nonetheless, you must come to terms with abandoning the undershirt prior to your arrival. It is apparel non grata among European men, and spotting one here only means that you’ve just spotted an American tourist. And while we’re on this topic, go ahead and unbutton your shirt one more button than whatever you’re used to.

4. No Smiling!
New Yorkers excluded, we Americans are accustomed to acknowledging one another with a smile in passing. Do so in Europe, and you will only be met with steely stares. Cretans are widely considered to be among the most welcoming in the world, and even here you do not find smiles on strangers’ faces. Fortunately, this one isn’t too difficult to perfect. Simply imagine that your beautiful historic hometown is perennially over-stuffed with lost, gawking, photo-snapping tourists in oversized backpacks. And you must push and squeeze your way through their herds just to get to work every day. Actually, this sort of explains New Yorkers as well.

5. The Shorts Factor
Asking a European man what temperature is too hot for pants is like asking him about the sound of one hand clapping. “Too hot for pants???” Be warned: if you plan to travel Europe in the summer, you are up against an ancient anti-shorts prejudice that is at least ten times older than your country. Fortunately for you, recent fashion developments have introduced two possible alternatives to the shorts in your wardrobe, neither of which would be acceptable in the States:

  • Capri pants: These are quite popular among European men, and should be found easily in many clothing stores. You may know them as clam-diggers, pedal-pushers, or high-waters. Only for the bold.
  • Tiny shorts: aka “short shorts”; “hot pants.” Think pre-1990s NBA. Or John Stockton, circa: his entire career. Only for the very bold.

If you find neither of these options to be palatable, then you should know that it is a punishable offense in many countries to complain about the heat in pants. You’ll see the sign when you land at the airport – it’s a picture of Uncle Sam getting clubbed with a bottle of wine by an unshaven man in pants.

You may choose to ignore these tips. It is, after all, up to you to decide what sort of travel advice to heed. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when you end up looking like this:

What Not to Wear

NEXT: So what DO your lumberjacks eat? »



25 responses so far

25 Responses to “Top 5 Tips for Not Looking Like an American While Traveling in Europe”

  1. Allisonon 17 Sep 2007 at 11:16 am

    We need Brittany’s version for the ladies!!
    Also, don’t pretend that you don’t have that expression on your face ALL DAY. :)

  2. Hollyon 17 Sep 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Ben, you are just hilarious.

  3. Laurieon 17 Sep 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Do men really wear ‘capris’? What about “daisy dukes”?

    How about backwards baseball caps?

    He he ha ha!

  4. Geneon 18 Sep 2007 at 1:34 am

    Some may suggest taking a Canadian flag or pin with you to fool them!

    Nice blog. Yes you are looking “swell”

  5. Geneon 18 Sep 2007 at 1:40 am

    Forgot to mention I saw you blog posted on Sadish’s forum. But did not understand the header bit about the text not showing if not clickable?

  6. Benon 18 Sep 2007 at 9:30 am

    Gene: We have heard of this Canadian flag tip also! We may end up having to invest in something like this for ourselves or for our luggage, since I have heard some disturbing stories of merchants ripping off Americans just for being American.

    As for the tech help from Sadish, Brittany is the web whiz between us, and I think she got the problem cleared up. We were having a hard time getting the header to be a clickable link, but that is now resolved!

  7. Geneon 18 Sep 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks also for visiting my site, Ben. I learn as I go with websites and blogs. It seems to take forever with some of this stuff, the plugins and such are quite easy to use. I like the ability to change headers in wordpress, that works great for me. I do have some challenges finding wide pictures to fit the format.

    With that “look” you could get a movie going and be a big hit. Then your entourage could carry multiple flags for you.


  8. Hollyon 18 Sep 2007 at 2:22 pm

    ooh ooh I want to be in your entourage! pick me pick me!!

  9. Allisonon 18 Sep 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I hope you guys can’t see how many times a day I check your blog for updates

  10. Brittanyon 18 Sep 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Allison, you’re my fave :)
    I miss you.

  11. Jon - The DC Traveleron 19 Sep 2007 at 8:48 am

    Great list !!!
    How about adding:
    6) the classic “im’ an American” backwards turned baseball cap,
    7) Any piece of apparel with an American Flag, Harley logo or Disney World icon,
    8) the English guidebook in hand,
    9) Speaking loudly and gesturing wildly when your waiter doesn’t understand you,
    10) Complaining that the food, money, rail system, etc. aren’t like “back home”.

  12. Benon 19 Sep 2007 at 9:17 am

    Hello Jon! Those tips do round out an awesome Top 10. I think we’ve seen all 5 of your tips several times already on Crete. And of course, I am very guilty of always having the English guidebook in hand…

    But how else would I know how to properly complain about the food, money, rail system, etc. in Greek??

  13. Adamon 19 Sep 2007 at 11:56 am

    I think it’s time that you embrace your heritage, and proudly display your affinity for fanny packs and neon clothing.

  14. Soniaon 19 Sep 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Ben in hotpants and capris.

    We are waiting.

  15. Hollyon 20 Sep 2007 at 10:54 am

    Amen Sonia

  16. Benon 21 Sep 2007 at 1:25 pm

    No one said I am wearing the capris! (Hotpants match my fanny pack better). Although Brittany is needling me everyday to buy thins like capri pants. And since she also constantly strives to take pictures of me wearing things I might not wear at home… I imagine she’ll have some unfortunate pictures on here before too long.

  17. aubreyon 25 Sep 2007 at 11:08 pm

    that pic made me cry. for serious.

  18. Benon 26 Sep 2007 at 6:53 am

    Aubrey! Say wazzzup to DR1, Floor 3 for me. You’ll be happy to hear I am line-drying all my clothes…

  19. Paulon 22 Oct 2010 at 3:55 pm

    These points you make are completely true; i have a french mom and an american dad and they argue about dressing differently when they visit Europe… my dad dresses like an American just as you described (shaving, white shoes, undershirt, shorts)… and my mom points this out and makes fun of him for it… thanks for this blog post

  20. Manoj Radhakrishnanon 08 Apr 2011 at 7:22 am

    I am an Indian and I always thought I could never tell an American from an European (c’mon, everyone knows that all whites look alike :) )…. but, with just one look at this photo I stand corrected. You look so American :)

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