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Wonder why I can't ever spot a tourist in the USA ...

Is it because we are just a big melting pot? They can sure spot me in Italy ...is our clothing THAT different?

Posted by
875 posts

I live and work in New Orleans. We sure can spot tourists here! Regardless of background, citizenship, or ethnic origin, there are some common identifying characteristics. These include: walking veeeerrryyy slowly; oblivious to traffic lights; very casual clothing, even in the middle of a work week; big ol' lanyards with convention credentials hanging from their necks; and (I kid you not) sometimes sandals with white socks. They tend to move in packs, or at least clumps, trying to sniff out gumbo and jambalaya. But we love 'em! Bring 'em on! Y'all come on down and pass a good time! (Just please don't stay in AirBnB's that are taking over so many of our historic family neighborhoods...)

Posted by
792 posts

I was thinking about a individual or couple ..not a obvious group. If I go to a little Tuscan town, before I walk in the door ...the gigs up...foreigner. In a metro, no question there are tourists. Not so in rural

Posted by
1720 posts

Jim--must be your fanny pack and "I (heart symbol) Italia" T-shirt. Oh, and the selfie stick! :)

Posted by
5701 posts

I spot lots of them but then I live a place that gets lots of tourists. For example, in AZ, they expect to swim in winter, locals don't. Same in other places I lived.
In cities they stop on sidewalks, looking around, blocking locals who are trying to get to work, things like that.

Posted by
792 posts

Bruce ...Montana...on my bucket list. What a beautiful state ..Whitefish, a visit there would be a treat

Posted by
1937 posts

and (I kid you not) sometimes sandals with white socks

OK, what is the deal here? Why the hating on my summer footwear of choice? I do, however, wear black socks.

Posted by
16769 posts

...is our clothing THAT different?

Jim, I think you just lack the deep tourist-watching experience that Europeans in popular places have, especially if they work with tourists (or are pickpockets). Differences can be subtle and maybe fashion's not your thing. An Italian will know whether it's more fashionable and typical in those parts to wear a navy blue jacket or a brown one, and then you come along in royal blue or khaki, thinking it's the same, but it's not.

Sitting at a Paris sidewalk restaurant, I could easily see the Americans wearing fashions that I could buy at home. Many were in the oft-suggested tourist uniform of sensible black walking shoes, black pants, a go-with-anything black and white scarf, and a cross-body bag. I judged the women wearing white linen dresses and unsupportive shoes to be the locals, because few people pack that for travel, even if they have it at home.

Or I travel around Italy in October wearing an Italian-made navy linen sundress (accessorized with Teva sandals and Eagle Creek bag), but the Italians have moved on to jackets and sweaters, even though it's 78 degrees.

Posted by
507 posts

I too live in the New Orleans area and my way of spotting them is their reaction to what we have here, be it architecture, food and of course Bourbon Street. Love watching friends reaction to what they see there.

I was recently in Washington DC visiting the Vietnam Memorial Wall and my friend whose name is on it. As I wandered around the Wall and the Lincoln and Korean War Memorials I took the time to watch the tourist who were there, even helping them with pictures of themselves in front of them. They all reminded me of my first time when I was so wide-eyed in front of the Colosseum, the Eifel Tower, when I climbed to the top of the Duomo in Florence and walked on Omaha Beach.

Posted by
792 posts

Laura, in general USA guys don't give a crap about "fashion" ..unless you are a millennial

Posted by
253 posts

I live near Vail Colorado, the ski resort. Tourists are easy to spot. Dress differently on the hill. My kids play guess where the tourist is from while they ride the lift. They call them gapers.

Posted by
8293 posts

In the summertime in downtown Montreal, American men of a certain age all seem to wear white shoes (not sneakers) and a white belt. Plus they are often seen entering or leaving the Ritz Carlton.

Posted by
7173 posts

I can spot them easily in the USA. Maybe your "spotting" skills just need some work.

Posted by
2092 posts

I spend a lot of time in downtown San Francisco and while I can't always pick out a female tourist I can always tell a European man by his shoes--they seem to favor a more sleek type of leather oxford/sneaker, and their hair is usually more closely cut.

Posted by
6412 posts

i can spot them in Chicago easily by the way they handle themselves on public transport and talk

Posted by
1840 posts

Here in Nashville, "generally" anyone wearing cowboy boots (and a big cowboy hat) is a tourist. But, that said, not all tourists will be dressed like that. But, it is funny to see so many think that it is a rule that they must have cowboy boots to come here. It is rare to see a local (who is not a performer) wearing them, but it does happen from time to time.

Nashville has become quite the place for bachelorette parties, so packs of cute (mostly) young ladies wearing mini dresses and cowboy boots -- very common in the downtown and tourist areas of Nashville.

But, even in the neighborhood areas, I can generally spot a tourist by how they carry themselves, how they look at things, and especially when they talk.

Taking selfies in front of iconic signs or sights is also a big clue.

Nashville loves its tourists, so ya'll come see us!!

We are growing so quickly as a city, though, there are A LOT of newcomers; but they are quickly welcomed and quickly blend in.

Posted by
5308 posts

Tourists in San Francisco -- the people turning blue from the cold wearing "summer" clothes in August.

Posted by
3304 posts

In the Los Angeles area they are SO easy to spot!
It might be clothing, the fact they they are clearly people who have spent little time in the sun, or people of certain ethnicities in neighborhoods or areas they aren't typically seen in. It's also the way people conduct themselves - hard to put my finger on but there are ways of walking and speaking to others that are just "off" from how people who live here behave.

Posted by
4444 posts

Jim, do you ever take the DC metro? The tourists are pretty easy to spot.

Posted by
15577 posts

Somehow, in downtown Seattle, you can spot the people waiting for their Alaska Cruise like they are wearing neon signs. Don't know what it is, but its just obvious.

Posted by
1059 posts

I spent 3 years in grad school in Boston ( all of my previous time was spent in Iowa & Missouri) tourists on the T (metro) would walk past 20 other people to ask ME for directions. Twice it was families who started in rapid Spanish before I negotiated them down to spanglish. So, tourists, of whatever background, can also spot the non native who might be helpful.

Posted by
133 posts

Where to begin? I'm a New Yorker, and we can spot tourists a mile away. The funny thing is, Europeans look more like us than do other Americans. New Yorkers wear dark colors, mainly black. We look either bored or indifferent to our surroundings. Tourists stop at intersections when the sign says "Don't Walk." We don't, we just look to see if the coast is clear. American tourists have different haircuts. They look as though they're on safari, with those Aussie hats or baseball caps, they wear NYC souvenir T-shirts (we wouldn't be caught dead in them) and they carry water around. Hey, folks, we have delis on practically every block. As for Europeople, one dead giveaway is the scarf when the temperature falls below, say, 70 degrees F, although delicate Manhattanites get into the scarf thing, too. Italians wear down jackets even in warm fall NY weather, Spanish tourists tend to travel in a group. The French? Well, you can just tell from the tone of their voices. But in general, the Euros look like they could live in Williamsburg, and the Americans definitely look out of place.

Posted by
3807 posts

I was so glad we visited California and SF last week of Sept into mid-Oct. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. Imagine my surprise when chatting with a cashier and they told me we picked a good time because 'summer' was cool, foggy and damp. I never would have known, and I guess people would not suspect that about SF.

On the flip side, when we got home mid-Oct, arriving 2am...we had to scrape frost off our car.

I would think in the States (and Canada) - unless you are carrying a map and have a camera around your neck, you'd most likely blend in - at least, I think I would in the North American uniform of jeans, t-shirt, ball hat and North Face jacket...lol. If you really want to look local, put on a pair of pajama pants and go out in public like that (at least, around here).

Posted by
3112 posts

I worked in central Philadelphia for several years and the tourists were easy to spot. As others have noted, it seems to be a combination of appearance and demeanour. They just look and act out of place, and that doesn't even include the easy-pickings such as those dressed more appropriately for a day of hiking, bird watching or relaxing at the beach. I think it's probaly the same everywhere - nothing unique about USA or Italy.

Posted by
13958 posts

Do you walk like you are going somewhere . . . or are you ambling along looking up at the buildings? Locals are usually concentrating on getting somewhere, maybe looking at passersby or glancing in shop windows. Tourists are usually gawking, even if they aren't using a camera or a map.

And regarding clothes, in Europe it's very often the shoes that make the difference.

Posted by
5005 posts

I wonder if a European Rick Steves would recommend that European travelers to the US gain 10 kilos in weight, wear offensive t-shirts and communicate through surly shouting, in order to blend in.

Posted by
1068 posts

I wonder if a European Rick Steves would recommend that European travelers to the US gain 10 kilos in weight, wear offensive t-shirts and communicate through surly shouting, in order to blend in.

I doubt it. Rick seems to want people to have a "local" or "real" experience, which isn't the same as acting or dressing like a local. Plus, I doubt a Euro RS would condone rude or obnoxious behavior. Bad manners is bad manners no matter where it is the norm.

Posted by
628 posts

Laura, in general USA guys don't give a crap about "fashion" ..unless
you are a millennial

Jim, yup! I live with one ha ha.

Posted by
261 posts

"maybe my big red VT baseball cap"

Yep, that would do it. Italian men don't wear baseball caps quite as much as American men do. Plus, Italian men look Italian.

Tons of tourists in NYC from all over the world. Not too difficult to spot. I can't count how many map holders I've helped through the years, in a variety of languages. Just the other day I helped a Japanese family who accidentally boarded an uptown N train when they thought they were going to the Freedom Tower. 34th street was the next stop, and knowing you have to take the stairs underground to get to the downtown trains, I exited my train to walk them to the correct platform. They were so grateful. Barely spoke a word of English and my Japanese is very limited. It's fun to wonder how they got through the rest of their trip.

Posted by
7735 posts

Stan, I thought your joke was funny.

And, Jim, I've had Italian friends say that there are many dead give-aways to spot tourists in Italy. Here are some of the things they notice that might not occur to you:
Haircut
Smiling
Amount and type of eye contact
and other impossible to describe nonverbal differences

Posted by
792 posts

Stan,
Haircut: not much hair on my head to cut.
Smiling: I don't walk around with a smile on my face, but Italians return a smile
Eye contact: I don't stare neither do they
Non verbal differences: That is the big one, who knows?

But what a fabulous country and people. Love it when I am there

Posted by
2290 posts

Obviously it's easy to tell a tourist when he/she is doing touristy things. The guy staring at famous buildings with a guidebook. Person with a map looking lost. Being confused by the particulars of a transit ticket. In line for a major tourist sight. Clearly tourists.

The interesting part comes when we think about how to recognize a tourist when they aren't doing tourist things - when they are at a restaurant or concert or area frequented by everyone, locals and tourists. It's in nuances of fashion, especially shoes. Hairstyles. Physical appearance (no matter what I do I will not pass for a local in Sweden, but can do so in Spain). Behavior (there's a comfort that one projects in familiar environments). When I am in NY I can spot many American women tourists by their hair. There's a particular very-styled, "done up" quality that is different than local styles. I can't quite explain it but it's clearly there. I'm sure Italians recognize some similar type of fashion or appearance clue. I'm thinking shoes and fit of pants. And layers. Italian men rarely seem to wear just pants and a shirt. There's a scarf or sweater or vest or something else. These things are subtle and not everyone is interested enough to notice. I like fashion and clothing so notice. Not in a judgemental way, but in an interested observer way.

Posted by
11551 posts

I wonder if a European Rick Steves would recommend that European
travelers to the US gain 10 kilos in weight, wear offensive t-shirts
and communicate through surly shouting, in order to blend in.

I know it's a joke (LOL) but honestly, I've seen plenty of very portly, badly dressed and/or loud tourists who were NOT Americans at some of the attractions on our trips. For instance, I remember a guard having to reprimand a quartet of very noisy French-speaking women three times at the Van Gogh in Amsterdam. It was a trio of very drunk, very loud Dutch men who kept us awake half the night at a hotel in Rome.

We saw them check out the next morning, and they all looked painfully hung over. Served 'em right. :O)

Posted by
1217 posts

I live in northern Florida, and one of the tourist-local spotting points is whether you're wearing pants when the air temperature gets below about 75F. (When summers are as brutal as they are here, it's kind of exciting to get to the time of the year when you can comfortably wear jeans outside)

We also do our fair share of vacations to US Nationals Parks, and the more crowded ones will often show you where national stereotypes come from. You shall know the German men by their rather Bavarian-looking hats and their tendency to ignore the signs that say 'Danger!!! 200 foot drop off ahead!!!' the French women for being very thin and yet oddly flabby and the Japanese folks who do indeed get so into trying to get the perfect photo with their high end camera that they almost get taken out by a Zion NP shuttle bus.

But they're all getting out of their comfort zone to see the world, and are often quite fun to talk to if you can find a common language.

Posted by
741 posts

But they're all getting out of their comfort zone to see the world...

And, really, isn't that what this forum is all about?

Posted by
723 posts

I wear socks with sandals because it's more comfortable :)

When we were in Italy in September we did a bike & barge trip and ended up visiting towns like Mantua, Adria, Ferrara & Chioggia - places most US citizens let alone people not from Italy would visit - I could spot the Italian tourists in these town as easily as I can spot tourists in Seattle who are from the US. It's just something about being a tourist - middle of the day sightseeing, hanging out with your kids in the middle of the day, looking UP or waiting for crosswalks lights - whatever it is - it is AND I'm not sure of the implication but it's not a bad thing to be a tourist or traveler or visitor.

Posted by
287 posts

re: carrying a map, that's one of the things I like about traveling with my smartphone. No dead-giveaway map on display.

The water bottle thing surprises me. I carry one around at home too, both for eco-friendly reasons (a refillable one) and because I'm a singer and we tend to drink a lot of water.

Posted by
2954 posts

Laughing and Laughing. You must not live in a tourist destination. I do and we can spot them pretty darn easily. Usually by the way they drive or what they think the important sites are.

Posted by
2681 posts

It’s a number of factors but clothing and behavior are telltale signs. You can’t hide the fact that you’re a tourist, but you can blend in. There are places in Europe where I won’t wear jeans because the locals my age don’t typically wear them. Same goes for shorts or sandals, and never a logo t-thirt. Leave the I love the USA and U.S. sports teams’ shirts and hats at home. Those scream tourist. Even shoes can be a giveaway. Carrying a map and a camera around the neck, as well as entering those tourist shops locals wouldn’t enter all say tourist too. Then of course, is the stereotypical ugly American who thinks everybody should know English, or are just obnoxious.

Posted by
838 posts

Melissa,
Agree about the water bottle. Most commuters in DC carry theirs around or have one in a bag. As you say, though, mine’s refillable. I think tourists are more likely to have plastic Poland Spring or Deer Park bottles. I walk past a Crowne Plaza every morning on my way to the office. The tourists are in groups of twos, threes, and fours and are dressed casually with their Starbucks cups clutched tightly in their hands.

Posted by
83 posts

I live in New York.

Tourists are the ones who stop at the top of escalators or in the middle of sidewalks.

Posted by
2427 posts

I see tourists all over Boston. It is their behavior more than their clothes, and their accents. I'm always available to help them. I love that there are tourists in Boston and, consequently, I always assume citizens of foreign cities love me as a tourist as well. Everyone is nice to me when I travel, so I try to be extra nice to tourists here. ( And, on the side, Boston, as does any US tourist city, has pickpockets.)

Posted by
8293 posts

In response to erodgerg , above, who can always spot tourists in his city of new York. I can always spot the real New .yorkers. They are the ones who, when I open a door to enter a restaurant, sail in ahead of me, as if I had opened the door for them. Without a thank you, I might add.

Posted by
2525 posts

Norma: you need to visit small towns around my area where strangers happily open doors for each other, smile (genuinely), etc.

Posted by
8293 posts

OK, Bruce. Always appreciate a genuine smile.

Posted by
83 posts

Norma - You have to come up with something better than "All New Yorkers are rude" cliche. It's pretty old.

BTW I love Montreal. I think it's a wonderful city and have been there several times. Yet someone turned a corner and spit on my foot as they walked by (they didn't know I was there). Do all of the natives spit in public?

Posted by
2565 posts

In New York City (midtown Manhattan) American tourists are pretty easy to spot, and the same is often true for European and Latin American ones. Of course, I'm only aware of the ones that are fairly conspicuous; I'm sure there are many more who blend in. The main tipoff is that they're walking around on a work day wearing leisure clothing, often equipped for a woodlands hike. Most non-tourists are in midtown on work days for work, and are dressed accordingly.

When I am a tourist in any major city I take my cue and dress in office-appropriate attire. That actually led to an amusing situation when my husband and I were in Washington, DC because a couple of different groups of tourists approached us with questions, thinking we worked for the Secret Service or something.

Posted by
663 posts

Doesn't your local pickpocketing association offer some continuing education classes on these things? O.k., here are some basics:

You might want to start practicing on elderly tourists since they are the easiest ones to spot. They dress conservatively, same way they have dressed all their lives. And since they have more time to travel, being retired, their percentage among tourists is above average, so that also increases your chances of spotting them. Younger tourists are more streamlined by all watching the same TV shows and following the same global fashion rules, so that makes it more difficult to tell them apart.

  • Start out with the shoes. You won't see elderly Europeans wearing white tennis shoes. White tennis shoes are a sure giveaway that you are dealing with Americans. Look for brown leather walking shoes in Europeans. Elderly men sometimes still fall victim to this most horrible fashion sin of all, socks and sandals. Elderly women with foot issues may wear ugly health sandals. It's o.k. to feel sorry for them, not because of their foot issues but because nice sandals for women with foot issues are simply nonexistent.

  • Next thing, the hair. Elderly American ladies love to have this hugely backcombed mass of hair (think Sylvia Fine in "The Nanny"). It's getting less than in former years, but still European ladies usually wear their hair in a much more flat and modest style. Except for the very old ladies who still get that same perm on their thin hair that they've been getting for fifty years. But those are usually too old to travel much any more.

  • Now here's a really obvious giveaway: the makeup. Ten times as much on American ladies than on European ladies, who oftentimes will wear none at all. I know this is a tough one for men because the Y chromosome somehow seems to disable the visual ability to detect makeup. You know, all these men who say "I love women who are just their natural self", and then fall for the most heavily made up woman around.

  • The blouses: Now here comes the American fashion sin: For some mysterious reason, I still see American ladies with their blouses tucked into their pants. Not sure why they would want to do that. Maybe since it has taken them such hard work to grow their bellies and their hips, they really want to show them off. European ladies with the same size bellies and hips will tend to wear their blouses hanging loosely over their pants.

O.k. now, that should be enough for lesson one. Get out there and practice.

/to myself/ Maybe I should consider a new career...

Posted by
663 posts

Lesson 2, advanced level: How to tell tourists apart by latitude.

Imagine yourself strolling through a beautiful Northern European city like Reykjavik, Hamburg, or Oslo. The temperatures are at a pleasant 20°C. You pass by a café that has a lovely outdoor seating area with a beautiful view. In the indoor seating area, a group of people are huddled in thick sweaters, drinking hot tea.

Please answer the following question: Which latitude are these people from?

  • Sweden, Siberia, Alaska
  • Italy, Spain, Florida

Now imagine yourself strolling through a beautiful Southern European city like Naples, Malaga, or Thessaloniki. The temperatures are at a freezing 20°C. You pass by a café that has a lovely indoor seating area with a beautiful view. In the outdoor seating area, a group of people is having ice cream, wearing tank tops and shorts.

Please answer the following question: Which latitude are these people from?

  • Sweden, Siberia, Alaska
  • Italy, Spain, Florida
Posted by
13958 posts

Thank you Anna for a few smiles and even a laugh or two.

Posted by
4444 posts

Thanks Anna. Given the fact that I wear unattractive, functional leather walking shoes, have flat hair, no make-up, and wear my blouses untucked, it sounds like I won't be recognized as an American tourist until I open my mouth and start talking :)

Posted by
98 posts

In his 2013 book "Italian Ways", Tim Parks noted that native Italians could invariably mark him as a British. This despite the fact that he had lived in Italy for 30 years, spoke excellent Italian (with a Milanese accent), wore Italian clothes and was otherwise physically indistinguishable from any other Northern Italian. The only place this did not happen was in Sicily, but that was likely because they simply knew he wasn't Sicilian and nothing else mattered beyond that.

Posted by
792 posts

This country ..USA ..is so diverse and a mix of cultures. Unless there is a obvious diversion from the norm in your location ..you don't know

Posted by
298 posts

When I moved to NYC I was told never look up at the buildings, don't look at a map in public and don't tell anyone the time. That is how you can tell who the tourists are :) Since moving to California it is more - if a person is wearing shorts and it is 70 degrees they are the tourists. I'll bring 3 layers of clothing to go to Disneyland in June, my sister's family will be in tank tops and shorts all day.

Posted by
3112 posts

Regarding smartphones versus maps, it's virtually the same. Tourists now stare at the GPS on their phones instead of looking at maps. Of course locals (especially young people) stare at their smartphones, but not in the same way. It's easy to tell the difference.

Posted by
668 posts

In the little town of Annapolis MD, where I grew up, tourist spotting was sort of a game we use to play. If its a group and they are all eating ice cream cones... they were tourists. If they parked in the expensive lot right in the harbor, they were tourists. If anyone, pointed to something as a direction, they were tourists. If they bought anything at the overpriced harbor sea food market, they were tourists. :)