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Looking like tourist in Spain

I've read several places to try and not dress like a tourist while in Spain. I find it hard to believe tourists don't stand out no matter where they go. So what I'm asking is who can give me some suggestions of what not to do, say and wear while in Barcelona.

Posted by
2074 posts

You can say whatever you like, as long as you say it in Catalan :-)

Joking aside, if you speak english you will stand out as a tourist. No matter what you say or don't say.

Posted by
3317 posts

Tourists do stand out wherever they go. Often it isn't just dress or language, but the lack of knowledge of community norms that are understood by locals. I live in a tourist destination in the US where we all can spot tourists, even though we are from the same country. I think what the "don't look like a tourist" advice really means is don't try to stand out more than you already do.

Volume: Americans often speak louder in public than those from other countries. If you are in a place where everyone else speaks loudly, it is less noticeable. If you are in a place where loud discussions do not normally take place in public, you stand out. You aren't doing anything different than at home, but it is perceived quite differently. Most people would benefit from raising their level of self-awareness on both volume and location for discussions while traveling.

Dress: I am not talking about a strict dress code here, but dressing modestly while on vacation is a better choice because it allows you to fit in with more local norms than wearing Daisy Dukes down the street. Sometimes dress can be something as innocent as a pink raincoat. I took the underground line from Waterloo to Bank during commuter hours in the morning. It was an impressive sight to this American. Seemingly endless neat lines of people, dressed in black, moving silently and efficiently down the stairs, onto the platform and onto the train. Then there was this lady in a pink raincoat (me). I definitely stood out in the sea of black business attire. I don't think there was any question I was a tourist.....

Sweeping statements: When I hear things like "We did (name of city) in two days, we really could have just spent one day there", I cringe. Unfortunately, I hear these sort of statements here at home and abroad all the time. It is fine to just spend 1 day in a city if that is the amount of time you have, but every location is a place where people live and is far more complex than the tourist sites. To assume that you have seen everything or that everything can be boiled down to one or two sites definitely marks a person as a tourist.

Posted by
618 posts

My favorite bit of useless advice from the web on how not to look like a tourist is to wear black. All black.

There may be a few customs you should know ahead of time but basically You are a visitor in someone esle’s home. Be kind, respectful, say please and thank you in the language, learn a few useful phrases, don’t be a jerk and avoid associating with other twits.

As to wardrobe, only a few years ago folks were saying leave your brands and neon colors home. If you watch news reports and social media from your destinations, you will see folks dress about the same the world over these days, except, of course, in those places where social norms are more important than being yourself and places where doing so can get you arrested. I’m not going there soon.

Posted by
1009 posts

As a citizen of a big city-we can spot tourists a mile away. But there is nothing wrong with that. Barcelona is filled with tourists. Just keep an eye on your wallet and be aware of your surroundings. Americans seem to be the only people who want to blend in. Enjoy Spain.

Posted by
6 posts

I grew up near Washington DC, thats why I thought the not looking like a tourist was a bit comical.

Posted by
2074 posts

Volume: Americans often speak louder in public than those from other
countries. If you are in a place where everyone else speaks loudly, it
is less noticeable.

That is an important point, keep you voice down! I don't know why, but you americans can be really loud. I remember sitting in an airport lounge waiting for a flight. I could not hear what the persons at the table next to me were talking about, but I had no problems hearing the two american women sitting 10-15 m away.

Posted by
913 posts

Being imperially slender and wearing fashionable, well fitted clothes will go a long way toward letting you fit in as a local, or at least appear to be another European until you have to open your mouth.

Posted by
128 posts

I've noticed over the years that men's pants legs have a much smaller circumference in Europe than in the US and they are virtually always black. No Dockers there or khaki colored pants. My husband really stands out. I AM a tourist and don't really care how I might look different. (I love my pink Keds!) I do watch my crossbody purse, however. I've had close calls with pickpockets in Rome and Nice. I've even experienced an attempt to rob the inside of my rolling suitcase in Barcelona while walking to the train station. So, anyplace at anytime, there are thieves. Dress the way you want.

Posted by
377 posts

I've read several places to try and not dress like a tourist while in Spain.

Which "places"?

Did they mean Spain specifically?

So what I'm asking is who can give me some suggestions of what not to do, say and wear while in Barcelona.

https://www.barcelonayellow.com/bcn-tourist/115-safety-barcelona-top-tips-pickpockets

"Barcelona has a well-known problem with many pickpockets ..."

For my first visit there, I took extra care safeguarding my wallet. Never encountered any problem for two weeks.

"We do recommend that tourists do not wear extremely expensive watches and jewellery in main shopping areas, outside popular night clubs and outside expensive hotels to avoid falling victim to gangs who target and steal very high end watches and jewellery."

I dress down, and wear no jewelry, at home or on the road.

Posted by
2266 posts

I AM a tourist and don't really care how I might look different. (I love my pink Keds!)

Same here! Except mine are pink Eccos. Nobody is going to Barcelona to check out your wardrobe - you'll be fine.

Posted by
2167 posts

The only time someone attempted to pickpocket me in my hometown of Barcelona was when I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt (an American friend gifted me) on the Metro. As soon as I confronted those pickpockets and they realised I was actually a local, they backed off. I never wore a Hawaiian shirt to the metro again lol. As a tourist, one thing is "standing out" and another is "STANDING OUT" in all caps.

Although a Hawaiian shirt in Benidorm would not be standing out, I guess it depends on where you are visiting, different clothing will look more or less out of place, i.e a beach resort town vs. a metropolitan metro.

Posted by
4677 posts

You can often tell that people are American by their footwear - particularly men. Maybe it’s because you pack light and only take one pair of shoes. Very white sneakers worn by a 70 year old is a giveaway. Plus American men often wear their tops tucked into their trousers. Men wearing money belts = Americans.

Speaking English (loudly) is another giveaway as a tourist.

Barcelona probably has more tourists than anywhere else in Spain, so why worry?

Posted by
2167 posts

Granted I was in an untouristy part of northern Barcelona when I had my Hawaiian shirt on, so I certainly stuck out more than if I was in the Barrio Gotico for example. Those Romanian pickpockets probably thought I was a lost tourist and an easy target, the shock on their faces was priceless when I cursed them out in Catalan lol!

Posted by
1606 posts

This topic comes up often enough that I have suggested a contrarian position: do your best to stand out as much as possible.
After all, what you want is to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention, and if instead you have everyone staring at you constantly, then the opportunistic thieves will not have any opportunity. Maybe.

One possible sartorial choice I enjoy is the Killer Bee costume used by John Belushi -- especially if you can get the antenna to bob around just so.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nXp3Vw3RU8

Posted by
618 posts

This topic comes up often enough that I have suggested a contrarian position: do your best to stand out as much as possible.

I wasn't going to start that particular commentary on my own but since you brought it up. My socks are neon colors and do not match. My shoes are the most obnoxious colors that Altra makes. I'm always in shorts. In all weather--shorts. Bright shirts (not tucked, sheesh). The outer layer, when needed, is a rescue orange down jacket with neon yellow gloves.

I want my RS wrangler and the rest of my group to always be aware of where the funny old guy in the silly clothes is.

Posted by
2484 posts

First of all it’s ok to look like a tourist as long as you are polite etc. You are a tourist, there is no shame in looking like it!

However if you want to blend in -your goal can’t be to pass for a local on close examination. You can’t. But you CAN blend in enough to escape close examination in the first place.

It’s more about not * looking * confused. Walk with purpose, check maps on your phone, discreetly, not on paper, be aware of your surroundings When you stop to take a photo of a landmark you will obviously be a tourist, but until then - blend in, talk quietly, be confident

-if you aren’t goinh hiking…you aren’t going hiking. That means there’s no need to wear technical clothing. shoes, hats and backpacks around a city. Normal clothes and a simple bag are sufficient. Save the hiking clothes for the mountain.

-dress neatly but casually (unless going somewhere dressy, obviously). This seems to mean more fitted clothing for men, unless wearing a very specific young-person streetwear look. If you don’t know what that means - then shorts or pants that fit, no cargo pockets, slim leg, solid or simple print top that isn’t oversize (nothing that says “Texas Rangers” or whatever). Not that locals only wear this stuff, just that it’s the most unobtrusive which if you want to blend in is the goal. Shoes are tough. It’s a know it when you see it thing. White sneakers are fashionable again but certain bulky ones look touristy while others, when worn the “right” way are stylish. It’s hard, you have to have an eye for it. In general unless you are up on fashion, simple and low profile is best.

Obviously fashiony people will mix it up, but the average tourist will do well to just be neat, wear simple fitted clothes, and not call undue attention to themselves. This will not make you look like a local but it will make you less of a target than the guy with the huge map, three size too big University of Iowa shirt and baseball cap, cargo shorts and hiking boots screaming about how he can’t find “SA-grade-eh Family”.

Posted by
2167 posts

This will not make you look like a local but it will make you less of a target than the guy with the huge map, three size too big University of Iowa shirt and baseball cap, cargo shorts and hiking boots screaming about how he can’t find “SA-grade-eh Family”.

I can confirm that this is a real person that I have seen a number of times up and down las Ramblas and the Barrio Gotico, of course they usually also have an oversized day bag from REI slung over one shoulder, which is just begging to be yanked off by some intrepid pickpocket lol!!

Posted by
104 posts

Wear pants. Spaniards rarely wear shorts when not at the beach. Maybe in august.

Posted by
152 posts

I do not worry about standing out, because I am a tourist. I dress conservatively, but I wear cloth from North American, have a camera and often a map.

We often visit areas not usually frequented by tourists and find that locals are willing to help. I think that is, in part, because we ask for help and try a few words of the local language.

A couple of our best experiences have been when, at the restaurant, we have asked for help ordering. They appreciated that we would ask for help and were more than willing to provide it to us. One time after helping us order, we ended up eating with them.

So accept you will be identified as a tourist, but act as a good ambassador for your country. Be polite, do not assume your own culture is superior and enjoy the country you are in.