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Blending In With The Locals

I personally think that blending in is the next step after fitting in: the goal is that no one can guess that you are a foreigner without hearing your accent. After having enough time to enjoy being a tourist, it’s time to look like a local. Even though I’m not a spy or anything like that, I want to be invisible. It makes me proud that I’ve gone further in my “integration process”. Also, that saves me from some annoying things like people who just see you as a wallet and try to sell you some tourist traps.

Key advice: OBSERVATION is your best friend to become a chameleon.

blending in spy

ACT LIKE THEM

I look around me and I can see the way people walk in the street, the means of transport they use, the way they behave, and so on. The most difficult one is probably to observe what they DON’T do that could get me busted. It’s a weird feeling (but also a great one) when people ask for my help to know where they should get out of the bus because they think I’m a typical Italian student in my daily life (which I have been for a few months so far). I’m always trying to seem like I know what I’m doing or where I am going, but of course if I don’t, I just ask.

LOOK LIKE THEM

A chameleon changes color according to the environment, so why shouldn’t we change colors too? The colors of our clothes, obviously. Now that the fashion is standardized with internet and social medias, the “fashion gap” isn’t that big in the westernized countries. Since I have a simple fashion style consisting especially of dark colors, it’s quite easy for me. However, I found myself buying some sparkling clothes and super high heel shoes this year, which I wouldn’t have bought before. I try to keep my style ordinary and same for my hair.

blending in chameleon

I must admit that being Caucasian and going to countries in which Caucasian people are a majority, I’ve never had problems blending in because of my skin color. But I know it can happen. As an example, my mother couldn’t walk down the street in Thailand (far from tourist areas) without a bunch of people staring at her. The only comment I got so far in Italy was from a sales assistant who heard me speaking another language and she thought I was English because I’m “very pale with freckles”.

TALK LIKE THEM

Speaking the language is essential to blending in. And to go further, using the lingo that people ACTUALLY SPEAK. I mean if you’re making complicated sentences in formal language and stuff like that it’s obvious that you don’t live here. Your academic way of speaking is not natural for locals. I try to remember the most common phrases and also swear words (you’ll memorize them before anything else). They can use them all the time, why wouldn’t I? Of course, NO EXAGGERATION! I must adapt my language to the context.

Also, your accent shows you come from another country, but if you speak the common language then it doesn’t mean you’re not a local. I must admit that sometimes it’s convenient being the foreigner, like when it comes to homework, for example. Teachers won’t be crossed if I do  it wrong.

Now it’s your turn to become a chameleon!

blending in disappear

Images: Giphy.com

Profile photo of Ondine

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Ondine Romanini

Ondine is a 17 year-old student currently in Italy for one year. She was born in Paris and raised in Challans (western part of France). Since her father is half Italian and her mother has traveled a lot, she has always enjoyed traveling. She discovered her will to study abroad during the visit of an American High School while being on vacation in the US at 14. When she was 15, she had been an exchange student in Australia for 2 months. Back home, she decided to go for it again in Italy. She would like to go to uni abroad and study Communication Science. Ondine has a youtube channel : " Ondine quand ? " in which she talks about her experiences (in English).


26 comments

  1. Wow, it looks like you’ve definitely done your fair share of traveling (I read your bio)! I love your tips on blending in, too – I haven’t had the opportunity to do much traveling, but these definitely seem like good ways to blend in.

  2. It never really occurred to me to TRY to fit in with locals and not be 100% myself. I am a prior military member who lived in a number of countries over the period of 7 years. I never felt like I didn’t belong either. Over time you naturally kind of take on the language a bit, which helps. These would be great tips though for extended stays or for people who were bothered by being different, but I find that most cultures will embrace difference – there are many places that do it quite well and lovingly. 🙂

    1. Well you definitely have a point. Personally I still feel 100% myself because it became a part of me to observe and to be a “chameleon”. However, I will always be “the French gal” with friends and people I know because it’s a part of me too. With this process I don’t try to change the inside but the outside because I don’t feel like I need to look a certain way to be myself (and I didn’t have to change a lot in the countries I’ve been to) but I know it’s not that way for everyone. Of course you’re right this article is more for extended stays because it reflects my point of view so my experience. Also, I said “process” but actually it came naturally to me with observation but in this post I tried to break how I’ve done into some points.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion, it’s really interesting ! 😀

  3. I totally agree, for me the most interesting part is of using the same language as the people around you if you want to fit the environment. Sometimes you can even speak the same English language, but it’s totally different in different states and diff parts of the world where it’s used as the first or second lang.

  4. You are absolutely right about blending in when on vacation so that the locals won’t take advantage of you. The only problem is if you cannot speak the language.

    1. Ahah yes I wrote “After having enough time to enjoy being a tourist, it’s time to look like a local.” so I thought about being a tourist first ahahah. It depends how much time you stay.and what kind of adventure it is (exploring or exchange student) 😉 Thanks for your comment !

  5. It would be nice to blend in so that you won’t get as much stares as you do when you travel to a country for the first time. I think these are great tips! It was also a good read.

  6. I just moved to Norway for one year..I am going to start a Norwegian course to be more integrated in Norwegian culture! Hope I can learn something, it’s such a difficult language for Italian mother tongue….

  7. I don’t mind not blending in. I am a black woman who has lived in Asia and Europe, I’m going stand out. I think its more important in the way I handle it. Its an opportunity to learn another culture and if I learn it well enough, eventually my neighbors have accepted me as a sister from another motherland.

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