Right after we got married, I went down to Kmart to replace my diamond wedding ring with an inexpensive gold band.
“It’s just for the duration of our trip to India,” I reassured Rich. “In a place where people have so little, it just doesn’t seem appropriate — or safe — to wear good jewelry.”
“Why wear a ring at all?” he asked.
“So they’ll know we’re married,” I said. “I don’t want people to think I’m cheap.”
“Great. Now they’ll think I’m cheap.”
Today, I no longer bother with a fake wedding ring. At my age, I’m more likely to excite admiration than censure if people think I’m engaged in amorous dalliance. But I am still conscious of the fact that people I meet on the road take one glance at my attire and make assumptions about who I am and whether they want to get to know me better. It’s human nature. In Seville and on the road, I find life is easier, more fun, and likelier to involve friendly encounters if I refrain from making certain fashion statements.
1. Shirts with political slogans. Yes, you have a perfect right to parade around Paris in a t-shirt that reads: “Snails don’t have a backbone. French leaders eat snails. You are what you eat.” And the French have a perfect right to take offense and shun you.
2. A vest with multiple exterior pockets. Outer pockets bulging with cameras, wallets, and designer sun glasses shout, “Easy pickings! Get there first!” When shopping for a travel vest, look for one that lets you tuck away valuables discreetly in zippered compartments on in the inside.
3. Safari wear. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of khaki, but showing up in a sophisticated city like Milan or London wearing an outfit designed for big game hunting in Tanzania suggests that you are seriously out of sync with local culture.
4. Sweatpants and gym shorts. Like safari gear, workout clothes are not commonly worn on the street in many parts of the world, and people may consider them odd and inappropriate.
5. Porn star-style clothing. Appearing on the streets of a socially conservative town dressed as if you were auditioning for the lead in a remake of “Debbie Does Dallas” may force you to waste time fending off unwanted attention from strangers, including the police.
6. Expensive jewelry. A bit of low-cost bling is fine, but flashing around serious gold and gemstones invites attention from thieves. It can also be a barrier to connecting with locals who make less in a year than you spent on your smallest nose ring.
7. Brand new shoes or hiking boots. Hobbling around with break-in blisters is never fun, but it’s a lot worse during long days of sightseeing or nights painting the town. It's painful for you and everyone who sees you. Besides, you really don’t want to have to cut short your only chance to tango in Buenos Aires because, as we Americans like to put it, “your dogs are barking.”
Fashion varies wildly from place to place and year to year, so it pays to do your research. When I first arrived in Seville, no one over the age of 18 would be caught dead wearing blue jeans or sneakers; today, both are European wardrobe essentials. As a young girl I was told, “No gentleman should ever see a lady’s undergarments except for erotic purposes.” Now bra straps peek out from clothing everywhere, even in church. But friendliness is always in style, and I suspect you’ll still find it easier to enjoy yourself abroad if your wardrobe says “cheers” instead of “huh?” or “merde.”
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9/22/2015 09:25:53 am
If you are going to the Philippines and would be interested in working here, you could seek help from a visa consulting firm in the Philippines and get the Philippine 9g visa or working visa. You don't need to pack everything you own when moving in here because you can buy what you may need here too. Maybe get those things at a much cheaper price.
9/23/2015 02:18:55 pm
I love your tips! It is very wise not to bring expensive jewellery. It is really important to check the weather,too. It is not very appropriate to arrive in London with short skirt and swimwear top. Greetings :)
9/24/2015 09:34:52 am
Good point about the weather, Eileen! I'm from San Francisco, and every summer thousands of tourists show up in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops, and are freezing in the cold foggy weather blowing in off the ocean. It's great for the city's economy; we sell tons of sweatshirts. When we see people in I (heart) SF sweats, we always think, "Ah, didn't read the weather report!"
9/29/2015 04:25:23 pm
LOL :) It is really funny :)
6/30/2016 12:50:31 pm
This is really true, we can't wear heavy and most expensive jewelery in India. As I heard a lot about it. Thanks for sharing the informative post.
7/1/2016 08:29:41 am
Glad you liked the post, Alina! At times, the way we dress and accessorize just have to be adjusted for different environments, as you found in India.
5/20/2019 02:23:39 pm
thank you so much for the ideas. I used to pack a lot of sweatpants before but not anymore! a very informative piece of work.
5/21/2019 06:58:36 am
So glad you found the information helpful, Lisa! Happy travels.
2 month long trip this time last year, 5 winter shirts (same shirt different colors), 5 leggings, 3 tank tops, 2 t’s 2 shorts for sleeping/lounging, 1 boot, 1 shoe, 1 flip flop, toiletries, phone. TINY Backpack. Best 2 months of my life. Haven’t worn any of those clothes since because i was sick of them, but i don’t care!! Black on black= going out, learn to do a cute quick updo so you don’t need a straightener. Be a minimalist on the road- you will thank yourself. Great post!
1/7/2020 07:27:31 pm
I am just reading this from 4 or 5 years ago. Do you think everything still holds up? I saw so many women wearing what I call exercise pants and really skimpy revealing tops in Greece two years ago. In France, Germany and Austria in 2019 I saw some women in exercise clothes as well.
1/8/2020 08:42:57 am
You're so right, Catherine; fashion standards are changing and now work-out wear and visible undergarments are the norm in many European cities. Regrettable, in my opinion, but those are the sartorially challenged times we live in. I prefer a slightly more conventional look, with as you say a few bright colors to keep it interesting. Here's what I wrote about packing for our 5-month trip (originally planned for 4 months) https://www.enjoylivingabroad.com/my-blog/packing-1-small-carry-on-for-4-months-on-the-road. And here's another post about how it all worked out and lessons learned. https://www.enjoylivingabroad.com/my-blog/packing-tips-from-161-days-on-the-road
3/10/2022 05:07:45 am
This is a very informative—edifying article to all. Thanks a lot! Continue to post!
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
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