Do You Pack to Fit In?

Should matching local fashion be part of your packing requirements? I debate whether packing to fit in is self-aware or self-conscious.
packing to fit in

I’ve often thought that being able to blend in with locals was the mark of packing a great travel capsule wardrobe. Who wants to look like a tourist and besides, isn’t the goal of proper packing to have the right clothing for the right context, no matter where you are?

Very often when I pack, I look up how locals dress so I can match the city and the mood. It’s fun! I get to play into a theme for my trip and be a little different than I am in Montreal. In Florence, I was very ladylike. In California, I wear more colour, in New York, I can be trendy, and in Kansas City, I pack more playful and relaxed outfits.

My desire to blend in is also driven by a fear of looking like a tourist. This is purely motivated by pride because I despise looking like I don’t know what’s going on, or that I might be an easy target.

The truth is, however, that it’s hard to control how you’re perceived. People always know. Of course, here in Bulgaria, I blend in more than I would in Asia or Africa, but I definitely don’t look Bulgarian. I may have mastered public transportation, and the fact that I have a purpose in this city gives me a confident stride, but I would have to change a lot to fit in. I smile at people, I drink coffee on the metro, and, the most obvious one, I don’t read or speak the language.

So, should matching local customs be part of your packing requirements? Are you being smart and self-aware or afraid and self-conscious?

I still think there is room to be inspired by a destination’s fashion for aesthetic and functional reasons. There are lessons to be learned on why hotter climates prefer linen over polyester and light colours over black. It’s also an opportunity to wear something different, like a big floppy sun hat, or bright dresses, because I don’t wear those things in Montreal.

capsule-suitcase-fitting-in

It’s also a sign of respect to conform to the standards of modesty, especially when visiting religious sites. I’m all about being unapologetically you, but you also want your travels to be as smooth and carefree as possible, and sometimes that means drawing less attention to yourself.

I’ve found my happy medium. I want to look like myself, wear my own hand-picked clothes, and not buy all new items for every trip. At the same time, I research what I’m going to be doing, what would be practical for that destination, and some photos of local fashion, so I can prepare myself for just how much I’m going to stand out.

What about you, do you pack to fit in?

fitting in while traveling

Sunglasses by Ray-Ban, black dress by Mango, both pairs of shoes by Everlane.

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4 Responses

  1. This. I think this is so important! Although you’ll be pinpointed as a foreigner as soon as you open your mouth to speak, at least you’ll be much safer in crowds if you blend in like a local. They seem have died down, but I used to love scrolling through the “Cycle Chic” city pages for inspiration from everyday people. What are your current favorite city-style resources?

    1. Yes, exactly! I like blending in, I feel safer and cooler ?. I search “street style [insert city] on Instagram and Pinterest to find the local style blogs or ask for tips in FB travel groups like The Everyday Adventure, Travel Fashion Girl, or Girls Love Travel.

  2. Thanks for this thought-provoking piece:)

    I can’t say I research as much as you do (although I think I might start making more of an effort!), but I do try to blend in as much as possible when I travel, especially to avoid being a target – you’re more likely to be taken advantage of if you look like a tourist. Ironically, I make the most effort to fit in when I go back home to visit my family in Ghana. I usually pack a lot of modest, brightly coloured clothes (black is traditionally only worn to funerals so wearing them in public is a faux pas). I say ironically not just because it’s my home country, but because after all that effort, people still think I’m a foreigner!

    1. Haha, thanks for sharing your personal experience Marilyn! That’s funny that no matter how hard you try, people always know. I wonder how many people humour me when I’m convinced I blend in. I love learning about colour cues like the fact that black is only for funerals. I learned from my Chinese friends that white was a funeral colour, a good reminder to look into these customs before packing!

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Hi, my name is Andrea and I'm a digital content creator. I'm obsessed with packing light without sacrificing an ounce of style. Follow my adventures as I share my tips for curating the perfect travel capsule wardrobe that fits in a carry-on!

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Hi, my name is Andrea and I’m a digital content creator who works in tech, loves fashion, and travels a lot. I’m obsessed with packing light without sacrificing an ounce of style. This blog was born from a desire to share my tips and tricks from years of business travel and travelling on a budget. Follow my adventures as I share advice for curating the perfect travel capsule wardrobe that fits in a carry-on, travelling comfortably without breaking the bank, and staying healthy along the way. 

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