Like many of my fellow University of South Dakota students, I am preparing to travel overseas this summer to study. Anyone else who is doing this is aware of the stress that comes along with making all the necessary arrangements can cause. Figuring out travel costs, compiling the necessary legal documents and trip planning can take up so much time that the smaller things have a tendency to get overlooked.
One of the things often left by the wayside is clothing choices. I know at first this may sound slightly ridiculous, but you need to take fashion into consideration when you are traveling abroad.
There are three major reasons for this: cultural differences, environment and blending in.
The first one is kind of a given. Different cultures have different ideas about what is and is not acceptable attire, particularly for women. While it may be okay here to wear a short skirt, it is out of the question in a lot of countries.
If you do not adhere to certain cultural norms, you will be perceived as rude and disrespectful and treated accordingly.
The surrounding environment should always be taken into consideration. If you’re traveling to a tropic country like Costa Rica, pack clothing made of lightweight fabrics that will air dry easily. You might not have access to a dryer.
When I went to Costa Rica in high school, we got caught in a storm while horseback riding and were soaked head to toe. A lot of people had clothes completely ruined by mildew because they were too heavy to dry in a tropical environment.
Blending in is very important too. In many countries, pickpockets tend to target people who look out of place. I learned during my trip to Paris that Americans have a very distinct sense of style and stand out like sore thumbs. This can be bad for the reason I just mentioned.
It can also make you feel incredibly awkward when everyone is staring at you.
Take the time to research the place you’re going and how people dress there. Run a quick Google search of the location you’re going and “appropriate clothing” if you’re going somewhere in Asia or the Middle East. Anyone headed to a tropical destination can do a general search on what are good and bad ideas for what to wear are.
If you’re going somewhere in Western Europe, you might not need to do as much research. That is not to say you shouldn’t do any. I personally have been checking in with French fashion magazines since I’m studying in Pau. I’ve also found running searches for “how to not dress like a tourist in Europe” have been helpful.
Happy travels and remember to think before you pack.
Reach Betsey Horton at Elizabeth.Horton@usd.edu