life tales

5 ways to not look like a Tourist in New York

1 October, 2017

So, the last few months have flown. And they have been so incredibly full, that I have been so guilty of letting this little piece of my life untouched. I feel as though I have come back from New York with this renewed energy and focus on adventure. I’ve been a tourist in my own city almost – going to local shows, going on adventures with friends, and generally filling in life with all the wonderful things about home. Getting back into reality isn’t that hard when you try to live like you are travelling in some respects.  

When I travel, there is nothing that I love more than being mistaken for a local. You know what I mean. The tour guide operators don’t try to shove pamphlet in your face, people stop to ask you for directions as if you know what you’re doing. You don’t look like a tourist, because you are not acting like one. Kind of like how you are at home when you’re doing touristy things. 


Obviously, in countries like Vietnam, there is no way that’s going to happen – and as soon as I open my mouth overseas my accent (however subtle it is) gives me away. But when I travelled through Europe and in New York, I had the luxury of blending in and being able to experience the places I was visiting like a local (when I didn’t have to speak). New York in particular felt so unbelievably comfortable and familiar, that it was easy to slip into the day to day life of any New Yorker. I loved asking the locals what their favourite thing to do in the city was on their days off, and finding those hidden little gems that Trip Advisor hadn’t quite picked up yet.

Like any new place though, there are always little nuances that you have to learn to really blend in. And New York had quite a few of those. I was so surprised when I arrived at just how many domestic tourists were in the city, and how few international tourists there were. And what surprised me more was just how obvious it was they were American tourists.

Whilst I must admit I took a lot of obligatory tourist shots – and had a fair few tourist moments, here are the things I recommend doing in New York to blend in with the locals. 

  1. Jay Walk. Sorry Mum, but it’s true. The red man at a pedestrian crossing is more a friendly suggestion in New York
  2. Use your phone. Everybody else does. I’m not saying walk around with your eyes glued to your screen – you would pretty much miss the entire experience.
  3. Dress like you would at home. I know you’re travelling and probably walking a lot more than normal, so you want to wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes. But take it from experience, you will a) look back at photos of yourself wearing ridiculous shoes that don’t match your outfit and cringe and b) look like you don’t belong, and c) stand out amongst people outside of any tourist trap in a city that just knows how to dress. Plus, if you’re not wearing what you usually do, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable anyway. If you want to get an idea of what people are wearing in New York, just go on Pinterest and type in “New York Street Style”. Anything goes really. But you’ll notice that New Yorkers always completely own their style.
  4. Walk with purpose. It doesn’t matter where you’re going. You could be completely lost. But if you walk with purpose, then you make yourself far less vulnerable.
  5. Don’t wear an I Heart New York t-shirt. Sure, I bought quite a few to bring home to family. But there is not way on earth I would have joined the families of domestic tourists from Carolina wearing one. Try getting into a rooftop bar wearing one of those. I dare you.

Ultimately the best way not to look like a tourist is to act confident – even if you don’t feel it. The more I travel, the more I realise just how true this is. And New Yorkers in particular own themselves. When you hesitate, you really open yourself up to being an easy tourist target. The world is not as big and scary as it seems at times. 

Throwing yourself into the life and culture of a city is the best way to fully experience it. 

xx Elizabeth 

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  • Reply Kristy from Southern In Law 4 October, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    Haha I love this! Is it illegal to jay walk in NYC? I never jaywalk… well.. only sometimes in our quiet suburb.. as police are strict in the city – and in Hawaii they are super strict apparently so we never did there either. Goody two shoes 😂

    Whenever I travel, I ALWAYS pack either Volleys or Vans or some kind of canvas sneaker because they’re super comfortable – but they don’t look totally ridiculous and touristy!

    • Reply Travelling Table Tales 21 January, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      It probably is. But the police have other things to worry about and so many people do it, it would be almost impossible to control!
      That’s a great thing to pack! I just got my first pair of converse, so they will be coming with me next time I travel. x

  • Reply Claire B. 6 October, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Your pictures from your trip are just so lovely, Liz! I have to admit I’m not so great at blending in as a tourist, wherever I go. But “walking with purpose” definitely helps, even if I don’t know where I’m going!

    • Reply Travelling Table Tales 21 January, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you so much. It’s tricky to blend in sometimes. Especially when you are so in awe of the place you are visiting! x

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