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What to Wear Traveling

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Nicole Adams

Clothing is a cultural language, and in every culture there are things considered inappropriate for certain situations. When traveling abroad, it’s important to be mindful of the local culture as well as the climate and terrain and dress appropriately. Different countries have different norms and expectations when it comes to clothing, and adhering to these customs can help you show respect and avoid inadvertently causing offense or attracting unwanted or uncomfortable attention. We’ll provide you with some essential tips on how to dress appropriately and comfortably when traveling abroad.

Dressing Appropriately When Traveling Abroad

We all make assumptions about people because of their clothes based on our own cultural references. At home, you can probably imagine the reactions certain outfits might elicit and dress according to your mood and preferences. No matter how you dress as a traveler, you’re a potential target for harassment, and as a new arrival, you probably aren’t emotionally or linguistically prepared to respond to these situations. While victims of harassment or crime are never responsible for inappropriate actions directed toward them, the truth is that our clothing choices can and do impact how others behave towards us. 

In a foreign context, clothes often hold new and unfamiliar meanings, so it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Before your trip, research the local culture, their clothing customs, and any religious or cultural sensitivities that may be in place. Some countries have customs that may differ from what you’re accustomed to. For example, it may be customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or establishment. Many countries also have religious sites that require visitors to dress modestly. Being aware of these customs and following them shows respect for the local cultural and religious traditions. 

Conforming to cultural norms that are not your own can be challenging- it can feel overwhelming and confusing or like you’re being forced to accept values that aren’t your own. Try to shift from an individual focused mindset to one that seeks to understand and assess this new culture without jumping to judgment. This will help you understand and build relationships with people who think differently from you. When in doubt, it’s better to dress more conservatively to avoid potential cultural misunderstandings and to create a sense of physical safety and emotional comfort for yourself. 

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What to Wear While Traveling 

Whether it’s a short flight, a long road trip, a specific activity or adventure, or to a different country and climate, choosing the right attire can significantly enhance your overall experience. Take into account the weather and climate of your destination and pack things that will keep you comfortable. In warmer regions, lightweight and breathable fabrics are essential, while colder regions will require heavier layers that take up more space in your luggage. 

Layering is a great strategy and allows you to adjust your comfort level, so you can easily adapt to different climates throughout your journey. Choose wrinkle-resistant, durable fabrics that pack, wash, dry and wear easily, and don’t take up a lot of space in your luggage. Pack versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits allowing you to pack light while maximizing your options. Opt for a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off during security checks, and a pair of comfortable, closed-toe ones that provide proper support to explore your destination upon arrival.

Accessories can elevate your outfit with a touch of style, protect you from the elements and allow you to be mindful of cultural sensitivities. A scarf, for example, can serve as a fashion statement while also providing warmth or covering your shoulders when needed. Don’t forget to bring a hat to protect yourself from the sun, and consider a crossbody bag or backpack for convenient storage of essential items.

Dressing appropriately when traveling abroad is a way to embrace and respect the local culture and ensures you’ll have a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Where There Be Dragons offers several group travel programs specifically for adults as well as student summer trips and Gap Year programs. Call 800.982.9203 or contact us with questions. 

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