How do you spot a tourist anyway?

Yes, how do you?

Let me share what I’ve observed, both as a tourist and as a tourist observer.


Most of us have been tourists at some time or another haven’t we? Some of us are oblivious to how we look. But if you come from Africa you will do all in your power to blend in to the populace so as not to stand out as a target for pick-pocketing or a con.

Tourists to Africa tend to dress in the same way – khaki coloured baggy pants – those with 2 sets of zips. One at the knee and another half-way up the thigh. 3 outfits in 1 – pants, long shorts and short shorts.

That’s quite clever actually as you’ll want to travel as lightly as possible, especially on safari.


Most alarmingly many tourists I see walk around oblivious to their surroundings. In Africa I recommend a tour group or a guide. African cities have too many places to get into trouble if you don’t know the area. Walking around with said khaki pants, camera slung over the neck and smart-phone GPS (the modern replacement to paper maps, remember those?) they are easy targets for those less well-intentioned citizens.

How not to be seen

Remember Monty Python’s skit “How Not To Be Seen?” If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must, check on YouTube – WARNING: ABSTRACT HUMOUR!

In any event – the plot goes something like this (get the full plot line here from Wikipedia):

The film starts with a serene wide shot of a landscape in which there are supposedly forty people, none of whom can be seen. The picture then changes to another serene wide shot of a different landscape. In it is Mr E. R. Bradshaw of Napier Court, Black Lion Road, London, who cannot be seen. The narrator asks him to stand up. He complies and is immediately shot. According to the narrator, “This demonstrates the value of not being seen.”

There is a cut to another landscape wide shot. In it is Mrs B.J. Smegma of 13, The Crescent, Belmont. The narrator asks her to stand up. She also complies and is immediately shot.

Next is a shot of a clearing near a wood with only one bush in the middle of the frame. Somewhere in the vicinity is Mr Nesbitt of Harlow New Town. He is asked to stand up, but contrary to the previous people, does not comply. The narrator explains that “Mr Nesbitt has learned the first lesson of not being seen: not to stand up. However, he has chosen a very obvious piece of cover.” The bush then explodes and a scream is heard.

…you get the idea…

Next month my I’m looking forward to traveling with Mom to Portugal. Here’s the funny thing. We are both Africa-born and have lived in  Africa all our lives – and have ties to Portugal.

From a culture perspective, personally I fit in. From a values perspective I don’t. I often feel like a tourist that can speak the language. It’s a distinct advantage to speak different languages: Portuguese to blend in; English when asking for directions and Afrikaans when Che and I don’t want our conversation to be overheard in public.

I know that people will be confused when they see me – my clothes and demeanour will shout “tourist” – but I speak the language and know my way around (mostly).

I hide my camera well and take it out only when I want to take a photo.

I know that taxi drivers will try and extract a higher fare from me.

Family will tease me about my accent.

And that said I’m looking forward to going there.

And I’m aiming not to be seen!

What are your tourist or tourism experiences?

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