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  #81  
Old 02.06.2012, 01:05
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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When talking to the locals ask first if they speak English
And learn how to ask it in the language of the canton
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  #82  
Old 02.06.2012, 09:28
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Hey Guys!

Do you think we have gnawed, chewed, nibbled, munched, manducated, masticated, grinded, eroded this subject to death by now!?
All appropriate verbs for a Rat(bag)
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  #83  
Old 02.06.2012, 09:59
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

Just leave me (and my hangover out of it for today).
Just off to the bottle bank with a bagful of empties (obviously)

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All appropriate verbs for a Rat(bag)
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  #84  
Old 02.06.2012, 10:01
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

Actually, it's a pretty pathetic post. Just being yourself.
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  #85  
Old 02.06.2012, 10:18
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Actually, it's a pretty pathetic post. Just being yourself.
.....unless you can be Batman; always be Batman.

http://weknowmemes.com/2012/03/the-m...can-be-batman/
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Old 02.06.2012, 10:31
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

Wanna dance?


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Actually, it's a pretty pathetic post. Just being yourself.
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  #87  
Old 02.06.2012, 10:36
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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I would like to, however, take it to a higher level if possible. How can I avoid being pegged as an American without anyone even talking to me? I realize I shouldn't wear obviously American identifiable clothes like team logo sportswear, shorts with white socks and tennis shoes, or an Aloha print shirt and a camera around my neck. So, what are the subtle things I can avoid wearing or doing? I know I won't be able to pass as a native, but I would like to be able to avoid being instantly tagged as an American. Any hints or suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks much.
You don't need to worry. Most Swiss love the Americans, plus they don't mind white socks or whatever t-shirts. Oh wait, you want to visit the French part. Then OK, don't wear this stuff, but otherwise, you'll get by with just being yourself.
Relax...and have fun!
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  #88  
Old 02.06.2012, 11:16
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Yesterday, I was in the post office. Did my transactions in funky German with clear evidence of some sort of English as a native language. The young woman behind the window asked me if I was English or American. When I said American, she said "cool". At least in the German speaking part, people don't seem to mind Americans. When I tell Swiss people that I like living here they seem very pleased. It generates a smile more often than not.

I imagine that if you show an interest in being here, even as a tourist or visitor, and not look at it less than where you're from it can only help.
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  #89  
Old 02.06.2012, 11:41
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

Try opening a Swiss bank account here. If they don't notice you're American and give you an account, you've passed the test.
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  #90  
Old 02.06.2012, 11:43
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Interesting thread -

But I'm not sure it's really up to the times, at least in terms of clothing. I turn 40 this year and have spent almost all my life in various parts of ol' Yerup (Hungary when I was small, a little bit of UK, Italy for 12 years, CH since 1995).

Back until the late 90s, I could spot a fellow Yank from a mile out, assuming I hadn't already heard him. Baggy shorts, baseballs cap, white running shoes, etc. But clothing styles have changed.

Because of my work, I spend a lot of time with the older generation of Swiss - and a conservative set at that. In church on Sunday they will be dressed formally - but then again, so would an 70-year-old maiden aunt in Wichita. But pack those grannies into a tour bus and turn 'em loose on some alp (so they can complain about the Kafi and enthuse about the amazing, high-tech-cooking gear some shill at the restaurant just unloaded on them), and they'll be wearing the exact same uniform my St. Louisian gramma used to wear when she "did" Rome.

(Them Swiss grannies aren't all that quiet either, nor bashful about their opinions, but that's another topic.)

As for teenagers and young adults, American fashion has, conquered the sentient universe and brought it to its knees. I mean, that 13-year-old waddling around with his trousers nestled around his ankles and an expanse of rumpled boxer on display for all humanity - he could come from anywhere at all. (Chances are, he's my son, but that too is another topic.) My own jeans and T-Shirts, ditto.

MAYBE there's be a difference in the way people in the 35-65-year-old bracket dress. That segment may be a bit more style-conscious over here. When my step-father comes for a visit, he almost always looks like he just got back from a hike, even when he meets a business contact. His Swiss cohorts might look sharper. But, of course, that's the whole point: he's on vacation, and he can only stuff so much clothing in his Northface duffle bag (same one they sell at Transa, by the by ... ) Why on earth should he waste space on spiffy trousers that would probably lead to a leg amputation after 12 hours in the economy section of a transatlantic flight?

(Dollars to donuts the Swiss fellas flying home from their mostly recreational trips to the US are wearing identical clothes and have identical gear packed into identical duffle bags ... They're probably even watching the same movies on identical laptops.)

I've probably overstated my case. But I THINK a lot of the sartorial differences are more between recreational clothing, professional clothing and style-conscious clothing, not so much between countries. People on vacation dress like tourists - and to be honest, why shouldn't they??

Mike

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And learn how to ask it in the language of the canton
Of course, you can't always do that. And honestly - if you don't speak the language and aren't in a position to learn more than one phrase, why put on a show? The eager-beaver tourist can look sillier than standard issue. And it confuses things because then the poor local thinks they actually CAN talk, only they can't really. (Nothing new, btw. Some of the funniest stretches in Twain's Innocents Abroad are about American tourists of this variety.)

What works for me in places where I can't talk local is to catch someone's eye, give a winning but slightly embarrassed grin and ask, "Do you speak English?" Either they give it the old college try or we start playing charades. But they almost always smile back.

(I think American tourists miss this trick more often than other tourists because they're less used to the concept of people not speaking English.)

(And the poor Germans often don't realize that they should try it, too. In English. Or Swahili, if necessary.)

Mike

Last edited by MusicChick; 02.06.2012 at 21:20. Reason: merging consecutive posts
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  #91  
Old 02.06.2012, 16:36
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At least you knew what 'cutlery' is - even plastic knives and forks are called 'silverware' in the US
Well, if one is to use 'cutlery' in the strictest form as you are applying to silverware, then you'd only be referring to the knives, Odile. Most eating utensils are not made of silver these days so it's fair to adapt it to mean any eating utensil, plastic or not.

As for the original question by the OP, you won't manage perfect camouflage as even with european parents, but raised in the US and having lived in Europe for many years, I still get strange looks as, though I don't /look/ like or sound like a Yankee, I'm not a local, either. Tone down the usual sort of stereotypical behavior, but don't try to be something you aren't because that is often more of a giveaway.

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Footwear, footwear, footwear. Get tan or olive socks and those ugly things:
Yeesssss. Particularly where men are concerned, I can spot a Euro in the US from 100 yards, 200 yards if there's a track suit involved, just by their footwear. My husband rolls his eyes every time I point this out but...it's a subtle but noticeable difference if you know what to look for.

I remember a Dutch guy who was head of research where I worked many years ago (in the US) and who would always wear sandals with mis-matched socks, even in sub-zero weather. It's rare that an American male will wear sandals into a professional office, but to wear them with sport socks? The chances of that person being a european male go to 99.999%.

Last edited by MusicChick; 02.06.2012 at 21:21. Reason: merging consecutive posts
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  #92  
Old 02.06.2012, 17:13
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Actually, it's a pretty pathetic post. Just being yourself.
And everyone thinks (knows) you are Canadian
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  #93  
Old 02.06.2012, 17:48
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

This thread derailed long ago so it might be too late for my two cents...
but that never stopped me before. Anyway, I have a friend who is a tall blonde with blue eyes who lived for a number of years in India. Depending on what she is going to, she wears saris (obviously not to something where no one is wearing saris) and otherwise tries to stay in tune to what other people are wearing, and mimics that. Not because that way she doesn't stand out but so that people will think of her as a savvy person who has been there a while and not a tourist who stepped off the plane.

Comments about Indians and how they dress aside (I have no idea, never been there, understand different cities do it differently), I mimic her advice here. I think I look pretty American (the weight sadly gives it away) and since I don't "blend in" as soon as I open my mouth (weak German and what is generally considered a "Canadian" accent in French) I just try to dress like someone who knows how people dress here. That means no white sneakers, no shorts, no college t-shirts, when in doubt I wear black, etc. In other words, I try to look like a settled expat who is trying rather than someone who is going to scream and point at a menu.

My one concession to Americana is that I am never without a nalgene or a travel mug full of tea
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  #94  
Old 04.06.2012, 11:42
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Another easy way to spot (male) Americans is by the (camouflage) shorts they wear. Few Europeans older than 20 wear shorts, especially not baggy shorts, when not on holidays. Jeans and t-shirts are the common look outside of work clothes.
I and most others I work with wear shorts to work during summer.

Tom
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Old 04.06.2012, 11:51
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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and don't ask for ice cubes in your wine......
I've already warned my wife not to be shocked when she sees my aunt putting ice cubes in red wine when we go to visit at the end of the month.

Tom
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Old 04.06.2012, 15:17
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Another easy way to spot (male) Americans is by the (camouflage) shorts they wear. Few Europeans older than 20 wear shorts, especially not baggy shorts, when not on holidays. Jeans and t-shirts are the common look outside of work clothes.
I and most others I work with wear shorts to work during summer.
Same here. Perfectly normal and acceptable summer wear, in the office as well as out if it. Anyone suggesting I should wear long trousers to work would have to first install air-conditioning.

There are some basic rules about wearing shorts, however. If you have pasty thin legs and a great big gut you should really probably not. Tanned muscly legs are best, of course, and ideally worn with no socks, or short ones if you must. Oh, and excessively hairy ones should be kept under wraps too.
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Old 04.06.2012, 20:23
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

Wear socks with sandals, and then you'll look more European
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Old 04.06.2012, 20:28
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Wear socks with sandals, and then you'll look more German
fixed that for you
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Old 05.06.2012, 00:43
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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Of course, you can't always do that. And honestly - if you don't speak the language and aren't in a position to learn more than one phrase, why put on a show? The eager-beaver tourist can look sillier than standard issue. And it confuses things because then the poor local thinks they actually CAN talk, only they can't really. (Nothing new, btw. Some of the funniest stretches in Twain's Innocents Abroad are about American tourists of this variety.)

What works for me in places where I can't talk local is to catch someone's eye, give a winning but slightly embarrassed grin and ask, "Do you speak English?" Either they give it the old college try or we start playing charades. But they almost always smile back.

(I think American tourists miss this trick more often than other tourists because they're less used to the concept of people not speaking English.)

(And the poor Germans often don't realize that they should try it, too. In English. Or Swahili, if necessary.)

Mike
I just think if you're here and certainly here long enough, learning how to ask someone if you speak english in French, for example, is the minimum...Learning how to say merci instead of thank you, I mean is it really that hard?...A handful of words seems to be the minimum anyone should be able to attempt...It's an issue of respect

I have a vivid memory of a post office visit in Chicago during the summer and a group of French students had 2 people muster some english to ask a question from the clerk...It came out a little muddled but certainly it was easy to understand what was meant...Her response?...Mumbling loud enough for anyone within meters of her, 'Why can't they just learn english?'....Even when these kids were trying to speak English

You'll get the opposite reaction here more often than not, IMO...people appreciate attempting to speak the language rather than assuming the Suisse are going to speak english
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  #100  
Old 05.06.2012, 18:40
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Re: Ways to avoid "looking American"

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I just think if you're here and certainly here long enough, learning how to ask someone if you speak english in French, for example, is the minimum...Learning how to say merci instead of thank you, I mean is it really that hard?...A handful of words seems to be the minimum anyone should be able to attempt...It's an issue of respect

I have a vivid memory of a post office visit in Chicago during the summer and a group of French students had 2 people muster some english to ask a question from the clerk...It came out a little muddled but certainly it was easy to understand what was meant...Her response?...Mumbling loud enough for anyone within meters of her, 'Why can't they just learn english?'....Even when these kids were trying to speak English

You'll get the opposite reaction here more often than not, IMO...people appreciate attempting to speak the language rather than assuming the Suisse are going to speak english
Oh, absolutely.

I was thinking of a non-local-speak tourist trying to get through Switzerland without looking like a chump. Under those circumstances just give the local folks a chance to use the English they've worked hard on. Ask and ye shall receive ... People - particularly people in the tourist industry - have typically put a lot of work into their English and are happy to put that work to use. Showing up in the tourist office in, say, Interlaken and submitting the staff to a German phrase book would be (a) silly and (b) mildly insulting to the staff's professionalism.

OTOH, when you're in a post office with a monolingual clerk ... well, you just do the best you can! (At least around here people are aware of Other Languages and Odd People who Speak Them.)

Any, yeah - making friendly local noises (say, "Merci" or "Grüezi" - or "Grüesech," - etc.) is always cool.

Now, for people are going to live here for any period of time, it's sad to miss out on the chance of going to language class, making friends and discovering a whole new world. I know it's not possible for everyone, but living someplace and ignoring the language seems like sitting down to a 5-course meal and just watching everybody else eat ...
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