The perils of “going native,” at Yahoo! News

My Traveling Light column this week at Yahoo! News deals with the perils of “going native” with your wardrobe as your travel. In addition to my own story of inadvertently “going native” in Burma, I give some pointers on how to ‘go native’ (in the fashion sense, at least) and still keep your dignity:

1) Spend some time in the country first

Guatemalan villagers may look sharp in their colorful threads, but this doesn’t mean you should blow half your quetzals on Chichicastenango peasant smocks 36 hours off the plane from Oakland. Get to know the culture — and the significance of its fashions — before you try to emulate it.

2) Seek function before fashion

A colorful Bolivian alpaca sweater and a Korean silk hanbok might both seem equally appealing hanging in the market stalls of their respective countries, but remember how local people use them. Hanbok are used for family and ceremonial functions, whereas alpaca sweaters are used to keep warm. Since weather fluctuations more likely to be a factor than unexpected wedding ceremonies (and since most cultures won’t expect you to wear traditional garb to their festivities anyway), the sweater is a more sensible buy than a hanbok.

Thus, if a given item of local clothing is going help keep you cool, warm, dry, shaded or modest, it’s probably a worthwhile purchase. If you’re just buying it because you think it looks cool, you might consider if it’s really worth the space it takes up in your bag (and whether or not you’ll really wear it when you get home).

3) Beware of going native with your souvenirs

Indian women might look graceful in their brightly colored saris, but that doesn’t mean that a souvenir sari is going to look good on your Aunt Mabel. Similarly, a gown-like galabiyya might look adorable when worn by second-grade boys in Cairo, but buying one for your eight-year-old nephew is likely to cause him emotional trauma on the playground. Remember that your friends and family are less likely to understand the cultural context that inspired your souvenir purchases — and thus less likely to actually wear the exotic fashions you bring them.

Full article online here.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | September 29, 2006
Category: Travel News

Comments are closed.