Dare I admit it! Visiting a new culture, with very different fashion customs causes some nerves and questions on my part, but it also excites me. It pushes me to experiment with new fashions for myself, and means a rather fun pre-trip shopping excursion! Plus, just think of the exciting potential of doing a bit of clothes shopping from local designers once there!
Visiting Egypt in April 2012 was one such trip for me. When the invitation came to explore a 40 million year-old sea floor, ride a quad bike to a Bedouin Camp in the desert, SCUBA dive, explore markets, parasail over the Red Sea, splash through a mangrove estuary, attend a conference and come prepared for fancy dinner parties, I was ecstatic! But I was also half a country away from home with only winter clothes in my suitcase. I knew I should cover up more in Egypt, but not in Canadian winter clothes, unless I wanted to swelter under the desert sun.
So what’s a gal to do? Look up what’s fashionable in Egypt on the Government of Canada Travel Advisory Website for Travel Advice on Visiting Egypt. Specifically I read the section on Laws & Culture, where it says, “Dress conservatively: for women, knee-length or longer dresses and long sleeves are preferable, and men should not wear shorts outside tourist areas.” I also knew from talking to friends who had been to Egypt and reading up on travel blogs, that I should cover my shoulders, not wear low cut tops, and have a scarf on hand to cover my head, in case I entered a mosque. I’d also need swimsuits, a cover for my swimsuits, and all terrain sandals.
With that knowledge in hand, my Mom (whom I was visiting) and I hit the shops, and had a great time together. We did shockingly well, and the best part is, we were wonderfully creative about finding clothes that would be multi-purpose, culturally sensitive, cool under the hot sun, and fashionably fab. And clothes that I actually now wear a fair bit in North America, creating a new, more elegant look for moi! See for yourself!
Dressing with respect to the Egyptian culture on my trip, meant I was greeted with more warmth and respect from the Egyptian people. I knew that in a place like Egypt, my pasty white skin was going to stand out as a foreigner, but at least if I respected the local cultural attire then I was not going to stand out as a tacky tourist, and would be treated with a greater level of respect by the locals.
It is easy enough for you too to do the same in your travels. Before you go, simply:
- Research the country and culture you are visiting.
- Start with TuGo’s Canadian Travel Advisories
- Ask your friends in person and in your social networks, if anyone has been, and what they found about dressing for the climate & culture when they were there.
- Look up travel bloggers’ experiences from the place you are going in online communities, like Travel Bloggers Exchange and Travel Bloggers Unite, and don’t be shy to email these people and ask their advice.
- Enjoy a fun pre-trip shopping excursion with cultural respect, climate, comfort and activities in mind. Think of this as a great way to expand your wardrobe with new styles. To keep costs and suitcase space down, think multi-purpose attire and mixing and matching.
- Leave some extra room in your suitcase to add to that new wardrobe with a new treat or two that you discover from local designers, while on your travels.
Have fun with it, and enjoy your trip!
Have any travel dressing tips of your own? We’d love to hear them! Please share them below.