Blend in Stockholm and Copenhagen
August 16, 2005 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me not look like a tourist in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

My brother and I, both mid-twenties US males, are off to Sweden and Denmark for two weeks. Having lived in New York for the past five years, I'm increasingly sensitive to how out-of-place many out-of-towners look.

So, aside from the obvious (skipping shorts, garish t's, fanny packs, etc.), does anyone have thoughts on how to look more like 'native' Danes or Swedes?
posted by thomascrown to Travel & Transportation around Stockholm, Sweden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you are about 6ft3in, fit and with blond hair, you're all set.

Seriously, what seems to "reveal" a lot of American cruise tourists are their awful jeans and white New Balance sneakers. For mid-twenties males, I would suggest putting on jeans with some sort of stonewash/vintage look. They don't have to be a designer brand, but because you want to pick up Scandinavian girls (don't deny it!), it probably wouldn't hurt. Popular brands right now seem to be Evisu, Acne and Nudie, to name a few. For footwear, Puma has been huge, but I don't know their status currently.

For a look at how upper-class Swedes dress, try Stureplan. Warning: This style is only useful in the area "Stureplan" in Stockholm. Granted, you will see a lot of beautiful girls there, so it could be worth it, but people in other parts of Scandinavia may see you as a couple of twats.

Have a great trip, you will love it :-)
posted by dagny at 11:55 PM on August 16, 2005

I’d just say to dress casually but not carelessly—nothing too shabby, but also nothing ostentatious—and you should be OK. If you really want to blend in, kit yourself out at H&M before you travel.
posted by misteraitch at 12:20 AM on August 17, 2005

dagny, why do you assume the poster is heterosexual?

In Copenhagen, make use of the city-owned bikes. They lay around everywhere, and are there for anyone to use. you ride to your destination and leave the bike for the next guy. They are, of course, very basic no-frills old bikes, painted some ugly color. Its a very clever idea of the Danes.
posted by Goofyy at 2:25 AM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Goofyy: His MeFi profile mentions an ex-girlfriend. A good indication that he is interested in girls, I would say.
posted by dagny at 2:44 AM on August 17, 2005

A good indication that he is interested in girls

Or was.

Anyway, put you camera and bum bag away, don't crane your neck at everything, walk as if you have somewhere to go, and don't talk, or at least don't talk loudly, which for many visiting Americans seems to be the same thing. (Or do foreign conversations just stand out so much against the local language? No, I've thought of that, and that's only part of the answer. I've listened carefully and most Americans really are louder than most other foreigners walking by.)

But don't get carried away with this Mr Chameleon stuff. You're there for two weeks to see and do things that only foreigners see and do (the locals have seen and done it or they just don't care), so you will be carrying and doing stuff that identifies you as a foreigner. Relax and see the sights.
posted by pracowity at 3:57 AM on August 17, 2005

There is a brand of jeans called "Acne"? For some reason, I haven't seen those around here.

You could wear "I Love NY" T-shirts, because no Americans wear those. I'd stay away from the Stetsons, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:04 AM on August 17, 2005

Sorry Dagny, I just couldn't pass it up. I didn't look at the poster's profile.

Mind, I haven't been up to Sweden and Denmark in about 6 years (and times have changed) but I don't think that many people will hold being American against you. Being 'exotic' can be an advantage, after all.
posted by Goofyy at 4:21 AM on August 17, 2005

My wife and I honeymooned in these countries in 2001. We just made sure we wore shoes instead of sneakers, and we dressed sort of "sporty casual" (pants or nice jeans and non-printed shirts). A good pair of Ecco shoes are comfortable and don't look like sneakers. It may be because we are both very fair-skinned, but having people come up to us and ask us the time or directions in Swedish or Danish was a regular occurrence.
posted by landtuna at 4:22 AM on August 17, 2005

Bring an empty suitcase. Buy clothes there. (Why is it so shameful to be recognized as a tourist?)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:35 AM on August 17, 2005

I don't live in Europe, but around here we spot tourists by their shoes. Americans' shoes are always dead giveaways. Find out what guys there wear on their feet and do likewise.
posted by wallaby at 5:08 AM on August 17, 2005

Second pracowity on not talking too loud, or too emphatically. To European ears, Americans are always shouting. Scandinavians may seem to you to always be talking in a monotone, but they perceive American speech as overblown histrionics.

Be polite. "Hello", "Goodbye", "Please" and "Thank You" help a lot. Ask people "Do you speak English?" before rattling on in your native tongue. Actually, in Scandinavia, the level of English is so good that some people might even be surprised by the question, but you get points for not automatically assuming it.

Watch out for the false smile. Americans have a way of smiling automatically in a lot of situations that looks to many Europeans like a horrible grimace. Be gentle rather than agressive in your manners, and try not to be like an over-friendly dog.

Eat at mealtimes. The cliche of the American is that he eats snack food throughout the day.

Avoid baggy clothing -- it's generally unfashionable in Europe (unless you're a fan of French hip-hop).
posted by fuzz at 6:21 AM on August 17, 2005

Stockholm people are very used to tourists, and I found them very friendly to such. I met locals of all ages who obviously enjoyed showing off their english.

I'd where Eccos or shoes instead of sneaks for many reasons, but I wouldn't worry about being seen as a tourist. More than once I ran into other tourists in Stockholm who were delightful.

Stockholm is a very touristy place, but European good touristy as opposed to some american bad touristy. Being yourself will make you popular. Things are expensive there. Don't eat the movie theater candy.
posted by ewkpates at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2005

I'm Swedish, and I second what most people say. If it is important for you to blend in, don't talk too loud and don't wear baggy clothes. Another thing is pants: Americans pants seem to often be shorter. When you stand up, European pants almost reach the sole of your shoes.

landtuna: Ecco shoes are still considered quite uncool. Dark, discrete and non-enormous sneakers won't give you away though.

Goofey: If you act in a very stereotypical fashion, I actually think many people will hold it against you that you're American. Things have changed a bit on that front.

Sweden and Denmark are quite different countries, a little like Canada and California, I reckon. Danes are attributed a jolly and laid-back style, with beer, pot and klappe-hats, while Swedes are considered more solemn/uptight. Don't care too much about that though but enjoy your trip. You'll see people of all sorts anywhere you go.
posted by springload at 9:01 AM on August 17, 2005

Swedes don't smile much unless they're actively, specifically pleased or amused. You can greet someone casually on a quiet street with a calm "Hej" and a nod, but American-style friendly smiling just doesn't happen.

I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. It's ok to look like an American, given that you are one.
posted by tangerine at 12:57 PM on August 18, 2005

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