1. New York
REAL TALK: Spend an hour in New York City and you’re bound to have someone get next-level crazy all up in your business. If you want to act like a local, just be cool. NYC is one of the safest cities in the world, so these people pose no real threat. Still, if you can’t deal with it, breathe deeply and try to imagine everyone around you is naked. It’s easy to do because they probably are.
2. Los Angeles
REAL TALK: People make fun of LA for the bad traffic and movie-star attitudes, but in reality… umm… yeah. All you need to do to fit in is brag about your loose connections with the entertainment industry (“my buddy Sean was in that soup commercial…you know the one”) and drive way under the speed limit for no apparent reason. Eat the Mexican food, it’s a game changer.
REAL TALK: Don’t ask where Cheers is. It’s a dead tourist giveaway, and anyway, the show was filmed on a sound stage in Los Angeles. And for the love of Nomar don’t ask anyone to park the car in Harvard Yard: Harvard Yard is a college campus and nobody can park there.
REAL TALK: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Namely, resist the temptation to use made-up words like “grande” and “venti” when ordering coffee… unless you’re in an actual Starbucks.
MORE REAL TALK: If you’re in Italy, you have no business being in a Starbucks. Also, if you want to get chased out of town by an angry mob, go ahead and ask where Sbarro is.
REAL TALK: It’s okay to look like a tourist to Athenians, but you can unlock a lot more doors if they think you have roots there. Memorize the following phrase: “O patéras-mou einai ap’ti Sparti” (“My father is from Sparta”). Modern Sparta is a small enough town that Athenians don’t spend a lot of time there. Then, when they inevitably ask you a follow-up question, shrug and say, “Then milao Elliniká” (“I don’t speak Greek”). Odds are you will be accepted as a native son/daughter.
REAL TALK: It might actually be illegal to ask the waiter to put a couple shrimps on the barbie. Also, every animal in the country is a flesh-eating monster, so try to tone down your excitement in seeing the koalas and kangaroos. Use your affection towards Australian accents as an excuse to be a really great listener when you mingle with the locals. They’re so friendly!
SIDE NOTE: Don’t freak out when you see that the toilets flush in the opposite direction. It’s just water…pull yourself together, man!
7. Minneapolis–Saint Paul
REAL TALK: There is a two-week window on each side of winter (Oct-April) where it is the most beautiful city in the world. The summer is lovely too, but wear an insane amount of bug spray. If you go in the winter, bring a lightsaber and a ton-ton.
REAL TALK: DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT get high and try to ride bikes around town. DO get high and go to the Netherlands Philharmonic at the Concertgebouw. If you smoke, it calls you out as American because the Brits just get drunk, so be cool about it. Finally, don’t pose for pictures in the red-light district windows, you tacky jackhole.
LE REAL TALK: If you can handle it, try avoiding the up-close tour of the Eiffel Tower. You can see it from far away and it only draws attention to the fact that you’re a tourist, which — by the way — is a little more dangerous here than you would think. Have you ever seen Taken!? HAVE YOU!? Ok, well see Taken before you go.
REAL TALK: Zimbabwe is home to arguably the nicest and most wonderful people in the world. You don’t need to do much to have a life-altering experience; simply appreciate how grounded the people are and how beautiful the sky looks when there is zero light pollution.