Goulash and Puffy Jackets

By Abbie D’Errico

It doesn’t really matter the city in Europe you are living in, RomeFlorencePragueBarcelona, etc., there tends to be a bit of a difference between the locals and the newbies. Sometimes it’s simply a map in hand, other times that’s the least of the difference. Now I’m not just talking about the khaki pants and running shoe American that is often stereotyped. Yes, that outfit does make an appearance but no, we do not all dress like the love child Ralph Lauren and New Balance.

He's actually from Germany

He’s actually from Germany

When you’re moving to a city as a study abroad student or traveling around as a tourist, you’re new, plain and simple. You don’t know the hot spots, best dishes to eat or what shoes are trending at that time but if you make the most of your trip regardless of it’s length, 4 days or 4 months, you will. You may find yourself making a transition from Americana to European and clinging to the saying “when in Rome do as the Romans”!

I am surely fond of my red vans and rainbow sandals (yes, I’m from southern California) but every once in a while it’s nice to feel like a local, especially when you know the city like the back of your hand. I studied in Rome, Italy for a year and struggled a lot to find the balance between being proud of my American style and this urge to look like an Italian. I just can’t stand when travel and fashion blogs post photos of American brand clothes and tell you to “leave them at home!” Don’t leave your favorite jacket because it doesn’t look European. Instead, keep an open mind about assimilating to this new culture you’re diving into and find a balance for yourself.

You’ll often hear people say, “I just don’t get how they know I’m American.” Sometimes it’s the north face jacket, Jansport backpack, Greek letters or baseball hat that gave that one away. Other times it’s this sixth sense that locals have for picking out an American even when every item of clothing was purchased from a local store in Prague. Don’t stress though. The same thing happens to Europeans. Many people are clinging to this pseudo-American style, particularly the younger generation in Europe, but it’s not often a challenge to tell that they are French orItalian.

Here are a few things you will likely see while abroad:

Women’s Fashion
Puffy black jackets
Fitted/skinny jeans
Neutral colors, usually black
Hogan sneakers/sneaker wedges

Men’s Fashion
Leather Jackets
Puffy jackets
Leather shoes
Neutral colors
Collared shirts under sweaters
Fitted or skinny jeans
Hogan sneakers

Ladies – Don’t try to be like the European women who wear stilettos and pumps on the cobblestone. It’s an art form that they have mastered. Save yourself and stick with your wedges and flats!

Guys –If you’re nervous about the style, try easing into it and tossing on a scarf of your fav soccer team, at least you can say you gave it a try!

Hanging out in the Vatican Museum - Rome Italy

Hanging out in the Vatican Museum – Rome Italy

Like I mentioned before, dressing like a European isn’t everything. You will have the best experience abroad if you try to assimilate to the culture, so become a LOCAL. I mean this in every way possible. Learn the city, learn the language, befriend locals, shop at the small stores near your house, introduce yourself to your neighbors, go out to the locals’ pubs, ask restaurant waiters their favorite dish or for the regional delicacy and order it. So boar never sounded appealing but it’s one of the most sought after dishes in the Toscana region, give it a whirl, you never know what will surprise you. Plus, if you’re ever out with new Italian friends and order it (in Italian maybe?! Hint: Cinghiale), you’ll look like a pro!


There is this wonderful thing about many places and people in Europe, they take in expats as their own. There are also some that just don’t like tourists, it happens. But if you truly try to speak the language and are always a cheery face in your local spots, more than likely you’ll feel right at home and the people will treat you the same, even if you’re sporting a north face jacket with uggs.

Be prepared for the possibility of your style making a dramatic shift and bask in the pride that arises when you return home and your fam and college bestie say, “Wow, you look so European!” Also prepare yourself for the exact opposite. You may like your American style better and that’s quite all right. Do what works best for you and have no shame when rocking those red vans! We all travel for different reasons and from that we have different experiences.

Go conquer the world one plate of goulash and puffy jacket at a time!

Leave a Reply