Tuesday, October 5

Packing for Europe Under a Travel Threat

In response to this alert, counter-terrorism experts recommend that you avoid clothing that identifies you as an American. While some tourists assume that clothing doesn’t matter, under an alert in which Americans are targeted, what you wear can bring you unwanted attention. How do you dress to fit in?

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.

European men tend not to wear shorts like American men, mostly because they’re usually more dressed up than the typical American. So avoid sloppy, baggy shorts – dress more like you’re going to a business lunch, less like you’re going to a ball game. In general, Europeans wear more muted tones. Beige, gray, olive – not bright whites or bold colors. Except, weirdly, Italian men wear bright-brick-red pants. Older men don’t wear cotton pants, like light-khaki colored Dockers – they wear rayon, or wool pants in dark colors. Younger men wear t-shirts, but more often they wear polo shirts that are tightly fitted. And they’re a lot slimmer than Americans. I could definitely pick Americans out of a crowd.

Women should do the same – wear muted colors, in rayon or polyester. In Italy, the most popular colors are shades of plum, olive, and black. Black works everywhere in Europe, and travels well. Jeans are fine during the day, even jean jackets, but don’t wear brightly-colored cotton separates. If you wear shorts, they should be long (to the knee) and not baggy.

Still, I have to question the value of alerts like the one excerpted above. While it is understandable that the government would want to offer some sort of official indication of the increased threat, a warning about travel to an entire continent, as well as words of caution about ubiquitous "public transportation" and heavily-trafficked tourist sites are so broad that they limit the power of any information contained in the warning itself.

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If you’re on your way to Europe, take a deep breath – the law of averages is with you, and chances are you’ll be fine. So enjoy every minute. But during this alert, you’ll feel more comfortable if you look less like a tourist and more like part of the crowd.


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