You know the type.
He’s an overweight, unkempt, middle-aged man sauntering around in a pair of flip-flops.
Or he’s a twenty-something guy who is obnoxiously drunk, stumbling around Khaosan Road harassing women.
These men are the bane of the tourist industry, and make western tourists look bad. These men are sex tourists.
Sex tourists are people who travel to countries with the purpose of sleeping with the local women, namely prostitutes. I am not here to condemn people’s behaviors. What they do in their free time is their business, as long as it hurts nobody.
However, if you plan on living abroad, you don’t want to look like one of these guys. This is particularly the case in less developed countries where prostitution is rampant, say the Philippines or Colombia. Assimilating is hard enough as it is, the last thing you want is to be labeled a sex tourist.
If you want to know how to avoid looking like a sex tourist, I have three tips to change your appearance and behavior to make the locals smile with glee, instead of fleeing with disgust:
Improve Your Style
A person’s style says a lot about who they are. When you dress like a slob, you clearly don’t have much respect for yourself or those around you. Moreover, you won’t care about impressing a local lady, because you may intend to pay for one.
To avoid the greasy, dirty sex tourist stereotype, you need to improve your style. This means that everywhere you go, make an effort to look presentable. This does not mean wearing a three-piece suit when going to the market in Jakarta, but rather wearing nice shoes and clean, pressed pants and shirts.
A blazer is nice, but not necessary. I do recommend wearing one when going out to nice restaurants and bars–I do. Collared shirts and khaki’s or dark jeans work well.
Again, no need to be a style expert, but you want to look good and make a good impression for your fellow expats!
Learn the Local Language
If you’re traveling to a city and don’t speak the local language, you may have difficulty getting around. It will definitely make interacting with local women more difficult.
In fact, when dealing with locals they may be frustrated at your inability to communicate. It is their country after all, where English is not the native tongue.
Moreover, if you’re a single man living in a city with no skills in the local language, it shows you don’t care to integrate and are just here to “enjoy yourself”.
Knowing just a few phrases goes a long way. However, being fluent is much better.
Fluency is not always practical, but you can at least become conversational in any language in just a matter of months.
Get off the Beaten Path
Single men prowling around touristy areas, darting their eyes about may not sit well with locals. Instead, make an effort to get off the beaten path.
I recommend doing this for so many reasons, but in this case it shows that you are different from the crowd. It shows that you really want to learn the area you’re in, and the locals will likely be hospitable towards you for making that effort.
I don’t want to paint the picture that every western male who travels to developing countries is automatically a sex tourist–not at all. But personally, I prefer to go above and beyond to present myself well to locals. It helps me integrate better and reduces the odds of conflict.
If you follow the three steps above, you will not only avoid looking like a sex tourist, but you’ll have a much better expat experience.