How NOT to Dress and Act Like a Goofy Gringo

It’s damn near epidemic. You can spot em’ from a mile away. The cargo shorts. The flip-flops. Spending half their vacation swiping Tinder and the other snapping Instagram tourist shots to impress ugly thots.

The goofy gringo has invaded Latin America.

And the trend isn’t going to change.

With the advent of dirt cheap flights, Airbnb apartment rentals, and online dating, the hordes of horny autists aren’t going anywhere.

Normally, I wouldn’t be mad. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. And all that good shit. But I’ve had it up to here with these goofy chodes giving gringos a bad name.

Y’all are messing up my rep with every cargo short’d step.

Gringos wear this in the cities, too.

What Happens When Goofy Gringos Invade?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining here. Well, maybe a little.

But, y’all aren’t really messing with my lifestyle. It’s easy to separate yourself from the herd. I can combat the bad rep and stereotypes pretty easily these days. Sometimes it’s a pain in the arse, but usually manageable.

This is for your own good.

What happens when goofy gringos hit a city? Well, they practically destroy it. Just look at places like Cartagena, Medellin, or Bogota.

You can’t even walk around Cartagena without being pestered. Man, you can’t even swim in the ocean without some chode driving by in a jet ski trying to sell you a ride. And you sure as hell can’t hit on a girl without wondering if she’s a hooker.

Why? Because goofy gringos put up with the incessant bullshit. Hell, some even encourage it.

Stop being a pansy. If someone’s bothering you in the third world, tell them to screw off. Sternly. Be an arse.

If every girl you’re chatting with might be a hooker, dating and mating get old pretty quick. Trust me. But some dudes just put up with it. Like it’s normal.

It’s not. It doesn’t have to be. You’re a chump. A mark.

I’ve rocked the goofy gringo look before, too.

Completely different if you’re headed out for a degenerate night. But that’s a whole other ballgame.

In Bogota, guys are getting drugged on the daily. Poor, desperate women are targeting tourists more than ever before.

Girls know which bars gringos go to on certain nights. They also know we travel with iPhones, MacBooks, and expensive cameras.

So, these women show up to these bars in Zona T and look around. They search for a guy alone, or maybe with a friend, who is clearly foreign.

They flirt. Things seem natural. The foreigner thinks the Colombian girl likes him for his stunning gringo looks and smooth Spanglish.

The trap has been set. Scopolamine is one hell of a drug. And not in a good way.

Before the gringo knows it, his wallet and electronics are gone. The girl is nowhere to be found and he’s got the worse “hangover” of his life.

“So, Jake, how do I get them to stop bothering me? Can I stay safe? How do I get women to respect me and not view me as a dollar sign? How can I be a true alpha male for real (©) – just like you?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Now, I don’t have all the answers. Maybe I’ve just been lucky over the years. Knock on wood.

But honestly, it’s super easy. You just stop dressing and acting like a goofy gringo.

If you roll around a popular Latin American city in cargo shorts, flip-flops, tank tops, and no ability to speak the local language – you become a dollar sign in Latin America.

If you present yourself like that, every hustler and hoe around will look at you as a way to make some cash.

When you look like a goofy gringo, you’ll get treated as one. That’s how life goes.

Understanding Latin Culture

Before we get too far, let’s dig in a little and talk a bit about Latin culture.

Latinos are generally good people and usually super friendly. I’ve made many a friend in cities throughout the region.

But the economic realities of the region mean there’s “haves” and “have-nots” throughout Latin America.

This combined with economic and social instability mean hustlers and hoes are always looking for a quick way to make a buck.

Who is usually the easiest mark? A local that knows the game? Hell no!

It’s the foreigner who doesn’t know the game or how it’s played. And the more “gringo” you look, the easier a target you’re perceived to be.

What makes you look foreign and out of place?

Of course, your hair color, skin color, and mannerisms are often an easy giveaway. But a lot of it has to do with the way you dress and how you present yourself.

Here’s why:

In Latin American countries, people don’t wear shorts. Ever.

Unless they’re at the gym or planning to swim at the beach or pool, dudes almost always wear jeans or pants.

In the U.S., we love to wear shorts. Cargo shorts, gym shorts, board shorts, etc. There’s no stigma around throwing on a pair of shorts and running your errands for the week.

In Latin America, people look down on that. It’s classism. Upper-class Latinos wear pants all the time. It’s their culture. Showing legs is for peasants.

So, the lower and middle-class people follow suit.

Men wear pants in Latin America – even if it’s hot as balls and you start sweating as soon as you step outside.

When you roll around in cargo shorts and flip-flops, the locals instantly know you’re foreign. But they also know you don’t understand a damn thing about their culture.

And if you don’t know a damn thing about their culture, you sure as hell don’t know about the scams and games the local hustlers play.

You’ve labeled yourself as an easy target.

How NOT to Dress and Act Like a Goofy Gringo

Enough with the rant, let’s take a look at how to not dress and act like a goofy gringo when living and traveling around Latin America.

The good news? It’s damn simple to switch things up and avoid the goofy gringo stereotypes. You just need to do a few things:

Just Dress Better

Seriously, dressing better than the average backpacking goofy gringo in Latin America pays huge dividends.

You’ll stay safer, make more friends, and women will respect you more. A win-win-win.

Now, I’m not saying rock custom suits around all day. Hell no. That’s just not necessary.

What I’m saying is dress like an upper-class local. It doesn’t have to be complex. Trust me:

Example A: Jeans and a button down.

Example B: Jeans and a button down.

That’s really all you have to do. Wear clothing that would look presentable in your home country and you’re good to go.

If you’re going to the mall or out to lunch, throw on a pair of jeans and a decent henley or v-neck. Leave the shorts and tank tops for the beach.

If you’re headed out at night, throw on a decent pair of pants and a button down. You don’t need to look fancy. Just presentable. A shirt like this works perfectly fine.

Even if your hair color or skin tone looks out of place, you’ll still look like you fit in when dressing well.

P.S: If looking tight while traveling light is of interest, check out these articles:

Learn the Language

Next, there’s one more thing to do. Just learn a little of the local language.

If you’re going to Colombia or Peru, a little Spanish ability will go a long way. You don’t have to be fluent. I’m certainly not, but being able to hold a conversation will definitely help you navigate the murky waters found in Latin America.

You’ll keep yourself a little safer, develop better connections with locals, and generally just enjoy things a little more in Latin America – if you speak Spanish.

Luckily, that’s easier than ever before. Nowadays, you can study Spanish from the comfort of your home before you hit the road.

With unlimited online personalized Spanish lessons and professional tutors, BaseLang is the only thing you need to pick up a little Español before you head down to Latin America.

Click here to read my full BaseLang review, an incredible service for travelers in Latin America!

Step Your Gringo Up

The headline doesn’t really make sense, but that’s fine. You get the gist of it.

If you’re planning to travel Latin America, put an effort into representing yourself and home country a little better.

Learn a little bit about the local culture, customs, and language. Trust me, a little effort here goes a long way. Latinos are proud people.

Then dress a little better. It doesn’t take much. A pair of nice jeans and a v-neck is all you need to NOT look like a dork from a far-off foreign land.

There you have it. Everything you need to know about not looking like a goofy gringo. Stand out from the herd and reap the rewards while traveling in Latin America.

Oh, and if you dig this type of cultural commentary, make sure you subscribe to my email list below…
A Gringo’s Guide to Dressing Better, Style, and Fashion in Latin America
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Jake D

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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