“What do people in Nantes wear?” I asked one of my friends from there over Skype.
He looked at me as if I asked what the answer to 2+2 was. “The same things you guys wear,” he responded.
Before studying in Spain and France, I spent time researching what people wear since I didn’t want to stick out as a foreigner. I had heard that Europeans, especially in Paris, were generally more fashionable than Americans. After looking at different students’ recommendations, people’s blog posts, and travel websites, I found some pretty interesting things. I figured if many people said the same thing that it must have been true. It wasn’t until I went to Europe and traveled around that I realized that some of the advice I had read was a little bit off.
Myth #1: Europeans don’t wear shorts
Europeans don’t wear Bermuda shorts. That’s something that will make you stick out as a tourist. However, they do wear shorts in general. I went to Spain and had only brought jeans with me, which I ended up wearing in 80 degree weather for the first month or so. If you bring the shorts you normally would wear with you, you’re fine.
Myth #2: Europeans only wear sneakers when working out
As far as I’ve seen in Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal, people do actually wear sneakers when they aren’t working out. It’s more common amongst young people like college students and kids. They’re typically Nike or any dressier kind of sneaker that would look good with skinny jeans. If you’re about to study in Europe, bring a pair of sneakers. It was crazy for me to think people walked around all the time in nice sandals, flats, etc. I brought three pairs of shoes with me to Madrid. They were all destroyed by the end of the semester. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so be smart about it.
Myth #3: No one wears shirts with English on them
When I was in Madrid, I saw shirts with English on them in many stores. I saw people walking around wearing these shirts and didn’t know if they were Spanish or not until I heard them talk. You know how some people in the U.S. wear shirts with French on them because it looks cool? The same thing goes for English shirts. And yes, some of them don’t make sense. I also want to add that I’ve heard of Europeans wearing U.S. shirts that were touristy, but I have yet to see someone do that.
Myth #4: Europeans only wear dark colors
They do wear dark colors a lot of the time. However, I have seen some colorful pastel pants that I’d see on my campus back home. I think it is safe to bring clothes that are plain and darker in color, especially black, but you can get away with a bright top or pants one day.
I have been in Europe for about four months and these were the things I have observed. Of course my experience could be different from anyone else’s and I could be completely wrong. Do Europeans dress nicer than Americans? Generally, yes. You won’t see them walking around in an Uggs and sweatpants combo, something that was a reverse culture shock for me when I was back in the States for a couple weeks. Leave the pajama pants at home. Leave the yoga pants in your room unless you’re going to exercise.
In my personal experience and my friends’, people don’t seem to know that we aren’t European until we open our mouth to speak with an American accent. After a while, I couldn’t tell who was European or not. I saw older people with pink and purple hair, young people with sneakers, people wearing crossbody purses, etc. As long as you don’t sling a camera around your neck and put the Hawaiian shirt away, you’ll be golden.
Note: This post mostly relates to girls. Guys do typically dress nicer but I can’t say for sure what they wear.