Respecting Social And Cultural Etiquette: What To Wear When Studying Abroad

By Alexia Gonzalez on July 9, 2015

College is a time to step outside of your normal comfort zone by relishing in new experiences and exploring brand new surroundings.

One of the greatest opportunities that we are allowed to embark on during our college years is the option to study abroad.

Traveling is always an educational experience, but living in a new location for a semester opens up a whole new world of exposure. Residing in a foreign country allows you not only to learn a new language (or a new dialect) but it teaches you how to be more open minded, tolerant, and accepting of other beliefs and ways of life.

From Europe to Asia, the possibilities for studying abroad are endless, and every individual country brings a distinctly unique experience. Whether you’re studying art in Paris or embarking on a religious journey to Israel, every destination offers up a different reality.

Inevitably, cultural values and beliefs will differ drastically from those back home in the U.S.A. Although temporary, residents and visitors alike must be aware of the attitudes unique to each culture in order to comfortably assimilate. Your wardrobe will play a large factor into your adaptation of a new home country, not only in aspects of weather, but also in terms of social and cultural etiquette (sometimes even religious).

From perpetually rainy days to hiking ruins, or appropriately covering up for sacred sightseeing, here are some of the most important things to consider when packing up your wardrobe for an exciting semester abroad.


Notorious for its unpredictable (typically rainy) weather and cobblestone streets, London can get a little tricky in terms of sartorial preparedness. Known for being an uber stylish and funky city, London is the perfect place to experiment with your inner fashionista. Don’t be afraid to try out those daring trends you thought you could never pull off at home.

In regards to the temperamental weather, be sure to pack some comfortable and wearable boots that you can still rock even when the drizzle stops (and be sure to pack warm socks just in case your booties absorb some water). Try wearing them on the plane ride there to avoid the extra pounds in your luggage.

Although chic style is a total must in the LDN, you always want to come prepared for lots of walking and sightseeing so always pack considering comfort (you can always buy trendy clothes at Topshop once you arrive).


There’s no denying the fact that Paris is considered one of the most fashionable places in the world. Keeping up with the Parisians may seem daunting, but really, almost anything goes when it comes to style there. It’s difficult not to want to look your best while in Paris. However, it is definitely a juggling act between being trendy and being comfortable. But when it comes down to it, when you’re mixing and mingling with tourists from around the world in a two-hour wait outside the Louvre, no one really notices what you’re wearing.

Some major faux pas in Paris include donning sweat pants, hoodies, baggy t-shirts, or brightly colored windbreakers. While it’s most certainly okay to be comfortable, Parisians aren’t too fond of a typical suburban housewife’s closet. Instead, bring along a stylish raincoat for all of those unpredictable rainy days, a good pair of day heels such as low-bootie wedges, leggings, scarf, and a big sweater.

What’s the major upside to Paris, though? The idea of going au naturel. Parisian women typically don’t obsess over their hair and makeup, and instead choose a more simple look. That means while you’re visiting this cosmopolitan city, you can set aside the flatiron, embrace your inner beauty, and not worry about your next blowout.


Egypt is a beautiful country, full of culture and legendary sightseeing. Egypt is also incredibly hot. That being said, sun protection is necessary because the desert heat can certainly take its toll. Since it is a desert, the temperature drops significantly at night, so be sure to pack up on items to layer. A few light sweaters will do, as considering the sun-filled days you may want to take in the cooler breeze at night.

Along with the desert (yes, deserts are actually pretty cool to explore), Egypt has so many sightseeing and exploration options. From the Egyptian pyramids, to the Valley of the Kings, to riding camels through Giza, Egypt is a country full to the brim with legendary sights and outdoor excursions.

To make the most of your time in Egypt, be sure to pack lots of comfortable gear. Think breezy pants, sturdy shoes, and short sleeve shirts. Long maxi dresses and skirts are also great for more low-key days of museum visits or local exploring.

Steer clear of midriff baring tops, spaghetti straps and short shorts. Pack conservatively, keeping in mind covering the knees and shoulders. Consider that in a North African country such as Egypt, parading around in your American party attire is not only disrespectful, but also unsafe.


Thailand seems to be the perfect mix between beachy fun and cultural exploration. From lounging in the sun to exploring religious temples, this country has a diverse lineup of things to do. Thailand is a beach, so if you plan on soaking up the sun on the sandy shores pack accordingly.

Bring some reef sandals for water activities (or any shoe that can tie to your feet – not flip flops); these shoes are essential not only for water activities, but also for visiting local houses and pagodas.

However, when in Thailand modesty is a must, especially when visiting Buddhist temples and palaces. For instance, one of the country’s main attractions, the Bangkok Grand Palace, prohibits just about every item in an American girl’s wardrobe including open-toed shoes, tight pants, or short shorts. So be sure to balance out your wardrobe between beach day fun, exploration comfort, and sightseeing appropriateness.

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