Vibram FiveFingers in Venice, Italy
Vibram FiveFingers in Venice, Italy

Sticking Out and Fitting In: “Normal” in Europe

At home me and Marla draw a lot of attention to ourselves. Marla being 4’11” and me being 6’4″ is something that naturally turns heads. I’ve learned though that it’s less for the fact of our large difference in height and more for the reason that, standing next to her I look illogically tall.

Funny enough though height hasn’t been much of an attention grabber in Europe.

London: Where Tall is the New Normal

Londoners are tall. I mean extremely tall. I don’t normally notice when people are “tall” because they’re usually still shorter than me, so when I notice someone’s height he’s one big dude.

At first I was just thinking that we had simply encountered a few tall people so I thought nothing of it, until I started to realize that they were everywhere we’d go.

Me and Marla didn’t turn heads in London because I was basically the norm there. It was an interesting turn of events, something that I didn’t expect.

It all makes me curious as to why London grows them so tall. The only explanation that comes to mind is that the big and strong royalty were bread for strong offspring and maybe this is just the result of 100s of years of evolution.

Hair and There

Something that we casually noticed just recently is that nobody seems to have interesting colored hair or highlights in London or Paris and in London specifically no guys have long hair. Marla with her red streaks, is one of, if not the, only one walking around town.

You’d think people would notice it, yet no one does.

It’s a fairly regular occurrence at home to have people acknowledge her hair and many times ask her about it. To not have a single person even appear to notice it is quite surprising.

She didn’t add the color to draw attention, but back home it’s a natural byproduct and being even more unique here would lead me to believe it would happen more. Mark another one to false assumptions.

Intrigue and Laughter: FiveFingers of Awesome

I love my Vibram FiveFingers. If you’re not one of the cool kids yet, FiveFingers are shoes that allow you to be essentially barefoot without the trouble of cutting up the bottoms of your feet on the pavement.

They’re awesome and I wear them everyday. But in the states they’re only starting to catch on so for the last year and a half I’ve become accustomed to constant inquiries from interested people who need to know what they are and where to get them.

I’m not gonna lie, I like the attention. :)

In Europe I’ve received much of the same response, although I don’t think anyone has ever seen them. Like normal I constantly watch the eyes of oncoming foot traffic go down to my feet, them proceed to nudge their friend and whisper about the shoes, and continue to both stare as they pass.

That’s normal at home, but here there’s only been one inquiry so far. People don’t ask, they look inquisitively and every so often bust out laughing. It’s funny because I welcome all responses but find it funny when no one thinks I notice them looking, talking, and sometimes even pointing.

I’ve seen the response to VFFs so much that I can read minds. It’s written all over their faces.

I can just see the Europeans looking and thinking, “crazy Americans” while the Americans look and think, “crazy Europeans.” It’s quite the experience.

Fitting In

I don’t think that I look anything but American, I have unique hair, grungier clothes, and overall just do my own thing style-wise. But the funny part is that I don’t think everyone can tell that I am American. Specifically, fellow Americans.

For example, just yesterday a couple came up to us at the park in front of the Eiffel Tower and asked if I’d take their picture. I said sure, snapped it, and asked if it was ok. He’s like “yep it’s great” and I said “cool” and sat back down. Then as he’s walking away, as if he was thoroughly surprised, I hear him remark to his girlfriend, “Americans!”

I also think I may have fooled the crepe guy with my faux French accent but that’s just speculation :)

So in the end these are just some interesting observations we’ve made about what happens when you don’t try to fit in and you’re just yourself.

I don’t try to fit in at home and aside from being culturally aware and making every best effort to be polite, I don’t go out of my way to fit in here either and it seems to actually be the best way TO fit in. It’s strange how that happens isn’t it?

Have you ever been surprised by the response or lack of response that you get from being yourself in an unfamiliar place? Let us know in the comments.

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