Traveling is all about exploring new locations, eating new food, immersing yourself in different cultures, and letting new experiences change you as a person. And to truly get the most out of your travels, you need to connect with locals. How else could you learn about the most authentic food spots and the best places to watch the sunrise? But with obstacles like language barriers and opposing cultural practices, this is easier said than that.
Here are three tips on how to get along with locals on your travels.
Learn Some Key Phrases in the Local Language
Language is a powerful means of bonding. Learning even just a few key phrases in a local language will show that you’re interested in connecting with locals enough to take the time to learn.
First, find out what language is spoken at your destination.
Once you know what language you need to learn, there are a few different ways you can go about it. You can buy a phrasebook, or download a language-learning app like Duolingo. You can also try to find a local language partner online who can help you practice.
Be Respectful of Local Customs
Different cultures have different ways of doing things, and what may be normal for you could be offensive to someone from a different culture.
Before you travel you should take steps to avoid stepping on any toes. Start by doing some research on the local customs of your destination. It’s easy to find information about different social norms around eye contact, appropriate conversation topics, greeting people, touching others, etc online. For example, in some cultures talking about sensitive topics like memory care, addiction, death, etc in a non-formal setting is frowned upon.
When in doubt, err on the side of caution. If you’re unsure about whether or not something is offensive, it’s best to avoid doing it.
Seek Out Opportunities to Connect
One of the best ways to connect with locals is to seek out opportunities to interact with them. Sure, you can wait passively until you bump into them, but actively trying to improve your travel experience by seeking them out is ideal.
There are different approaches you can take.
First, try to stay in accommodations that allow for more interaction with locals. For example, staying in a homestay or guest house is more ideal than in a hotel in this regard.
You can also look for opportunities to connect through shared interests. If you’re a fan of a certain sport, try to find a pick-up game at your destination. Or if you enjoy cooking, see if there are any local cooking classes you can take.
Finally, don’t be afraid to simply strike up conversations while you’re out and about. Just remember to be respectful and open-minded, and you’re sure to have a great conversation.
Remember that locals are just like you – they’re people who are interesting, complex, and deserving of respect. By following the tips above, you can make sure that you have positive interactions with locals wherever you go.