Everyone has unique preferences concerning travel, but most people want to blend in and immerse themselves in the “true experience” of a place, instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. Even though you are a tourist when you visit a new city, it’s possible to not act like one, or at least to not be too obvious about it!
Here are 7 ways to live like a local when you’re travelling someplace new:
- Read about Local Events – Looking for an experience you’ll never forget? Search online for local festivals and cultural events around the time of your visit. Attend celebrations that reflect the culture of a place, and meet the locals too.Also join social media groups to learn about what’s happening in the city and how you’re expected to behave at cultural do’s.
- Learn to Communicate – If you have time, take a class in the native tongue, so you can talk with locals instead of just other tourists. If you don’t, use other methods of communication: A friendly smile is always a great start!Even if you’re not very good at languages, picking up a few words and phrases can help tremendously, especially “please” and “thank you”.
- Interact with Everyone – Socialize, accept invitations (within reason), talk to as many people as possible, and scour your network for local connections. People living in the city can point out the best places to visit, foods to eat, and much more.Ask backpackers and hostels about the “well-kept secrets” they’ve discovered, whether it’s a tiny pub or a local museum, and go see it!
- Take a Cab, Bus or Train – Leave the tour bus to the obvious tourists, and take public transport instead. Watch locals carry out their everyday routine when you’re in a bus or train, while you breathe in the sights, smells and sounds of their city.Take a cab, talk to the driver (be careful about the information you share, though), and ask about places to visit and things to see.
- Eat Like the Locals – Sample local specialties instead of familiar chain restaurants and tourist trail eateries. Try a snack from a street-side cart or a native brew you’ve never heard of, and experience the culture of a place through its food and drink.Traveller’s belly could happen even if you’re eating only at guidebook-recommended joints, so take the chance. It’ll be worth it!
- Skip the Familiar – Instead of staying at a fancy hotel with “tourists”, try couch-surfing or searching for backpackers and hostels to meet others like you. You may be tempted to sign up for planned sightseeing tours and hit the tourist hotspots, but visit them on your own instead.Try something outside your comfort zone, take a map and wander off, explore the neighbourhood, and make unique memories!
- Volunteer for Social Activities – There’s no better way to meet like-minded locals than by pitching in with them for a cause. Social activities help your personal growth and fulfilment, and they transcend language barriers almost completely.Spend an afternoon helping with a food donation or neighbourhood clean-up drive, and you’ll feel even more connected to the local pulse.
Bonus Tip – Don’t Do Something the Locals Wouldn’t
Make sure you’re being polite, friendly, and above all, respectful of the culture and heritage of a city. This (as opposed to “that idiot tourist who tried to jump into the fountain for kicks”) will make for a safer and more memorable trip, for the right reasons.
Face it, you may act like a fool at some point. Then again, everyone does (even the locals), so don’t beat yourself up if it happens!