How to Blend in With the Locals While Traveling
To really experience the life and culture of a location you’re visiting, you need to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the ways of the natives. While you may really want to see some of the hot tourist attractions and historical high-points, you can’t really appreciate a culture until you have lived it. Here are some tips for blending in a bit better so that you can experience the true colors of a local culture.
Do Some Research Before You Go
Most countries will have a travel advisory website where you can learn about important etiquette customs as well as things to watch out for when there. Spend some time reading travel website reviews of others that have visited- they’ll often share stories of mistakes that they made, or might just point out something they learned that would be useful to know.
Familiarize Yourself with Currency
Nothing screams “tourist” more than standing at a register puzzling over coins and punching numbers into a currency translator on your phone. Before you leave, make sure that you have at least a basic understanding of the local currency, and be able to recognize and distinguish different coins and denominations quickly, so you aren’t fumbling with them in public.
Stay in a Real Neighborhood
There are always going to be well-known hotels in top tourist destinations. The will have the conveniences of home and are often set up to provide access to tourist attractions, dining, and other accommodations that are meant to make you comfortable. While it may be easier to plan a trip this way, it’s not going to help you immerse yourself in the culture and learn about it. Try to find a hotel or even a house rental in a residential neighborhood, and then ask the locals what to do. You’ll get a much more authentic experience and you’ll learn a lot more.
Wear Neutral Clothing
Avoid flashy colors or anything with brands or sports teams on them. Wear modest, neutral clothing, but avoid things like athletic wear and fanny packs or day-bags. If culturally appropriate, you may choose to purchase a few items of a traditional style of clothing if doing so will not offend the native culture, and especially if local customs require specific apparel for different genders or other distinctions.
This is especially true if some of the destinations you are visiting have cultural or religious significance to people. Just follow the rules and you should be fine. If you’re required to remove your shoes or cover your head in a temple, just do it. Don’t make a fuss about it, and don’t ask why. If you’re truly curious, hit up Google after you leave. You should respect the local traditions and customs, even if you don’t fully understand them.
Learn the Language
It should go without saying, but you want to have a few key phrases down in the local language before you go. It will help keep you safe, as well as help you to navigate things like dining, transportation, and finding needed services. You don’t need to be fluent in the language, just learn enough of the important stuff to get by.
Perhaps one of the most useful tools you have is the power of observation. Take a few minutes when you first arrive to sit in a populated area and you’ll notice things about the way people carry themselves, how they initiate contact, and how they resolve conflicts. Taking the time to watch how people typically interact can save you time and frustration while you’re on your trip.
With her great interest in business, digital marketing and self-growth, Camilla Dabney supports Canadabiz.net as a Content Coordinator. Whenever not working, she enjoys spending her time traveling around the world, jogging and rock climbing. Feel free to follow her on her Twitter.