10 Don’ts On How To Meet Locals And Experience Local Culture

1 – Don’t Be Glued To Your Guidebook. While not willing to miss out anything, you’re missing everything. Take your time reading tips, chronicles and guidebooks about where you going before actually going. This way you can roughly organise your trip with main attractions, filling in the details along the way and allowing spare time for serendipity once there.

2 – Don’t Go To Hostels. You will meet travellers from all places in the world but the one you’re in. Airbnb and Couchsurfing are great alternatives to accommodate with locals. Entering their personal space is the hardest thing to do when one is travelling. If you’re staying with locals, you will likely be offered to hang out with them.

3 – Don’t Look At Everything Through Your Photo Lens. True experience is done without filters. All your senses are solicited when travelling, don’t prevent yourself from real feelings. A nice way to introduce your camera is to ask for permission when shooting -if anyone is obviously in your photo-and eventually showing them the pictures.

4 – Don’t Try to Top Other’s Travel Experience. Travelling remains personal. We aren’t looking for/after the same things our neighbours and colleagues are. You won’t be able to see everything. Take your pick of the best attractions when planning your vacation, and follow your own interests for the best choice.

5 – Don’t Assume They Are Different From You. They have hopes, fears and want the best for their children. Plus, with the onslaught globalisation, locals are likely to have the same global culture as you do. This is a good start for conversation. Take the opportunity not to restrain it to superficial levels. Tell people more than where you are from: open up and ask questions that have been on your mind.

6 – Don’t Stay In Your Tourist Bubble. The absolute worst way to experience a new place is in a big tourist bus with glass between you and the outside world. Get out and walk. By looking up on websites such as Couchsurfing, the activities’ section on TripAdvisor and Vayable, there are great ways to meet up with locals.

7 – Don’t Assume Everyone Is Speaking English. The knowledge of English is spread, not mandatory. Don’t think it’s polite to add « Please » and « Thank you » in the language of the country at the end of your sentence. You will rather sound patronising. Even though you do not need to be fluent in the language, learning some dozen words and making yourself understood saying isolate words and mimics will engage more locals to listen to and respect you.

8 – Don’t Blend In As A Local. There’re too many subtleties that we cannot learn. What you can do instead is to look as if you were living there. Travelling is about sharing experiences with one another. Don’t forget who you are just to fit in. Adapt, learn and act accordingly. You are curious about them. They will be curious about your story too.

9 – Don’t Endlessly Compare. Public transportation is better in Germany. Cuisine is tastier in France. Sun is shinier in Australia, and everything is bigger in the US. But this isn’t it. Enjoy it as it is. Do not even bother everyone with endless comparisons that only indicate you’d rather be at home.

10 – Don’t Forget To Taste the Culture.  Food is a universal language. It peels away our differences and gives us a commonality. You will learn a lot about the culture witnessing how people share their meal. Do stop at random food stalls and markets in the city or village you’re in: this is where the locals are, where the everyday people gather.

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