7 Proven Ways to Connect with the Locals When You Travel Abroad
There is no better way of learning about a new culture than through the eyes of a local. Going on a tour group can be fun, but it can also limit the authentic experience you could have by going solo. Here are seven ways to connect with the local people of a foreign country when you travel abroad.
1. Network Before You Go
The Internet has made the world a small place. You can connect with anyone from anywhere. That includes international students from the country you plan to visit. You can reach out to an international student organization in a local university, get a contact for a student from your destination country, and get firsthand information about its history, culture, and etiquettes. Most of these students have family and friends back home and might volunteer to connect you to them via social media even before you leave. This kind of information exchange will set you up to make lasting connections during your travels.
2. Learn the Language
Even if you can only learn a few basic words and expressions, knowing the local language when you travel can make a difference. Locals would appreciate you speaking their language and appreciating their culture. Enrolling in a language crash course can be a worthy investment in this regard. It is amazing how a simple “Hello” or “Thank you” said in the local language can make a significant difference in your travel experience.
3. Hang Out at a College or University
Universities and colleges offer opportunities to connect with local students. You can visit their campuses, talk to the students, and even join some of their clubs. This is an excellent way to get a feel for the life and vibe of the country while meeting new people in the process.
4. Engage with the Couchsurfing Community
Couchsurfing is a platform with a community that connects adventurers with locals around the world. The concept is quite simple; it offers a chance to sleep on a couch/cot/bed/floor of a local’s home for free or pay a small fee. It is a great way to share the experience with locals, practice your language skills, and even make new friends.
5. Eat Where the Locals Eat
The best way to learn about a new culture is through food. When traveling, it is recommended to stay away from restaurants that cater specifically to tourists. Instead, you should seek out local restaurants and food joints. Mostly, you would find them by asking locals for recommendations. You could also try to strike up a conversation with the locals sitting next to you. Eating at the same place every day would get you noticed, and while it may take time to break the ice, locals tend to become friendlier over time.
6. Find Out About Local Events Before You Leave
Before you travel, you should research the local events, festivals or holidays occurring during your visit. Attending local festivals, street fairs, and celebrations gives you a chance to experience the authentic spirit of the culture. You can join in the celebration, meet locals, eat local food, and learn about traditional festivities passed down from generation to generation.
7. Find a Custom Vacation Planner
If the idea of planning your travel itinerary seems tiring, personalized trip planners exist. These planners can connect you with locals who are already vetted and can arrange for local guides and homestays. They provide you with insider information about how to experience the country that goes beyond the guidebooks. You could even plan to enjoy a meal with a local family, attend a village dance party, or learn how to cook with a chef in their home kitchen.
Traveling is all about experiences, and connecting with locals can make your excursions unforgettable. It might require going out of your comfort zone, and the process may take time, but the ultimate reward of having a local friend in a foreign land is worth the effort. So, plan your next trip and try out one or more of these ways to connect with the locals.