How To Experience Local Cultures When You Travel Apr 3, 2017 by Ashleigh (Awesome Escape Blogger)
If you aren’t a traveler you may think that “experiencing culture” means you’re going to visit a few museums or listen to local musicians. Sure, that’s a part of it, but that’s not the real deal. Most expats believe that “cultural experiences” are the number one priority when they travel. It’s all about diving into a different way of life and learning from the experience. Many people just don’t know “how” to experience a different culture when they travel. But don’t worry, if you want to live like a local when you’re visiting a new country we’ve got you covered. With a little preparation, travel is more than just a string of hotel rooms—it’s the experience of a lifetime that can open your eyes to a whole new world.
It makes perfect sense to research your destination before you leave. When you go for a job interview, don’t you research the company and position thoroughly before you have your face-to-face? Of course you do, and the same should occur when you are traveling. And I’m not talking the surface stuff. That’s easy. Dig deep to learn a little about the history of your destination the people, current events, and your travel goals. The more you know about where you are headed, the more you can focus on the moment when you are there. Instead of having to learn everything when you arrive, you can spend more time absorbing the ambiance and the lived experience of your new locale. Otherwise, you will be starting from left field when everyone else is ready to run the bases.
Rather than dashing from destination to destination, try and spend a little more time at each so you can ground yourself in one place and take it all in. Now, this is a bit difficult if you are traveling with a tour group. Usually, the itinerary is set up so you see a lot of specific things in a limited amount of time. And there’s not much you can do about that. But when you are traveling on your own should slow down the pace and enjoy the moment instead of running around and only seeing the highlights—but not the full picture.
Rent a House or Apartment
Hotels are comfortable and easy to arrange from afar, but they’re not the best way to immerse yourself in your destination. Hostels, of course, are an excellent way to meet fellow travelers, but they don’t always get you the best cultural experience. Instead, why don’t you rent a local apartment or house? This is easier than ever with online services. OF course, many cultures are shy of tourists or foreigners. You may have to time to establish a level of trust with your new neighbors. Remember this is their turf and their rules. If you are pushy or inconsiderate, you won’t get the best response. This isn’t meant to scare you, just as a gentle reminder that you’re a guest and not the boss. The less you look like an outsider, the more you can experience in a foreign country.
Eat the Food
What people eat and how they prepare their food tells you a lot about the local culture. Traditional dishes have a history, and often the vendors making them will have a delightful story to tell. Your best bet is to find a local market with fun and welcoming vibes. Maybe you want to find a seat somewhere near the marketplace and just watch all the exchanges going on. You can also find local restaurants that aren’t polished tourist traps. Chances are you will eventually strike up a conversation with some of the locals, and from there you’ll create that initial connection you need to dig a little deeper into what life is all about there. Lots of food, laughter, learning, and fun!
Use Local Transit
Now sometimes you need to be careful where you’re going. But, for the most part, using local transit is a fabulous route to get an excellent flavor for the culture. Don’t just rent a car and shuttle from the hotel to touristy destinations. If you use local transit (buses, subways, trams, and trains), you can meet locals and get a feel for the rhythms of the city: how people get around, where they live, what the city looks like at the ground level. You can get on and off at will to explore local parks, markets, and shopping districts. Ferries are also an excellent way to discover what hidden gems are waiting to be found. Just be sure to research local transit options, fare rates, and payment methods. Use a map, transit guide, or app. Don’t get lost, instead, lose yourself in the flow of a new place.
If you really want to get a feel for a new place you’ve got to get out walking and exploring. (This goes hand-in-hand with riding local transit.) Just check to make sure it’s safe beforehand. There are many beautiful places where tourists should stay away from. Be curious but safe. Meander through the city or town streets and have a look in delightful cafes and stores. Take a minute to talk with the shop owners and always tell them how grateful you are for their suggestions and guidance. Good manners go a long way when you are in a foreign place. It always comes back around.
Listen to Locals
So many travelers spend all their time talking with locals and asking questions. But it’s really better to listen to what the locals have to say if you want to open your mind to new experiences. Sure, it’s nice to fill in the blanks about where you live and what you do. Just be quick about it and hand the metaphorical mic over to someone else. They have their own stories to tell that can be rich in neat historical facts, unique customs and traditions, spooky myths, and interesting anecdotes. Not to mention that good listeners are always welcome back for more! Sure, there are times you are going to hear to see something that doesn’t make sense from your point of view But that’s part of the adventurous fun. Those are the memories you’ll never forget.
Don’t just visit the major monuments. Plumb the depths and breadths of travel by experiencing local culture. Traveling is really the only way you can truly appreciate the vast diversity that makes our world so beautiful.