Whether it’s a vacation, a study abroad trip, or a work trip, traveling without embracing the local culture is not really traveling now is it? Here are some tips to understanding your next destination:
1. If going with people you know, do not stay joined at the hip.
- Staying joined at the hip to another person may limit your networking skills. Never go anywhere alone, but try to explore the area with different people. Different people and personalities may bring out different aspects of the area that you may not have seen before.
2. Stay away from the touristy areas.
- Try to get one or two friends and try to see a place for more than it’s town center. Ensure it is not a dangerous area first.
3. Chat it up with locals.
- If you are going to one place for a long time, become a regular at a coffee shop, sandwich spot, etc. This is a good, safe way to meet locals, unless you are walking into Luna Restaurant (where the infamous Godfather restaurant seen took place).
4. Try to learn the local language/slang.
- This can be done by meeting locals and cracking open a book or two.
5. Eat traditional foods of the place you are visiting.
- This also goes along with staying away from tourist areas. Many restaurants cater to the tourists, dialing down the number of traditional dishes on their menu and adding burgers and fries. This may mean walking a little further to dinner, but the authentic little restaurant famous with the locals will be worth it.
6. Try to watch a television in the place you are traveling.
- Television tells us an unbelievable amount of information about a place. Watching a news segment or sitcom can show us how some people of the area feel about their government. It can explain family values and social dynamics. Even without knowing the language, keying into the body language of the people you are watching can give you a more round perspective of the local people.
7. Read up on the local goings on: political world, economic world, and social world.
- Reading from local papers and magazines are best, but if the language barrier is too difficult, simply staying on top of current events in the area is essential to understanding culture.
8. Do not drink the local water. You know need those cultures, not their illnesses.
- Even if it is safe to drink, your body is used to the water from the place you live. Drinking a few glasses every few days may not be harmful but switching over completely may be. Instead of buying bottled water, which is essentially their water with plastic around it, pick up a bottle with a filtration tap, this way you will not burn through plastic and always have safe water to drink.
9. Get on local time.
- Follow the same schedule of those around you- most Europeans eat a light breakfast, they have a big lunch, take a siesta, and enjoy a late dinner. As hard as it may be try not to nap during the day to help get your internal clock reset to the local time. This may take a few days, be patient with yourself.
10. Try to blend in with what you dress
- Nothing says tourist louder than a fanny-pack, visor, and sunscreen splattered on your face. Research before you pack and try to blend in, without sacrificing one’s own personal style of course!