One of the most asked questions I hear from fellow travellers is “how and where can I met locales?”
Now that travel has become the norm, we are always looking for a more in-depth experience. I literally see myself as an everyday anthropologist, who loves to get to know foreign cultures in-depth.
It’s through this excavation and understanding of a region’s culture that we unveil its hidden treasures.
From time spent in Sicily, I discovered that the Sicilians don’t use the verb for the future tense. They do learn it in school as they do throughout Italy but it’s not used in their everyday spoken language.
The reason for this comes from a time when wealthy landowners only gave farmers a block of land to work on for a year. This, in turn, influenced the farmer’s thoughts and actions, as it was imperative he make the most out of land for that short time.
Hundreds of years later, this still influences their modern language, and the fabric of Sicilian society. On the up side, Sicilians have this incredible ability to live in the present.
It fascinates me to no end, that our language, history, and community are so interwoven together. These rich intricate threads creating the magic that is everyday culture and life. And which often highlight the subtle differences between cultures.
Locals will happily share these cultural peculiarities with us once we get to know them. We get to read and discuss their local history, discover and dig deeper. The postcard view of travel is most often saved for tourists passing through. For me, this is the most rewarding part of being in a foreign land is the cultural customs that make it unique.
So how and where can we meet locals? We can always move to a country, (click here to find interesting job assignments abroad)– Or just plan a little ahead before a trip researching what to do while there.
Here are some of my Top #10 ways to meet Locals, discover their culture and history:
- Stay somewhere unique
- Do a language exchange, there is always someone wanting do swap, best place I’ve found is conversationexchange.com or language exchange
Volunteer, at a smaller local non-for-profit. I tend to stay away from the larger organisations that are run by foreigners. I prefer the smaller non-profits, who work closer with the community, with minimal budgets. Which means your time and energy has a real impact. When in South American I used this site.
- Do a workshop in anything that tickles your fancy, my best experiences were learning local cooking in Thailand, a natural dying
and weaving course in Laos. Do try to do something run by a local organisation versus a tour/travel agency. I try to keep my spending local, not only is it normally cheaper, the money is most likely to go back to the artisans or local community.
- Investigate Community events, programs or talks – given by local libraries or community centers.
- Check to see if there are any free local walking/bike tours, in some cities given by keen locals.
- Visit local markets and spend some time talking to the stall holders and creatives – they love a conversation and if you take the time you’ll find their full of stories, insights, and tips. Often the craft is handed down through the generations and regional.
- Share a passion or mutual interest and then find a shop/studio where you can discuss and learn more. Be it Music, Gardening, Art, Books, Sport etc. etc. The list is endless. Find the translated word and ask around on the best place to go.
- When in Rome, as the saying goes, ‘act like a Roman’. While living in Argentina I never once went to an official tango show. They are over priced and staged, you’ll see an authentic Tango on the streets of San Telmo or a late night milagro (Tango Hall). It is here you’ll see the very best dancers in real life, and even get the chance to dance with and meet the locals. If you’d like to see and taste what the locals eat, you can even invite yourself into their home through shared economy sites like: Mealsharing.
- Smile, stop – smell the roses, dare to attempt small conversations; anywhere and anytime. In my experience, I’ve found that Locals love discussing their country. Thus you’ll learn as much from the gentleman on the park bench or the lady in the bakery store. These everyday folk are the areas living history.
It’s these people; their lives – their stories – their sharing – their time – that enrich our travels and adds a richness to our journey. It’s this and all the lovely people I’ve met along the way that has made all my journeys worth travelling.
Go forth and meet locals and uncover your trips magic…..
If there are any tips that you have that I may have missed or some of your own found magic you can share, I’d love to hear it!