Why Spending Time with Locals Should be in Your Travel To-Do List

04 Apr 2017 by Olga Brighton

Travel Information

We travel for many reasons, but one common experience that bonds travellers together is their appreciation of the rich culture of another country. When we travel, we get a rare glimpse into other peoples’ way of life. This exposure to different cultures, broadens the mind and gives us a better understanding of the world around us.

It can be tempting to stay within the safe-zone of our tour group, or hotel and to eat where all the other visitors do, however, it pays to venture further afield than the tourist bubble and get a glimpse of life through the locals eyes.

Some of the obvious ways to connect with locals while travelling is to be friendly, smile and ask questions. Show an active interest in their way of life. Try and add a few phrases in their language as this shows that you are making an effort.

Local communications

So how best to try and meet the locals? There are many ways and it depends where you are travelling. Try to connect with locals at every opportunity whilst doing what you usually do when you travel. Whether this is talking to the shop assistant, baristas, or servers in café’s and shops. Chat to the market traders about their produce, where they get supplies, if its local, where its grown/made, how business is doing – in fact anything that will help get to know more about the local community. Try going to a local festival, fiesta or carnival if the time is right. Always look for where the locals eat instead of opting for the café’s, bars and restaurants on the tourist strip. You will get a much better feel for the local community and cuisine. The food will probably be better and certainly cheaper!

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You can join a tour group that is run by a local guide and has local participants. Opt for a language exchange programme, or volunteer somewhere that locals will gather such as a community, or day care centre. Couchsurfing and Airbnb offer chances for you to meet and stay at a local’s home. Your host could be happy to provide insight on the local culture and their way of life.

Some travellers say that you have not really experienced a city until you eat a meal in a local’s home. Eatwith.com makes eating in someone’s home possible by bringing together chefs and foodies around the world. You can book a meal, usually dinner, in a registered host’s own home. You will be having dinner and conversation with a diverse group of people, who are most likely locals in the area. Eatwith.com operates in 50 countries and 200 cities around the world.

What are the benefits of spending time with locals? Why is spending time with locals a must?

Meeting locals
  • The only way to really understand and appreciate another culture is by interacting with the local community. The world needs more tolerance and understanding of cultural differences and this is a great way to understand differences better and use your travel to really immerse yourself in a local culture.
  • You will most likely realise that there is a common thread of kindness and mutual respect that runs through all of us.
  • You may also learn some of the language. You may not be fluent, but spending time with locals and asking them to help you learn is a great way to start.
  • By being open to interacting with locals, you become a traveller, not a tourist. A tourist merely visits a place, buys a souvenir, and then leaves. A traveller takes the time to see the culture, the human element, and local daily life.
  • Cross-cultural relationships that you make broaden your horizons and understanding of local political, religious and social issues that affect the lives of the local population. However, don't do these 18 things abroad.
  • Interacting with locals helps you see things from other people’s perspective. Not everyone has the same views on the world or their community. As you listen to different opinions, it can help build mutual respect and compromise.
  • Spending time with locals will help you grow as a person. As you immerse yourself in other cultures during your travels, you should find yourself becoming more tolerant, understanding, open, and more patient than before.

If you haven’t taken the time to chat to the local community, why not try it on your next trip and see what happens. Read about the culture of your travel destination before you travel, and as always, don’t forget to take out travel insurance for peace of mind while you are away.

Read also: Quiz: Can You Guess the Country from the Proverb?

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