Everyone seeks for local interactions on their travel. Seeing a place from a local’s perspective helps us to understand a place and its cultures. Unless you hire a local guide (in which case they are there to help you answer your curiosities since it’s their job), I believe that when it comes to interacting with a local (in a natural setting), it shouldn’t be forced.
Often I travel and have amazing local interactions all because I was in the right time and place. Other times, I don’t talk to the locals at all, and that’s okay too. The thing is that when we are travelling, we are guests to the locals’ eyes so it is our job to respect their everyday life. For places that are flooded with tourists all year long, maybe it is easier for locals to accept tourists but for places that don’t have so much “experience” with tourists, to them we might be intimidating so as guests we should be sensitive to this.
Here are some of my tips of interacting with locals without annoying them:
Start with a Smile
Yes, I believe it is a simple as that. Don’t come and start chatting away like there’s no tomorrow, perhaps for some locals in big cities that are used to tourists, this is a good approach but when it comes to small, sleepy villages where new people are rare, start with this simple gesture. I think a smile can suggest that we are not invading their area and we are here to learn from them.
Learn Basic Words/Phrases from the Local Language
Learning how to say “hello”, “thank you”, “good bye”, “where is…” in the local language will definitely increase your chance of interacting with the locals. First, you are in a way respecting them by making an effort to learn their language. Second, people are always more welcome when they know that you have made that extra effort. I know that there were times when I talked in a local language during my travels that led to some local interactions or often they laugh at me and try to correct me!
Eat where the Locals Eat
This is one of the best ways to interact with the locals. Try to find restaurants or food stalls where the locals eat. Not only will you be able to taste local food in its most natural setting, this is also the perfect opportunity to interact with local people. Some locals will be friendly and perhaps will start approaching you, or you can start the first move by talking to them (for example you can ask them explain the food you ordered and how to eat it best!).
Booking a Local Experience
If you want to be sure that you will get local interactions, there is absolutely nothing wrong with booking yourself a few local experiences offered by the so many travel websites out there. However, you might want to be selective as to which ones you choose. Nowadays though it is a lot easier to find authentic local experiences. These are some of my favourites:
1. Free walking tours, they are run by the local young people so it is always interesting to hear the city’s history from a local’s perspective. Plus, after the tour these local guides are usually open with questions so you can ask them for recommendations (sometimes they’ll even take you eating at a local restaurant).
2. Foodie tours, food will bind people, I truly believe that! There are so many food tours that offer authentic local dishes to try. Like the free walking tours, these are also usually run by locals. Try checking out tours like Eating Europe who does tours around Europe (I haven’t tried them but they seem to be a big hit!) and I’m sure you know I tried Taste Porto, which I totally recommend. I also recommend Withlocals (I used to offer food walk tours using Withlocals) as it is truly tours crafted by locals.
3. Choice of staying, you can adjust where you stay to get the best local interactions too. I like staying at small hotels/hostels as I love talking to the owners (who are usually locals) and give you advice. There are also Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Homestay and a whole of other options that you can choose from, depending on which ones you are most comfortable with.
The most important thing for local interactions is to never force an interaction. If it’s meant to happen, it will happen. Don’t annoy the locals for the sake of getting your authentic experience. Always be open in understanding their body language and be sensitive too! Other than that, enjoy and just let it flow!
ALSO CHECK OUT!
More tips on how you can meet with locals while travelling from Febby of Jalan2Liburan.
This week’s theme: Local Interactions