5 ways to experience a place like a local

International travel provides the opportunity to enjoy new experiences while exploring diverse cultures. One of the best ways to gain an appreciation of a new location is to live like the locals do. Here are five clever ways to experience a place like a local:

Learn some conversation basics

Although complete fluency isn’t necessarily required, learning a few basic words and phrases in the local language can open a door to a new world. Many of the locals will likely appreciate this effort and may give off a friendlier demeanor. It is wise to learn how to ask for and understand directions, order food and seek help if needed.

Stay with a local family

Many families around the world frequently open their doors to foreign visitors. Staying with a family is one of the best ways to learn about the local customs and offers a more social alternative to a standard hotel. These families can also provide more information on proper etiquette and must-see attractions. Certain families may even offer lodging free of charge in exchange for help with domestic duties such as cleaning, cooking or babysitting. Or even if you can’t stay with a local family, services like WithLocals offer you the opportunity to take tours with locals or just meet up with them for an authentic home cooked meal.

Wander away from tourist hot spots

Although visiting certain popular tourist spots is expected, it is advisable to not spend an entire trip going to these locations. The oversaturation of tourists can often detract from the area’s true culture. Plus, many of the restaurants and stores that offer the most authentic meals and merchandise are generally located in areas that are not often frequented by foreign visitors.

Take a cooking class

Cooking classes can provide in-depth information on the local cuisine and can teach participants how to create authentic dishes. These classes may also offer stories of how certain food items relate to the area’s culture and history.

Stay longer

Longer stays provide additional opportunities to learn more about how people in a certain place conduct their everyday lives. Language skills and customary etiquette can be greatly improved by staying in a place longer than just a few days. Opting for a longer stay can also help uncover certain local treasures that may have otherwise gone unseen.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny @ Till The Money Runs Out March 14, 2014 at 12:42 am

I have been pretty curious about “With Locals” have you used it all on your travels? Any thoughts?
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Renuka March 16, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I experienced Mumbai in India like a local and I must admit that I couldn’t have known Mumbai better!
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Anna April 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I agree with all of these – except for the cooking classes. Most of them are just tourist traps nowadays. Plus everybody wants to learn how to cook, so in this respect, it’s hard to stay away from the tourist crowd…
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Chris @ One Weird Globe May 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Erg on the tourist spots… One reason I like getting way off the beaten path… Agree with Anna on the cooking classes – the few I’ve seen advertised seemed nice enough, but since neither my wife nor I particularly enjoy cooking, we’d learn something we’d probably never want to use…

Another one to consider: sharing photos of your travels with the locals you’re talking with. I’ve learned about some off-beat places thanks to a portfolio of photos I keep on my iPad. They see a photo of, say, an epic tree I saw in South Korea, and they tell me about one that’s bigger nearby. Or something along those lines.

Also, night markets. Wherever you go, they’re usually pretty interesting.
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Kem Dau May 29, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I really agree with you, i believe your experience very helpful
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noel June 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

All excellent tips – I love to wander down the back streets to and getting lost 🙂
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Kyle June 28, 2014 at 5:18 am

Good advice for living like a local. One thing I would add is using the CouchSurfer community. I find that couchsurfing with a local is the best way to quickly get a local’s perspective on things.
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