Part of the charm of traveling abroad is getting to know new people and the lives they lead. You would be surprised to find just how different lives abroad can be, but also how many things are similar. A good way to really get to know a culture is by getting to know its people.
Right along with trying the local food, and sampling the regional cuisine, is having a conversation with someone who actually lives there. As you travel around a place, save up your questions. All the moments you find yourself curious, hang on to them and then find someone who really knows the streets to help you out. You’ll find a fresh perspective and a wonderful appreciation.
Learn the Language
Try an app like Duolingo or try a semester of a foreign language before you head to your next destination.
Learn a few key phrases like “please” and “thank you” and figure out the proper way to greet someone. Think about finding an exchange program for when you arrive. Many cities have sites for foreigners and locals to pair up and spend an hour or two sharing their languages. You’ll learn a whole lot of the language, and get a chance to ask all the questions you’ve been storing up.
Drink Where the Locals Do
Every city has its drinking culture. Whether it’s a glass of sangria in Spain or a small cup of wine in Italy, you can learn a lot about a country by getting your drink on. In most cities the main drags are lined with bars and restaurants, usually filled with tourists.
Try taking a turn down a side road and see if you can stumble on a more local watering hole. Over a good glass of something strong, who knows where the conversation may take you.
Be Brave, Be Bold
The most important part of getting to know the people of a city you’re visiting is to not to be afraid.
Even if you are stumbling through a few lines of Italian, the local people will appreciate your effort. All it takes is the fortitude to step up and ask a question or two, even if you know you won’t get the words like.
Try Something You Won’t Like
Every place has got its local cuisine and trying it with the locals is a great way to strike up a conversation.
Find out what the local signature dish is, and where the locals go to eat it. Ask for advice about menu choices and get some help understanding why this food is important to the given society or culture.
Whether in museums and art galleries, there are plenty of people around a city who might even be paid to talk to you.
Seeing some art that you don’t understand? Need some insight into an artist’s influence on a certain society? Ask a docent and then see if they’re open to shifting the conversation. Ask how they got involved in working in art and what they think the museum has done for the local community. Who are their favorite local artists and what else do they recommend in the city.
Like the bars you are used to, chances are your bartender is pretty chatty.
Heading to a local bar and sitting at the bar gives you the chance for some face time with the bartender. See what they know about the city and get their own unique perspective on their community.
In places like Dublin, if you are willing to buy a round for the bar, it will go a long way.
Showing your generosity and willingness to get to know people is a great way to open yourself up to the chance to get to know people and learn a whole lot about a place.