There’s little more exciting than travelling to a new place – but sometimes it can feel surprisingly hard to get to know the local culture when you do. A lot of destinations are so well set up to receive tourists by providing familiar food and speaking our language that the local culture can be somewhat obscured – especially when you’re focusing your attention on the major tourist attractions.
So, what are the best ways to ensure you really get under the skin of the culture you’re visiting?
Stay as long as you can
One of the simplest ways to discover the local culture in more depth is to stay in your chosen destination as long as you can. While you might not be able to explore for months on end, choosing a break that lasts a few weeks as opposed to a few days will give you the opportunity to tick off those unmissable tourist hotspots and venture off the beaten track as well. Plus, the longer you stay, the more little observations you’re likely to make about the place and the culture. Each time you notice something new, you’ll enrich your overall picture of the destination.
Learn a little of the local language
Most of us aren’t fluent speakers of our destination’s native language – and many of us are intimidated by the prospect of trying to speak to locals in their own tongue. However, doing so really helps you to integrate that little bit more during your stay.
The good news is that you don’t need to know a lot at all to positively impact your trip. Learning a few simple key phrases is enough to show locals that you’re interested in their culture, and they’ll often start speaking to you in English – especially if they notice you’re struggling! Don’t be tempted to speak in English straight away though – showing that willingness to attempt speaking their language is a really important step in making connections. Plus, they’ll probably be keen to teach you a few phrases, which will make it easier to make more acquaintances over the course of your trip.
The key is to not be intimidated by the language barrier – it’s surprising just how much you can communicate using body language and other methods!
While it’s tempting to plan out the majority of your trip, especially when you’re really excited about all the things to see and do, try to avoid being too prescriptive in your itinerary. By all means, have ideas of what you’d like to do – but be aware that over-planning can impair your ability to be spontaneous. This can mean you end up doing little more than going from one tourist attraction to the next, absorbing minimal authentic local culture.
Be as open as possible to trying new things
Holidays are the perfect time to leave your comfort zone and try new things. Fortunately, this is one of the best ways to get under the skin of the local culture too. Try living like the locals do as far as you can – for instance, follow their example when it comes to meal times and common things to eat. Indeed, food is one of the best ways to learn about the local culture, so tuck in! Also try to find out about local pastimes or habits and integrate a few of these into your trip – you might just discover a new favourite hobby.
Talk to other travellers
While it’s a good idea to avoid only visiting tourist hotspots if you want to really get under the skin of the local culture, you’re bound to want to visit at least some. After all, they’re popular for a reason! The good thing is you can use these instances as opportunities to chat to other travellers and get their recommendations on interesting, lesser-known places to go, restaurants to eat at and other useful tips. You might even decide you’d like to stay in touch and meet up over the course of your trip.
Take advantage of technology
There are loads of great apps that can help you integrate with the local culture too. You really are spoilt for choice, but among the options worth considering are:
- Speak and Translate
This handy app will be your best friend if you’re keen to overcome the language barrier. You can get quick translations by either typing or speaking any words you don’t know. What’s more, you can even get the app to say those words or phrases back to you so you can learn both what they mean and how to pronounce them correctly.
An app you may well have used at home, Meetup helps you discover like-minded people in your area – including on holiday. The beauty of this is that you can discover people based on their interests so, for instance, you might be able to meet up with a group of local film enthusiasts or a local photography group while you’re away. This gives you the opportunity not only to socialise with locals, but to learn more about the local culture surrounding your hobby.
- Field Trip
This app is great for discovering little gems that might not otherwise be on your radar. Basing its recommendations on both your interests and current location, it gives you suggestions of sights, places to eat and other things to do. It even notifies you when you get close to something that might interest you.
Looking for some travel inspiration? Read more about some of the most interesting destinations here.