How To Live Like A Local In A Foreign Country
The beauty of traveling to a foreign country is that you get to experience a completely foreign culture and be exposed to a whole new perspective. You will find that the best way to heighten and immerse yourself in these experiences, is by learning to live like a local. After all, when you experience a country as a tourist, you are only experiencing the country on a skin-deep level. But when you start to live in a country as one of the locals, you get a glimpse into the country’s very heart and soul. There are certain activities and preparations that you can partake in beforehand, and others that you can put into practice during your travels, which will help you learn to live like a local.
Learn the Language: This is an activity that will prepare you for living like a local, even before you arrive at your chosen destination. If you’re only planning on being in the country for a short time, then it’s definitely advisable to learn a decent amount of the local language beforehand. If you are planning on staying for a long period, then lucky you! Do attempt to learn the local language beforehand, although you are now in a position to learn as you go along. You can form a language exchange, where basically you organize to meet with a local at agreed times, in order to learn each other's language. This is great because it’s not only an opportunity to form a genuine friendship with a local, but you are also learning the language authentically, and not from the pages of a book.
Since languages are effectively a verbal expression of a country’s culture, learning to speak the local dialect will bring you in touch with a country’s spiritual and cultural center. You will also avoid the classic tourist dilemma of having no idea what a local is saying, or how to express yourself in the language.
Read up on the Cultural History: Every country on Earth has its own story to tell. By reading about the cultural history of a foreign country, you will be learning about the historical events and culture that shaped the country - and its people - into what it is today. Get knowledgeable about a country by searching and reading articles on Google, and borrowing books from the library. Understanding the culture and society will go a long way in helping you to fully respect the culture, and understand what makes a local a local.
Eat like a Local: There is a reason why so many people make a habit of taking a cooking class in each new country that they visit - because the food is a delightful and delicious expression of culture. If you want to live like a local, then you’re going to have to eat like one. That means trying types of food that you might typically be averse to - such as snails in France, and grasshoppers in Thailand! The important thing to remember here is just to try. You might not like deep-fried grasshoppers - and that’s okay - but on the other hand, they might become your new favorite snack. Just whatever you do, try not to fall into the trap of constantly opting for familiar and comforting fast-food chains like McDonald's.
Eating like a local does not end solely at eating the same food as them. There are other factors such as the time that they eat, and where they eat, which contribute to a country’s food culture. Dining times can fluctuate drastically from country to country, for instance, locals in Argentina generally eat food around 10:00 pm. Choosing where you eat, also plays a part in separating the locals from the tourists. Choosing a local café or street stall will give you not only better prices, but better food than a tourist-trap restaurant will.
Go Beyond the Guidebook: Guidebooks are great for when you’ve just arrived in a new place and want to get to know it quickly. However, they are generally only limited to popular tourist sights, landmarks, restaurants, and hotels. If you want to live like a local, you’re going to have to go beyond the typical tourist traps. The simplest way to explore your destination authentically is by setting out without your guidebook. The best part of setting out without a guidebook is that you are mapping out the city/country according to your own likes, dislikes, and interests - which is exactly what locals do. In the process, you may discover captivating graffiti in an off the beaten path neighborhood, or find a favorite local cafe to buy coffee from. Discovering these treasures is something that no guidebook can do for you.
Learning to live like a local while staying in a foreign country is the ideal way to separate yourself from the typical tourist. You will experience exciting new tastes and flavors, wander off the beaten track, and be exposed to a variety of experiences that tourists are not privy to. By ‘living local’, you will not only be rewarded with a unique travel experience, but you will also be given the opportunity to truly understand and experience a foreign country’s culture and people.