Most of us want to travel around safely and unnoticed. The only problem is we often just arrive at our destination without having taken the time to really think about how to fit in. When exploring a destination, it is obvious who the tourists and the locals are. So how do you blend in? Most likely, you will naturally blend in with the tourists, because well you are one. However, your typical tourist will usually only experience travel destinations on a surface level. Blending in with the locals will help you experience the culture you are visiting in a much more personal way that is bound to have you find some gems that will make your vacation more memorable. Here are some tips to blend in and keep yourself safe.
- Local lingo. Learn some simple phrases that are common to the area you are traveling. Spend some time learning phrases you know you will use as well as a few simple phrases like hello and thank you. Research how to order food, coffee, or even a taxi. Not only is it a polite gesture to the culture you are experiencing but it is also a great way to feel more connected with the people around you. Locals are also more willing to help you as it shows them you are making an effort to be apart of their culture.
- Maps and Apps. Research places you want to see and the area surrounding the place you are staying. Get familiar with street names, routes, and points of interest. Sites like Google Maps have a street view option that will help you see storefronts and other things to help you recognize the area you are traveling. Use local transportation apps to help you get around like the locals do. See how the locals use public transportation and follow suit. Paper maps and brochures are not something you are going to want to have to use when trying to blend in.
- Town attire. Because every place is different, it is important to take the time to research how the locals are dressing. You wouldn’t want to show up to dinner in jeans and a shirt if everyone else is really dressed up. You will definitely stick out and look like a tourist. If you are staying somewhere that has a beach, make sure to check when and where it is appropriate to wear your bathing suite.
- Customs and courtesies. While you are traveling, simply being aware of the interactions between the people around you will help you see how you should interact. However, before you go, spend a time little learning about the local culture. Find out how to greet strangers, when and how much to tip, what to expect from customer service, and appropriate hand gestures. Different places have different tipping systems. For instance, in some Asian countries it is insulting if you tip a server. It is also important to know what to expect of customer service so you can adjust accordingly. Hand gestures, like the A-Okay or thumbs up, are seen as extremely offensive in some countries. It is difficult to blend in when offending everyone around. Locals are going to be much more approachable if they feel respected by you.
- Regional recreation. Try to do things that the locals will be doing. Going to main tourist attractions will have you surrounded by…tourists. If you want to be and blend with the locals then go to fairs, music shows, theatre. Find out where the locals dine. These are some great ways that may have you make some friends along the way. Then the next time you visit you will know someone who can show you all the best spots.
Art Festival in Miami
OK. You’ve got a plan. You’ve done your research. You know the town and the lingo. Go for it. Be confident, be yourself, be safe, blend in and have fun!
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust
January 9, 2015
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