Many times when people travel they miss out on the most valuable aspect of the place in which they find themselves: culture.
Here are six ways you can truly experience the culture in a simple and traditional way.
Eat the local food
One of my favorite ways to experience a place is by enjoying the local cuisine. That means avoiding the McDonald’s and restaurants marketing to tourists. Find out where the locals eat and go there. It may not be as fancy but the food will be authentic, probably be cheaper, and the experience will last a life time.
Strike up conversation
You may be tempted to keep to yourself or spend all of your time with people from your hostel, but talking to locals can be a fascinating experience. Sometimes you don’t even need to seek out conversation, it comes to you. Try talking to somebody riding the bus or train with you or maybe chatting up a store clerk. Even if you don’t fully speak the local language, give it a shot. It can be fun and more people around the world than you realize speak some English and are happy to practice with you.
Visit someone in their home
OK, you can’t just go knocking on somebody’s door and ask to come in, but if you meet somebody while traveling and they invite you to their house, you should definitely consider taking them up on the offer. Many cultures have an unbelievable hospitality ethic and truly enjoy treating you like royalty. The Arab culture is famous for this but it doesn’t stop there. People all across the world love making friends and are probably just as curious about you and your culture as you are about theirs.
Go to school
Considering living somewhere abroad for a little while? Why not see if you can receive college credit for taking a class or two? This is a great way to learn a foreign language even if you have had no practice before. You’ll learn at an accelerated rate due to having to practice it on a daily basis, and not simply in class a few hours a week like most students.
Surf somebody’s couch
Couchsurifng is an online social networking site that connects travelers with local hosts who enjoy allowing somebody to sleep on their couch. As somebody who has couchsurfed abroad and hosted many surfers, I can say that it’s a unique way to travel. Some hosts let you stay and make yourself at home. Many hosts enjoy spending time with their guests and new friendships can bloom from these experiences. The downside is that many people willing to host guests don’t live in the typical tourist places that you’ll want to visit and the ones who do are overwhelmed with requests. If you have extra time to venture out and wish to experience living like a local, give Couchsurfing a look.
One last one for fun: go dancing! I’m not talking about the trendy night club all the tourists are going to. If you hear Lady GaGa from outside, run away quickly. Instead, try dancing to the local beat. Are you in Spain? Go Salsa Dancing! Buenos Aires? Learn to Tango!
Creative Commons headline image courtesy of zabara tango.