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Ask K5: Meeting locals when travelling

By JensAAMC in Culture
Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 02:43:17 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

While travelling I like to meet locals. In some countries this is easy, I look different and peole approach me. In other countries people are more reserved. What can I do in the latter case?


Now I've done some travelling already and during that time I have had many interesting conversations with local people. This being the case even though I am a shy person that find it hard to contact somebody without any good reason (if I were more outgoing I don't think I'd be asking this question in the first place).

Let me start by sharing the tricks I already use.

  1. Chatting with professionals I'm in contact with anyway, taxi drivers for instance.
  2. Displaying that I'm a foreigner, e.g., by holding a guidebook. This sometimes makes local people curious.
  3. Frequenting youth hostels, which means meeting other travellers. Sometimes they have local connections.
  4. Staying in private homes is another obvious way to meet local people, and in some countries it is common that people rent out a room.
  5. Being a member of an international organization sometimes makes it possible for me to meet local members.
My question to K5 is which travel exeriences you've had and whether there are any tricks I'm missing out on?

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Ask K5: Meeting locals when travelling | 103 comments (86 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1 (2.00 / 6) (#1)
by Xcyther on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 02:48:47 PM EST

creates discussion - which is what this site is about afterall.

_________________________________________
"Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

What I usually do is... (none / 0) (#96)
by BippoThePiff on Sat Sep 25, 2004 at 06:44:02 PM EST

...meet a foreign girl on the Internet, divorce my wife, go to the girl's home town, move in, marry the girl, get residency, get a job, fuck up the marriage[1], meet a foreign girl on the Internet...

[1] Not deliberately, mind you -- it just happens.

--
See Signature for further information.
[ Parent ]

Hm. (none / 1) (#2)
by Psychopath on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 02:54:17 PM EST

I look different and peole approach
should be
I look different and people approach.

You might want to learn the local language.
--
The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
That's just mean (none / 1) (#81)
by wurp on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 11:51:33 PM EST

You might want to learn the local language.

Now that's just mean. It looks like a simple typo to me.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

Sorry (none / 0) (#91)
by Psychopath on Fri Sep 24, 2004 at 08:38:04 AM EST

I don't understand; I am confused.
--
The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
[ Parent ]
He had a misspelling. (none / 0) (#92)
by wurp on Fri Sep 24, 2004 at 09:19:10 AM EST

You corrected it, then advised him to learn the local language.  I assume you meant them as two separate thoughts, but the way you wrote it it looked as if you were making a snide comment about his spelling abilities.

I shoulda quoted more of your text.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

Option 5 is a good one (2.27 / 11) (#3)
by Adam Rightmann on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 03:08:59 PM EST

Taking in Mass at whatever strange community you end up in is a good way to meet the locals. It's a shame that Vatican II removed the impetus for Americans to learn Latin, if all members of the True Church spoke a handful of Latin, international communication would be much easier.

The same could be said for esperanto (none / 1) (#17)
by RandomLiegh on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 12:57:15 AM EST

or c.

---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
[ Parent ]
#define Hello 0x90 -nt (none / 1) (#54)
by MrLarch on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 12:29:16 AM EST



[ Parent ]
bartenders (none / 1) (#6)
by zenofchai on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 03:58:09 PM EST

they are likely locals and know just about everything going on. ask "anything cool going down tonight?" and you'll probably get a bite or two.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
unless you are in the UK (3.00 / 3) (#50)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:29:31 PM EST

In which case all the bartenders are from Australia.

[ Parent ]
Or unless you are in Australia (3.00 / 2) (#80)
by stormie on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 09:49:14 PM EST

In which case all the bartenders are from the UK.

[ Parent ]
Suggestion (2.75 / 8) (#7)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 04:03:24 PM EST

Why not stand on a street corner with various cameras, cellphones and man-purses strung around you, reading a Frommer's and blithely ignoring your surroundings?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
I find conversing in Hebrew is a good way (2.42 / 7) (#8)
by I Am Jacks Severed Testicles on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 05:28:14 PM EST

to get to know the locals whenever I may travel outside the country. Also, it doesn't hurt to wear a yarmulke. Wearing the Star of David on clothing or such is a bit over the top in most places but can help in places like the Middle East, where people are more likely to understand the symbol.

Support our troops - buy W Ketchup!
Nu. (none / 1) (#9)
by Meshigene Ferd on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 05:59:38 PM EST

‪מה נשמע. אחי?‮
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

Hey, I Am Jacks Severed Testicles (none / 0) (#12)
by ant0n on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 07:26:24 PM EST

I belive you are a jew. I mean, you have just too much inside knowledge...


-- Does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
Patrick H. Winston, Artificial Intelligence
[ Parent ]
Even If travelling in Palestine, Syria, et al? (none / 0) (#38)
by Maclir on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 10:58:49 AM EST



[ Parent ]
yes (none / 0) (#51)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:33:05 PM EST

You will meet the local Jewish communities! At least those that haven't yet been killed/deported by the government.

[ Parent ]
Plastering your suitcases and articles of clothing (none / 0) (#101)
by GreyGhost on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 10:15:59 PM EST

With Bush/Cheney stickers and other redneck homilies such as "Kill em all and let God sort 'em out" really does wonders for breaking the ice with the locals too. And it let's 'em know right from the start where they stand in the scheme of things and to stay the fuck out of the way if they know what's good for them.

To hell with the pussy shit of hiding the fact that you are an American!



[ Parent ]

Learn the Language... (2.62 / 8) (#13)
by interactive_civilian on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 07:42:24 PM EST

If you want to meet the locals then learn a bit of the language. Seriously, it will go a long way towards getting people to open up to you and it will show respect for them and their country.

I'm not saying that you have to become an expert in the language, and if you are only travelling through a country for a few days then it doesn't seem worthwhile, but still...pick up enough of the basics to introduce yourself, order food/beer, ask for directions, and express some of your interests (including interests in the local area, language, and customs).

In some countries (e.g.Japan), being able to speak the language a little can even get you free stuff. There have been quite a number of times where I have had beer, food, and sometimes my entire evening paid for just by striking up a conversation in Japanese with the person next to me.

IMHO, the best way to show your interest and respect for the country you are in, or at least for the people you are trying to interact with, is to try to speak their language. In many cases, they will be very impressed just because you are trying and will be much more willing to help and make you feel more welcome.

Of course, this does not apply to the US. If you want to go to the US, I recommend having at least a George W. Bush level of English (which isn't all that high). Anything lower could possibly get you into a fight. ;)

Re: Learn the Language... (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by jinale on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 01:08:26 AM EST

This is definitely true. I've been to a lot of foreign countries where if you even just try to say a few sentences the locals will perk up. And it doesn't even have to be with a great accent or anything. It could be broken as hell and they will still respond, trying to help you form your words and get your meaning across.

If you already look different, then saying a simple but not ultra common phrase (so something that's not "hello" "goodbye" "thank you" etc., e.g. "how do I get to the bus station?") will elicit a lot of responses. For this kind of stuff, I would suggest buying one of those tiny language books that they sell for travellers.

[ Parent ]

it seems to vary by country (none / 0) (#53)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:37:17 PM EST

I speak pretty perfectly fluent Greek, and learned it when I was two, but people can still tell I'm a foreigner often, and will immediately respond in English (not always, but often). People in Spain would also always respond in English. Guess they don't really like people speaking their language?

[ Parent ]
They probably think that... (none / 0) (#68)
by vyruss on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 12:04:19 PM EST

...you'll understand them better if they speak in English. I know that Greeks and Spaniards love to talk in their own language with foreign people, it's just that perhaps they feel the "foreigner" won't understand them if they start babbling in Greek or Spanish.

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
the odd thing (none / 0) (#70)
by Delirium on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 01:48:32 PM EST

Is that my Greek is a lot better than most Greeks' English. =]

[ Parent ]
Well anyway (none / 0) (#77)
by vyruss on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 07:31:27 PM EST

I love speaking English so I jump at the chance, especially since I no longer have the chance to converse daily with people speaking in the delicious Scottish accent. So yes, the guy you spoke to in the street was probably me.

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
that could definitely be it (none / 0) (#78)
by Delirium on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 07:57:13 PM EST

The Greeks actually seemed more eager to speak English than the Spaniards. It varied, but at least a few of the Spaniards seemed somewhat offended at the butchering of their language. =]

[ Parent ]
Sometimes the Japanese as well... (none / 0) (#76)
by interactive_civilian on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 07:30:31 PM EST

There have been a lot of times where I've asked a question in pretty decent though not native Japanese and gotten a response in something so broken that it puts Engrish.com to shame.

It almost seems like it didn't even register that I spoke Japanese, and they automatically assume "foreigner=cannot understand japanese". Sometimes when they are really struggling, I have to break in an say (in Japanese), "Look, it is ok to respond in Japanese."

Yeah, if they want to practice their English on me, fine, but please, not when I'm in a hurry and I just need some simple, clear directions.

[ Parent ]

Language school (none / 0) (#27)
by JensAAMC on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 07:58:26 AM EST

is an option I've used a couple of times. Not only do you learn ther language, usually teachers will also tell you a lot about the culture in the classes.

[ Parent ]
the US isn't very picky on its English (none / 0) (#52)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:35:17 PM EST

You do need to be able to communicate, because few people speak other languages (unless you speak Spanish, in which case you may be able to get by in the southwestern portion of the US with no English). But you don't by any means have to do it well—people these days are very, very used to English spoken in odd ways and with odd accents, and don't really think all that much of it. Especially many more-educated people are probably more used to odd English than "normal" English, because many of our professors are non-American.

[ Parent ]
I know... (none / 0) (#86)
by interactive_civilian on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 07:16:32 PM EST

What I said above was a bit of a Joke. However, the US is definitely a place where no one gives a damn at all if someone from another country can speak the language.

In a lot of other countries, if you try to speak the language (and even if you can't do it well), you get praise and appreciation. However, in the US nobody really gives a damn if you are trying your hardest to speak English to communicate with people. The general attitude seems to be "Damn right you should be speaking English! This is America, Jack!"

And when I lived in the states, there were quite a few times when I saw aggression towards anyone not speaking English, even if they were just speaking to their friends or someone who could speak their native language.

I don't like that attitude.

[ Parent ]

I fully agree (none / 0) (#93)
by ant0n on Fri Sep 24, 2004 at 02:21:36 PM EST

In a lot of other countries, if you try to speak the language (and even if you can't do it well), you get praise and appreciation. However, in the US nobody really gives a damn if you are trying your hardest to speak English to communicate with people. The general attitude seems to be "Damn right you should be speaking English! This is America, Jack!"

I fully agree. And what really pisses me off is that the "English" the Americans speak is actually a bad parody of British English. To me, American English just sounds terribly gay.
I made the same observation with Australians. They, too, give a fuck whether you sometimes have difficulties to understand them or can't speak fast enough to them. They expect you to speak English.
The Brits, however, are different. I always get compliments for speaking English in England. Which is really kind of funny, but nice. (I'm German)


-- Does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
Patrick H. Winston, Artificial Intelligence
[ Parent ]
actually, the US English is more authentic (none / 0) (#94)
by Delirium on Fri Sep 24, 2004 at 04:38:16 PM EST

Midwestern US English pronunciation is similar to English as it was formerly spoken in England until the 18th century or so. Current British English pronunciation is heavily modified with recent innovations and odd accents, and no longer closely resembles historically standard pronunciation.

[ Parent ]
sdf (none / 0) (#95)
by ant0n on Fri Sep 24, 2004 at 06:17:32 PM EST

Midwestern US English pronunciation is similar to English as it was formerly spoken in England until the 18th century or so. Current British English pronunciation is heavily modified with recent innovations and odd accents, and no longer closely resembles historically standard pronunciation.

Now this was the most severe bullshit that has ever been posted on k5. Where do you have your information about the English language from? The Wikipedia?


-- Does the shortest thing the tallest pyramid's support supports support anything green?
Patrick H. Winston, Artificial Intelligence
[ Parent ]
'Authentic' is outmoded idea anyway! (none / 0) (#98)
by toychicken on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 06:22:16 AM EST

Dipshit, no version of English is 'authentic'. However, if we're talking about the English spoken by Midwestern USians, compared 18th Century English (not the Aristocracy though, still plenty of french spoken in common conversation) you'd still have to take an awful lot of the german influence out of the US side, and add an awful lot of 'Ye', 'Thou' and other 'Olde' English.

So basically, what you're saying is still rubbish, even allowing for the fact that you're wrong to begin with.

- - - - - - -8<- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just how many is a Brazillian anyway?


[ Parent ]
Where in the states did you live? (none / 0) (#102)
by GreyGhost on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 10:38:27 PM EST

And when I lived in the states, there were quite a few times when I saw aggression towards anyone not speaking English, even if they were just speaking to their friends or someone who could speak their native language.

Butt-fuck, Montana? In large sections of California, I think it is doubtful if English is the dominant language anymore. Of course - as the last elections showed - California (actually the whole west coast) is sort of it's own separate country anyway with it's own culture and ways of doing things.



[ Parent ]

aff.com (none / 0) (#16)
by circletimessquare on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 12:17:17 AM EST

works for me

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

How long are we talking? (1.00 / 5) (#18)
by RandomLiegh on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 12:59:45 AM EST

If you're going to be a while, why not find an charity to volunteer at? If you're only going to be there a short while, then maybe introducing yourself to the local pentecostal congregation might not hurt.

---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
penticostal congregation (none / 0) (#20)
by CAIMLAS on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 02:06:15 AM EST

What's special about a penticostal congregation that makes it desireable to aproach?

I must have missed something here.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Pentecostals are *entirely* biblically based (1.00 / 3) (#34)
by RandomLiegh on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 10:12:23 AM EST

whereas other denominations "interpret" the word of G-d, or even out-and-out add whatever made-up doctrines strike their fancy.

---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
[ Parent ]
We have been trolled! (none / 1) (#55)
by gzt on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 02:08:03 AM EST



[ Parent ]
zOMG r0r!!! /nt (none / 0) (#67)
by RandomLiegh on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 10:11:22 AM EST



---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
[ Parent ]
Several people seem to assume you're American. (2.00 / 7) (#22)
by Kasreyn on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 05:17:00 AM EST

ARE you American?

Sadly, this can be critically important. In some countries, it might be wise to not telegraph such a fact. In other countries, a fake passport showing you to be Canadian might be an even better move.

-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
ahem (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 09:22:54 AM EST

Try telling the immigration authorities why you have a fake passport. Not advisable.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Oh, whatever (none / 1) (#32)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 09:48:22 AM EST

I ran around Europe in a drunken haze and I didn't feel the need to be ashamed of my nationality. Just don't act like an asshole and you'll be OK. A little non-assholeness goes a long way. I also agree that carrying a fake passport is a dumb move. I'd rather be heckled by a commie train conductor than detained for a week at Charles De Gaulle.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
according to his profile (none / 1) (#36)
by interactive_civilian on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 10:26:42 AM EST

JensAAMC is Danish.

[ Parent ]
Fucking no (none / 0) (#59)
by bob6 on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 04:17:41 AM EST

Do you think people around the world are stupid? When you're trying to show Canadian "things" (pass, flag, etc.), you're just shouting: "I'm American and I'm afraid of you".

Cheers.
[ Parent ]
err... that WAS a joke... @_@ -nt (none / 1) (#61)
by Kasreyn on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 05:12:27 AM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Ah... You mean like I should laugh (none / 1) (#62)
by bob6 on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 06:12:37 AM EST

Sadly it's morning here. Unfortunately we actually see Americans pretending to be Canadians. This is the saddest thing.

Cheers.
[ Parent ]
Some Americans... (none / 1) (#63)
by Kasreyn on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 06:15:32 AM EST

have good reason to pretend to be Canadian. :P

Cheers ;-)


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
You know what? (none / 0) (#66)
by bob6 on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 09:30:59 AM EST

The United States of America is the most dangerous place for Americans.

Cheers.
[ Parent ]
easy (2.57 / 7) (#23)
by bankind on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 05:30:45 AM EST

throw away the guidebook (get a map-better yet a photocopy of one-and a phrase book). rent a motorcycle. throw a stick in the air. go which way it points.

Afterwards, then try to go back to places you miss.

run away from tourist ghettos, and in Asia stay where the asia tourist\business class stays (not western smackpacker villas).

eat everthing that comes your way. and drink twice what is offered.

Never be ashamed or scared if you puke, and laugh about it when you do.

Go to the most remote places you can find and take a polaroid camera with as much film as you can (as gifts).

Always and Always carry expensive imported cigarretes for the haters/one-time/police/border patrol.

Never back down from drinking contests, arm wrestling, real wrestling, boxing, shooting rabbits with bow an arrows, horse racing, bike racing, or the random Kazack punch to the jaw.

Never go to discos.

Drink early, drink often.

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

Guidebooks (none / 1) (#31)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 09:42:45 AM EST

There's something to be said for your philosophy of travel. However for people with limited time and budgets, guidebooks are essential. I'm thinking more of Western Europe, but I found that I had a much better time when I used my guidebook than when I explored, except when I was with someone who knew the area. Staying in a hostel in Barcelona was great because the other guests and the staff could point us towards good bars. But guidebooks are great for avoiding tourist traps. Try walking around Paris looking for a cheap, non-tourist dinner. It's fucking impossible without a guidebook. You'll end up paying too much for a plate of day-old Beef Bourguignon.

I do agree on one point: Don't go to discos, ever.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

well (none / 1) (#40)
by bankind on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 01:47:36 PM EST

western europe is about as exciting to me as popping a zit on my ass. taking a guidebook there seems about as lazy as taking one to Texas or Oregon or Canada. Mental vacations of comfort are not my bag.

Anyway, read the local paper, they always have resturant/bar reviews. People go on vacation and they act like it is a trip to the moon.

Another el lobo uno method for a new town is to find a bar street and go in for one beer in every bar until you find one that you like: integrate with folks. This has, for me, a 100% success rate-Hong Kong being the best example, and I didn't go to that one over priced strip on the island...

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
[ Parent ]

Oh (2.00 / 3) (#73)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 04:15:33 PM EST

Sorry I offended your travel sensibilities, you cultural elitist. Didn't realize that you had to be Edmund fucking Hillary to have a good time while traveling.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
I don't. (none / 0) (#28)
by dimaq on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:22:45 AM EST

When I'm travelling, I don't meet locals. Probably takes away half the fun. and I dunno why really. Travelling to places or to people? thoughts?

People make the Culture make the Place (none / 0) (#37)
by interactive_civilian on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 10:29:33 AM EST

Unless you are going on a supreme back-country nature trek, it is the people that make up the society that make the culture that make the atmosphere of the place that you are going.

IMHO.

[ Parent ]

unless tourists do (none / 0) (#57)
by dimaq on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 03:59:57 AM EST

you have a point. alhtough I've been to a couple of places where it seems the tourists make the culture and atmosphere.

now if those are avoided, how do you drain more culture and atmosphere from the locals? talk? live there? ahem. :))

[ Parent ]

Look for connections before you leave (none / 0) (#35)
by danharan on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 10:24:49 AM EST

Chances are you already know someone that knows someone. I'm moving in 2 days to Montreal, so I racked my brain to think of all the people I know there. I also told all my friends and acquaintances, and a few of them suggested things to do and people to meet.

Mind you I currently live in Halifax, so if I were going to a country I don't know a single person in, things might get trickier. I'd still ask friends, but that might not work for some countries.

While in Paris, I used the "FUSAC", a France-US friendship association publication. I found a place to stay with a landlord that was open-minded and who introduced me to weird artists and musicians. So look for similar publications and websites.

You should also consider Servas and volunteering opportunities.

My tips. (3.00 / 2) (#39)
by OlympicSmoker on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 12:24:05 PM EST

People who are trying to sell you something will talk for ages, especially in poorer countries. Most of them will have interesting stories too.

In Vietnam I talked for ages with motorbike taxi drivers, barmaids and so on because they know westerners are big spenders. If you talk to the people selling crap in a really interesting area, you can get to know the interesting stuff without a guidebook.

Sharing alcohol works well too, usually only with hobos or during festivals. I got a lot of practice with my Spanish by sharing sangria with random strangers in parks during San Fermin. One little tip for practising a foreign language: be sure the people you are talking to speak the language and not some other similar language, like Basque. Also if you lie covered in bloody, muddy hoof prints people often stop for a chat.

Basque not related to Spanish (none / 0) (#97)
by achaudhary on Sun Sep 26, 2004 at 10:43:49 AM EST

Basque actually has absolutely no relation to any other world language.

[ Parent ]
Use Public Transit (2.83 / 6) (#42)
by pierrebz on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 03:07:48 PM EST

First let me say that you are half way there.  You already know that the whole point of travel is to interact with the locals.

If you can, travel alone, there is nothing like being alone to get you immersed in somewhere else.

Be polite and respectful and be aware that you are in unfamiliar cultural waters.

Avoid the rental vehicle, it's just an instrument of segregation.  If you transplant the car centric coccoon from home, you'll miss everything.  

Take the city bus, the streetcar, anything that makes you mingle.  See where people go and what they do, and go there and do that.

Difficult as it is for a foreigner, try not to be the center of attention; linger in one place long enough to become a familiar face.  Once all the eyes are on someone else instead of you, locals next to you stop feeling they are on stage beside you and can be themselves.

Blending in is a simple act of changing from being one of the watched to being one of the watchers.

This can't be re-stated enough: make a genuine effort to speak the language.  It's the effort hat counts, not the result. Always try to ask in their language  first.

Ignore the 'pass for a Canadian' crap.
Canadians have to dissuade people from thinking they are CIA in disguise.  Be yourself, you're better off  American than an American spy. :-)

The locals worth knowing can look past labels and stereotypes and see people for what they are.

Hospitality Club (3.00 / 3) (#43)
by levsen on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 03:15:30 PM EST

I am surprised that this hasn't been mentioned yet, but a friend of a friend who likes travelling the world (60+ countries or what) started this thing:

The Hospitality Club

The idea is that people who live in places (who doesn't) offer a place to sleep for a night or two for free. This will be a starting point for getting to know people and the local culture. The thing has been around for a couple of years and is spreading through word of mouth and some media attention mainly in Germany where the whole thing is originating; they have some 15,000 members now.

I have tried this once when travelling to Amsterdam, a popular tourist spot not just for the dope, and stayed in two different nice people's home. Needless to say that people in popular tourist spots get swamped with requests so don't be disappointed if no one replies the first time round.

The people who seek and offer accommodation are usually of the younger, below 35-ish crowd that also backpacks around East Asia and the likes, but that's just an indication, not a rule.

In any case, I have a lot of respect for the enthusiasm of the founder who didn't let anyone discourage him and already made this a huge success and I won't be surprised if he gets the Nobel Peace Prize awarded one day.

Cheers folks.


This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

i like that site (none / 0) (#49)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:28:11 PM EST

I haven't actually used it yet myself, but I've had myself registered offering to host people forever now (years, probably) but no one's taken me up on it. I guess nobody visits LA or Atlanta. :/

[ Parent ]
For free? (none / 0) (#74)
by actmodern on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 06:24:44 PM EST

That's hilarious. Typical western hegemony. Do you realize if you accepted residence with someone in an Arab country and offered to pay them later they might kill you over it? This is especially true in more remote areas in Saudi Arabia and Yemen where there's a lot of honor at stake when hosting a guest.


--
LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.
[ Parent ]
Pasporta Servo (none / 0) (#88)
by QuickFox on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 09:28:11 PM EST

Here's another similar service. Great fun! — But to use it you need this.

Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fi
[ Parent ]
Stand around and look lost (none / 1) (#44)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 03:32:55 PM EST

Possibly peruse a map while you're at it.

This depends a lot on the country. In most of Europe, people just walked by me and let me stay lost, with the exception of an old man (he must've been in his 80s) in Jerez, Spain. In many parts of the US, people will ask if you're lost. In Japan, people will instantly ask if you're lost, apologize for their poor English, and walk halfway across the damn city with you, and then thank you for letting them accompany you.

That worked for me (none / 1) (#45)
by janra on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 04:18:58 PM EST

My other half and I were standing in a train station looking at a local map that we had bought not 10 minutes before, and this very nice gentleman asked what we were looking for. Then he drove us to where we wanted to go (no busses went that way), gave us his cel number and insisted that we call him when we were done, picked us up, gave us a tour of the area, and took us to his house for lunch before dropping us off at the train station again.
--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Re: Stand around and look lost (none / 1) (#47)
by jadibd on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 06:30:38 PM EST

In most of Europe, people just walked by me and let me stay lost,

You know, living in one of the areas of Berlin that is mentioned in almost every tourist guide, I always wonder, if I should go ahead and offer my help to people standing around with their maps and guide books or if it was more appropriate to give them a chance to ask for help first.

After all, reading and using maps in a modern western city is not exactly rocket science, what with all the street names and all.

So I most often walk deliberatly slowly past them, to give the impression of not being in any kind of hurry and if they choose to ask, I take great care to give them any assistance I can muster.

But I have to admit, there is some contradiction there: The most impressive thing I experienced was an old man in St. Petersburg, who just started to talk to me walking along some street in the same direction, asking me all kinds of questions (not in russian, in german, mind you) about where I come from, what I was up to,... He was on his way to teaching some guy the islandic language and he'd never been to Germany or Island in his life.

Perhaps I should start to be more "offensive" in asking to help lost-looking persons and be less worried about imposing upon them.

[ Parent ]

I'm always asked for directions (none / 0) (#65)
by weirded on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 08:04:30 AM EST

Wherever I travel, I'm asked for directions. I've been to London several times - every time somenone has asked me for directions. Same thing in Milano, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Austria, Slovenia... Even far out in the country in England, someone approached the car I was sitting in to ask me for directions. Does this happen to anyone else? I'm pretty sure I don't look like a tourist in most places, and I never walk with a map. Maybe people think I'm a local with a lot of time. I always try to help the people who approach me, and most of the time I can give them pretty good directions.

[ Parent ]
looking like a local (none / 0) (#82)
by yarbo on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 05:20:09 AM EST

I think it depends on how you carry yourself.  If you look like you're not lost, people assume you're a local.  I was usually wearing a light backpack, and didn't have any touristy items in my hands.

It happened to me many times when I was in Sweden this summer, and gave me chances to practice my Swedish (although most of the time I didn't know where they were looking for)

[ Parent ]

I see that you're Danish (none / 0) (#46)
by originalbigj on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 06:19:59 PM EST

My experience in Denmark was that most locals were just jerks, and there was no point in meeting them. However, the Danes that had left the country for any amount of time were very nice. I think this difference might hold true wherever you go. People tend to be intimidated by foreigners. I know in the US, we have a lot of people who haven't been 50 miles from their home, who have become comfortable with their local culture, and are afraid that outsiders won't like them. I guess if you really want to meet locals who haven't traveled widely, you need to reassure them that you like them and are interested in them. In the US, we don't hate Europeans or even the French, we're just afraid that they hate us.

aye (none / 0) (#48)
by Delirium on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 08:25:55 PM EST

And try not to actively give off an impression that you hate them. For example, comments like in the US, we have [blah blah] are often not appreciated in Europe. Similarly, if you are from Europe visiting the US, comments to the effect of in Europe our culture is much less shallow! are not often appreciated.

[ Parent ]
actually (none / 0) (#58)
by the sixth replicant on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 04:11:52 AM EST

I found that the more local a Yank is the nicer they are. I think ignorance of other cultures can be a bonus if you think you should act differently to accomodate them. And anyway its a laugh (not so much at, or even with) when they say things like "we had a president called Reagan once. i don't know if you've heard of him"

But Yanks are fine. The general English yob is something else though :)

Ciao

[ Parent ]

Smile (none / 0) (#60)
by wynken de word on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 04:21:17 AM EST

As much as possible. Took me further into the culture on my travels in the Middle East last year than anything else.

learn the language is obvious (none / 0) (#64)
by fleece on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 06:38:06 AM EST

but I really got to see a side of Indonesia that most foreigners don't see because I was a student there for a time at IKIP in Yogyakarta.

The easy way to get to study at a foreign univeristy is to study a language in a local uni, and then participate in an in country exchange for a semester.



I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
tricks if you don't speak the language (none / 0) (#84)
by Azmodan on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 02:11:39 PM EST

If you don't speak the local language, all hopes are not lost, you might sucessfully communicate in english.  However, here is a list of things to not forget when talking to foreigners who are not native english speakers :
  • Don't forget they are doing you a favour by trying to talk in your language, be polite.
  • Pay attention to your articulation.
  • Talk a bit slower than usual.  Not real slow to look like an idiot but slower.  Else, your sentences will look like one big word to a non-native speaker (anditisveryhardtounderstand).
  • Don't use contractions : say "I am", not "I'm"
  • Don't use abreviations.  Words like ATM and and the like are to ban, say them in full.
  • Don't be afraid to repeat yourself if asked.
  • If the non-native speaker don't understand a word, try to explain it otherwise.
Where I live (Quebec / Canada) this should make you able to talk with almost anyone.

[ Parent ]
Go hit the bars! (2.33 / 3) (#69)
by British1500 on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 12:04:40 PM EST

When I spent 8 days in England in Bidford-on-avon(at Fosbroke House), there was a bar 100 feet from it. Every night after my adventures in .uk I hit the bar(The Bull's Head) for drinks. usually I kept to myself reading a discarded copy of The Sun, but as soon as i said something, the locals took an interest in me. Soon they were buying me drinks, telling me how they disliked Bush, and asking me questions about America. I safely dispelled a woman's suspicion that the tv show "The OC" is not at all like real life in America. Some good memories were had at The Bull's Head, giving me quite a bit of insight into daily life in the west midlands.

Go Hashing (none / 1) (#71)
by dirtydingus on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 01:48:56 PM EST

the drinking club with a running problem variety that is. There are hashes all around the world and most are only too happy to welcome visitors. Of course you do have to get off your arse and run (or walk or waddle) a bit but just think of that as working up a thirst for beer. Do a google on "Hash House Harriers" to find out more
People can be put into 10 groups: Those that understand binary and those that don't.
shyness (3.00 / 5) (#72)
by foog on Wed Sep 22, 2004 at 02:41:13 PM EST

First, work on your shyness. Get better at talking to strangers at home. Look for books and tapes (and even web sites) written for salesmen, street photographers, and so on for tricks-of-the-trade.

A photography trick I haven't tried yet: asking people if they would like you to take their picture supposedly works better than asking them if you can take their picture. And offer to send them prints if they contact you (have cards ready).

If you're travelling to the US, be aware that in major metropolitan areas, if you look foreign or speak with an accent, but don't look like a tourist, most people will assume you're just another immigrant who's lived here for years and thus (most of the time) politely refrain from bothering you with questions about where you're from and so on.

If you go to the parts of rural America where say, the population of the apartment complex I live in here in California would have a significant impact on the "diversity" of a lot of towns of 50,000 people, lots of people will be curious about you.

The most dead simple trick for conversations is, if you see something you're curious about, stop someone and ask them about it. Or ask for directions even if you're pretty sure how to get where you want to go. Even if there's something weird and fascinating on TV in your hotel, go down to the hotel bar if there's a TV there and ask about it!

Ask about things you're sincerely interested in (better yet, things you know something about). Food, local history, architecture, the arts, even religion. Be lavish in your praise for what you like or admire. "Do you know when that building was built? It's very beautiful.", that kind of thing.

P.S.:

I gotta get my two cents in, for people from the US:

Pretending you're Canadian while traveling is just disgusting. I can't believe people actually talk about doing this. Just don't. Do you regularly lie when making new friends? Most people won't be rude to you. Don't be afraid of the "foreign peril", don't be a stereotype, speak from the heart, and put YOUR guard down. Again, this is a shyness thing that you might want to work on before leaving home: a lot of people tend to put up a front of a sort of stereotype of their social class when talking to strangers. That kind of shallow mask will come across as rude when you're in a foreign country. And yes, wherever you're from, it might take a few times out of your fishbowl before you even realize what I'm talking about here. That's OK: better late than never.

And you don't have to apologize for America, or even for whatever US policy (or president) is in the papers that year. Only an asshole would expect you to. Do listen, though. Most people, the world over, are no more politically sophisticated than "Joe Sixpack" but they're getting different stuff from their local media. Hearing out a political crank overseas is a worthwhile experience especially if you buy too heavily into all this nonsense about how misinformed American political discourse is!

Oh, all that said: if you speak a European language other than english, and other than that of the country you're visiting, well enough to hold a real conversation, in Europe asking someone if they speak ______ or English will often win you some points. Even if those countries have some historical differences. Yes, that sometimes plays on people's assumptions, but that's interesting in itself to see.

If you're open and outgoing, you'll find people who'll embarrass you with their hospitality---old-fashioned hospitality involves manners and traditions that are dying out in the US---almost anywhere. Be ready to reciprocate when you can! This takes work and discipline too!

Leave your finicky eating at home. Eat everything. For the love of god, if you're invited to someone's home, eat everything. Practice at home: even in small towns there's lots of opportunities to try new foods if you seek them out. Middle-class Americans often have a horrible habit of bossing waiting staff around boorishly, also. Learn not to do it at home (it's rude here too) and you'll be better off when traveling.

And by the way: yes, learning as much of you can of the language helps. No, learning a hundred words or so of tourist vocabulary is not a major intellectual challenge or accomplishment. Just do it. Get some tapes or something. The fact that this is impractical for whirlwind tours of 12 foreign countries is a good argument against taking whirlwind tours. Be as outrageously polite as you possibly can be, always. Learn to say something closer to "Pardon me, but I don't understand very much ________. Do you speak any English?" than to "Hey, do you speak English?" And if your pronunciation is rotten, speak slowly and with a little bit of exaggerated effort, and people will realize it's not easy for you but you're trying. Letting people see the difficulty you're having will put them at ease and give them the confidence to try to talk to you if they had a hard time with English in school, too.

On the other hand... (1.50 / 6) (#85)
by mstefan on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 02:59:05 PM EST

<sarcasm>

First, work on your shyness. Get better at talking to strangers at home.

Yes, you want to advertise that you are indeed a stranger in their country, and oh, by the way, are an excellent target for a mugging (or, depending on the region, kidnapping). Better yet, wear a T-shirt that says "I am a noob American with lots of cash!"

A photography trick I haven't tried yet: asking people if they would like you to take their picture supposedly works better than asking them if you can take their picture. And offer to send them prints if they contact you (have cards ready).

Alternatively, you can ask them if they would like to steal your camera. And make sure your card has your home address, just in case they ever visit America and would like to rob your house. An excellent idea!

</sarcasm>



[ Parent ]
A different language (none / 0) (#87)
by QuickFox on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 09:24:41 PM EST

Learning this language works wonders, if you'd like to get in contact very easily, in a friendly and spontaneous way, with lots of people from lots of different countries.

Getting in contact becomes easy, because it's part of the culture. And usually you get far more fluent and spontaneous conversations than what you normally get in English.

Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fi

how to meet people (none / 0) (#89)
by quadcity on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 09:29:26 PM EST

Hello JensAAMC. Ahead of time, I like to find out non tourist-trap things to do from people I've run across online that live there or have visited. (People like other Zeal.com volunteers, or others with location in their info.) They are also a good source of advice on how to meet people in that locality.
- Mike T.
Don't bother with the language! (3.00 / 4) (#90)
by Sen on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 10:12:13 PM EST

It's so much more fun when you touch her in the right spot and she shrieks in her native tounge. Just pretend it's all "more please more".

To start a conversation, all you need is a hook (none / 0) (#99)
by scrm on Tue Sep 28, 2004 at 07:04:38 AM EST

I travelled Australia and New Zealand on my own for several months of last year. Key to my experience was spending time with locals and fellow travellers.

My best advice for meeting such people is this: To start a conversation you need a 'hook': something that connects you and the person. The goal of this is to break the initial barrier, the silent awkwardness between two people who are aware of each other's presence but who have not yet started to communicate. We've all seen how different and more approachable people can look when they start speaking to you. All you have to do is bring about this change, and once this hurdle is overcome it's relatively easy to have a conversation as nervousness fades and confidence builds between you both. It's all about creating the starting point for that conversation.

How you do this obviously depends on the circumstances. You can ask something of the person, or make a passing comment about the environment. What's important is that your starting words should be able to provoke a dialogue that you can move into seamlessly. The 'fish out of water' attitude gives you justification for your naivete and your reasons for approaching in the first place, so leave those unconstructive inhibitions behind. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and the time is now.

Think carefully about what your starting words would imply if they were being spoken to you. E.g. asking a random person 'Do you know where I can get a bus to the airport around here?' implies several things.

  • I'm not from here, so I'd appreciate your advice.
  • I'm flying off soon, and I have a story to tell about what I've done here and where I'm going that you might be interested in.
  • As I'm leaving, I'm not looking for a commitment from you (I don't want to get into your pants, stay at your place and make friends with your friends, so don't worry). My motivations for starting a conversation with you are genuine and decent.
So long as you do this with an honest smile - as opposed to a forced or ironic one - and your body language is unconfrontational, you should succeed in letting the person know that you are approachable. This will maximize your chances of a favorable response.

Commit a Crime (2.00 / 3) (#100)
by billt on Wed Sep 29, 2004 at 09:12:26 PM EST

That's a universal ice-breaker. If you don't know what the laws are wherever you are, just ask yourself, "Should I do this?" and if the answer is "No" then get busy doing it!



insults (none / 0) (#103)
by cronian on Sun Jan 09, 2005 at 11:16:14 PM EST

If you insult people, doesn't that work just as well?

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
Ask K5: Meeting locals when travelling | 103 comments (86 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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