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Don’t play the tourist! How to embrace the local culture when traveling

A new post written in collaboration with an inspiring blogger is ready, how exciting! Being both travels fanatic, Manon and I have decided to write an article with some tips about how to better enjoy your holidays abroad, embrace the local culture and diversity once you’re there. I strongly suggest that you check out her blog canvasofthoughts.wordpress.com by clicking here , I ‘m sure that by visiting her blog you’ll definitely recognize that we share the same vibes and interests.

The magic of a travel is built through your choices, your activities, but also your behavior. Be nice and respectful of where you go ; be curious and engage with as many things and people as you can. Traveling can be such a rich experience, so be sure to enjoy it to the fullest. Here are our tips :

 

1 | Take part in local events

Each country, city, town has its own festivities and special events celebrations where something special is made for the occasion such as Oktoberfest in Germany, the carnival in Venice or the Queen’s day in Denmark. Because of this, before a trip it’s always a good idea to check if the days you’re there something unusual is going on so that you can take part in to get a real taste of the local culture. Also, sometimes the events are not necessarily related to a special tradition, such as Music festivals, but it’s still an interesting way to see how the locals participate and a chance to interact with them…which leads me to my second point is:

2 | Interact with local people

Meeting people from different countries and cultures is always mind and eye-opening. Especially when you’re visiting a foreign country, knowing people who grew up there is an amazing way to discover their traditions, ways of living and the must-see which normal tourists won’t consider on their itinerary. Perhaps, if you have a friend living in that country it would be great if he/she could guide you around. You’ll see how you are able to discover way more things rather than going around by yourself following a map.

3 | Check out a supermarket

This might sound weird but, have you ever gone in a supermarket in a foreign country and notice how different or similar the products they sell are? This might be an underestimated activity but it’s also a great way to get engaged in the local culture and know more about local habits. You might end up finding strange stuff or noticing that actually the things sold are not that different from your home country!

4 | Ask for the story behind a tradition

Going back to first point, each place has its own traditions and habits. In most cases all these are related to a story or legend behind it. Most of the times after discovering the actual story of a tradition you’ll be able to understand more about the culture and the meaning of the celebration. So talk, chat, ask, be curious about your surroundings: there’s nothing nicer than having more knowledge about a place you’re visiting and comparing it to your own traditions!

5 | Don’t follow the big pre-made itineraries

I know how secure it feels to have this thorough well-organized itinerary made from articles you found online about the best places to go to in a city. Even better, to just take an already made one from websites such as Le Guide du Routard, or from your travel agency. However, sometimes it’s worth leaving the big touristy attractions on the side to discover new smaller places. Take some initiative to have an original trip, and google your way to a hidden gem! Blogs are a great way to find alternative visit ideas.

6 | Swap your guide for locals’ advice

In the same light, going out with your hotel guide can be great if you tend to get lost easily and are into group trips. However you can usually find local guides through websites dedicated to that online, or go to the tourist information office to find someone willing to show you around. The visit will be much more pleasurable and definitely more personalized.

7 | Feel at home

I know that visiting a city is a cultural activity which requires organization and usually money. You often eat in a restaurant for lunch and/or dinner, you go to museums, check out several places during the day and walk many kilometers while taking pictures. A day abroad is probably not the same as a day in your home city. Nevertheless I’d like to stress to importance of feeling at home abroad: take time to wander and let go of the “visit pressure”.

You do not have to do everything in one day, and if you don’t have enough time to see all the historical landmarks, then so be it. You’ll come back ! After all, holidays should be stress free and enjoyable, not about the pressure to see and do everything. So just behave like you would at home: do not wake up at 5am to jam everything into your day, have a nice breakfast in a cozy café, wander in the streets, do some window shopping, actually take time to have a cup of coffee or just read outside and enjoy.

8 | Play the cultural immersion game

This is probably one of my favorite tips when I go abroad. Even though we told you just before to act more relaxed and behave like at home, that does not mean that you should only go to big food chains and stores you know. Indeed, we’ve emphasize the importance to actually engage with the culture of the city you’re in, as well as the locals. So why not try to learn the language? Definitely go eat their specialties – that’s when learning the language can be useful, unless you feel adventurous and just order something randomly from the menu like I did once in Budapest (hungarian is very, very hard to learn, trust me…). If you’re the kind of person who likes to bring physical tokens from their trip, buy local artifacts rather than standardized objects you can find in all the big streets like the “I love” T shirts, mugs, key chains or magnets.

 

What about you, which are your tips to embrace the local culture and enjoy your holidays fully? We’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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30 Comments

  • Reply Oreoluwa

    Really helpful post! Thank you for sharing these tips.
    Oréoluwa’s blog

    07/03/2017 at 23:36
  • Reply Audrey

    Loved this post! Especially #4. Curiosity is the key when traveling 🙂

    08/03/2017 at 4:11
  • Reply Giulia

    These are very accurate points you highlighted! I try to keep away from doing the mainstream activities here in London, I rather just walk around the streets than spend hours visiting the well-known sites. Sometimes wandering around the city feels more enriching than doing the very touristy things. 🙂 x

    08/03/2017 at 17:04
    • Reply Lisa // Fromdreamtoplan

      Good technique Giulia, it’s defintiely the best way! Hope you’re enjoying your stay here! 🙂

      14/03/2017 at 23:11
  • Reply Tay

    What a great list, thanks for sharing. I personally love finding local festivals and markets and try to do that whenever I visit some place new!

    08/03/2017 at 18:25
  • Reply Elizabeth LaHoustonian

    All really sage advice but the supermarket I found particularly to be a good idea and seeing what the locals have in their shopping carts too!

    09/03/2017 at 0:27
  • Reply Rose

    Fantastic tips for any traveler, thanks! Soaking up the local culture is so important for getting an overall picture of a new place.

    09/03/2017 at 16:36
  • Reply Jennifer

    Number 1 is true even when traveling through the US. There are cultural differences from state to state and different festivals and celebrations. I’ll never forget being in Rockport, MA the day they were celebrating Motif Number 1, (the most painted structure in the US,) which had recently been destroyed by the Blizzard of 78. I was in High School back then, but I clearly remember the parade and bonfire. It’s those moments that stand out in your memories.

    09/03/2017 at 17:25
    • Reply Lisa // Fromdreamtoplan

      Oh yeah definitely, sometimes even when exploring our own country we can encounter many differences! You had such a cool experience! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      14/03/2017 at 23:08
  • Reply Lauren

    I love these ideas! I agree you get so much more out of travel learn about the local culture.

    09/03/2017 at 18:15
  • Reply Nano @ Travel With Nano B.

    What a great post Lisa, couldn’t agree more. I particularly love perusing local supermarkets to check out local seasonal produce and products. Getting lost in the backstreets and going off the beaten track is also a must. Now that I will in Tokyo and know it so well I often find it funny when I read some of the “guides” written by visitors who were here for only a week and hardly scratched the service. So yes, definitely listen to what locals have to say and recommend.

    10/03/2017 at 8:35
    • Reply Lisa // Fromdreamtoplan

      Thanks Nano!! Glad you liked the post 🙂
      Oh yeah so true! You also have great tips though 😉

      14/03/2017 at 23:06
  • Reply Always A Foreigner

    These are great tips. It’s so important to really get involved in a community in order to experience a new place fully!

    10/03/2017 at 15:26
  • Reply Creed

    I want to take my kids traveling a bit more. These tips are helpful for not only me, but also preparing them.

    13/03/2017 at 18:06
  • Reply Kathy Mac

    Great tips!. I used to just roam the city I was visiting and hang out at a sidewalk cafe when I traveled in Europe. I’m big on soaking up the local culture and my favorite trips have been to places that didn’t have a lot of tourists so I got to really interact with the locals.

    13/03/2017 at 18:16
  • Reply Emma

    Great tips!

    14/03/2017 at 19:58
  • Reply school tips for parents

    Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your article post. I like to write a little comment to support you.

    31/03/2017 at 2:39
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