Meeting Locals While Traveling
Meeting locals while traveling has huge benefits, and will make your stay in any place a very rewarding experience, so knowing some major tools to make it happen is important.
Before we begin, let’s just mention the special ingredient that will increase your chances to have local friends: Be friendly and approachable. Locals have a tendency to help and communicate with foreigners since meeting foreigners for them can be a refreshing break and everyone wants to leave a good impression of their country by helping out. So, smile, ask questions, show interest in their life/culture, don’t be shy, and the magic will happen. So, while you are being the charming person you are, here are some steps you can take to interact with locals:
- Register for tours – As surprising as it might be most tours participants will be locals on vacation. Joining tours and being communicative and approachable can get you long lasting local friends.
- Establish a daily routine – I am a nomad, but a great fan of routines (being a ultra-nomad with constant change wore me down). If you establish daily routines in your temporary location, such as same places to have coffee or lunch, go swimming etc. you will see the same faces again (clients or owners), therefore increase chances of interaction.
- Take Courses – Register for a course given in a language you understand, and it will be impossible to go through them without interaction with the locals that also participate. Not to mention, it will also teach you a new skill. Just use google, read billboards on the street, and register to daily deal sites like Groupon to get some courses at affordable rates.
- Volunteer – A perfect way of getting to know the local population and fellow volunteers. Do a quick google search on volunteering at the place you are at. As a bonus, it will also make you feel great. I now started volunteering as a teacher, and teaching and giving lectures is an effective way to meet locals.
- Play Sports – If you enjoy sports, it will not only keep you healthy and fit on the road, but will also allow you to connect with locals, especially if you pick a team sports. Sport can create an intense bond with your teammates without requiring you to master the local language.
- Do a language exchange and participate in language courses – Let me start with an important advice, no matter where you are, know the basic lingo such as hello and thanks since locals will appreciate you taking the effort to do so. Also, many locals want to do language exchange sessions and you can find them both in daily interactions or on internet classified ads sites such as www.craiglist.com . This adds an additional boost to the contact with the locals and will probably increase the frequency you will meet your local friends. Also, doing language courses in the place you are at will expose you to a new circle of friends during the course and more importantly, will greatly increase your chances of successfully interacting with the locals.
- Participate in coworking (or just work) – This one is an amazing way of getting to know locals, since work is a place people spend a long time doing. If you are a classical nomad, working on the move as a chef or selling stuff in the street, just interact. If you are a digital nomad, the situation is more complicated, but fear not, just find a cool coworking place (*read more about coworking here). If you are a traveler, go for the volunteering option.
- Facebook and LinkedIn – The first trick on Facebook would be to put the name of the city you are at on the search, and search for Events. This is a nice tool to show you many activities where you are at. Also, in Facebook and Linkedin you can segment your connections by locations. You might be surprised to know some of your connections are currently living where you are. When I was in London, I discovered 8 friends that aren’t English that are currently in London this way.
- Coushsurfing.org and other sites – Couchsurfing is probably the easiest and most effective site to meet locals while traveling, as a bonus you can stay in their homes and save on accommodation. Another great site to use, is meetup.com, where you can assist meetings organized by locals. (Just make sure the meetings will be in a language you understand)
- Buy from Friends – This one is a little weird, but especially in developing countries, befriending the people you purchase from (Hostel owner, the coffee shop you always go to, a freelancer you hire) makes a lot of sense. Help your friends by consuming what they offer, instead of purchasing in places where no contact is made.
- Give and Share – A great way to start a conversation and create good contact is share what you have with others. For example, if you carry candies with you during a train ride, and the situation allows, offer them to others who are with you. In general, I always stock and have available to hand over a few small gifts and coins from my country and other locations I visited for people who have been great with me. Giving feels great, and is for some reason always followed by receiving as well.
In this article we introduced a mix of tools to make contacts with locals. The rewards are great, and the variety of both offline and online methods to make it happen give you no excuse not to take some easy steps and upgrade your stay in a place and make lots of local connections.