4 ways to bond with locals
Your trip becomes a total different experience when you get in contact with local people. They can provide you with “expert” information about their country, and you will often be surprised how friendly and hospitable they are compared to people who work in the tourism business, who often seem fatigued about foreigners.
Once in contact with locals you will notice that many of them are really friendly. They show a genuine interest in you, are willing to give you advice and love to tell you about their culture. However, sometimes they are too shy to approach you. Here are 4 ways to overcome boundaries and get in contact.
Recently, when I strolled along the bedding of the Mekong river in Laos, I was invited by some local boys to join their football game. I never reject such an offer. It is a great way to get in contact with local people. A fun aspect about sports is that it does not necessarily require you to talk, so for some people it it a more easy way to be in contact with you.
Shyness disappears and there is a lot of fun involved when you are playing a (football) match with each other. A park is a good place to get in contact with local people who are playing sports. While traveling in Southeast Asia I noticed that a lot of people come together in the parks, to do sports activities like aerobics, running and playing badminton. Good opportunities to join them.
Try to learn some words which exceed the standard tourist lines like thank you and hello, when you travel abroad. Many locals really cheer up when they notice that you talk to them in their language. Often they are to shy or unable to speak English. Having some small talk with them in their own language is a great way to make them feel happy and at ease.
Many people love to dance and sing songs. A really nice way of bonding and sharing a cultural experience is by playing music with each other, but if you do not play an instrument then try to join them in other musical activities like karaoke, dancing in clubs, or partying in bars.
Dancing can take away boundaries because it is a physical activity, so language is not that important. Singing songs together also can be a lot of fun. Many people know English songs even though they do not speak the language, and listening to songs from the country that you visit is a nice way to learn more about the culture of your destination.
If you want to have a great local experience then I recommend joining the Couchsurfing community. Couchsurfers are people who share their home with travelers. Couchsurfers do not stay in a hotel/hostel but instead choose to stay with a local. It is a great way to get to know more about a country and culture, because your local host is an expert on the subject.
Get in contact
Remember to get out of your comfort zone when you want to get in contact with locals. Usually they are eager to talk and bond with you, but often the are to shy to actually approach you. Be the first one to take away that boundary and you could have many wonderful experiences with locals.
Do you often get in contact with locals? How do you usually approach them? What was the most memorable experience you had with a local?