Make a Local Friend: How to Immerse Yourself in a Culture When Traveling

Sometimes you can come home from a trip abroad having enjoyed the sun, the food, and the sights, but with a guilty feeling that you still don’t know much about the country. It is true that there is frequently a language obstacle and often a fear of giving offense through inappropriate words or actions, but these should not stand in the way of you getting a true experience of the country you visit.


The first job is to decide if you really want to do the immersion thing. In principle, it seems right, but it may not be right for you. It will demand a lot of your attention and if you are traveling with a young family it may not be fair to divide yourself like that. It takes time and you may not have the resources of time and money available, even if you are prepared to take out a loan to finance it-read here for more about personal loans.

For example, if you are traveling in order to get your first job, you would most likely be excited to learn about the culture of that place and the people you might have to be with alongside presenting yourself for the first job interview. In fact, it may be intimidating as well. The reason is that you would most likely be unaware of how you should dress, how you should speak, and a variety of other factors. When you are fresh out of college and have always dressed up as a fashion blogger in your school, wearing the most stylish outfit in your school, it may be difficult for you to suddenly dress up formally. But keep in mind that your first job will not be like college, where you could wear classic rings (likely purchased from websites like representing your university. You need to get out of that zone as soon as possible. You’ll need to prepare yourself to look presentable rather than funky. You’ll need to learn what kinds of questions are asked in various types of interviews. And you can only do so if you are aware of your surroundings, culture, and current events.


Once you have decided that your next trip will involve more immersion in the culture, you need to get ready. Don’t wait until you are in line for the immigration desk.

The quickest way into anyone’s culture is through their language. That’s a tall order, but at least you can learn the words for “please,” “thank you,” and numbers up to ten. The more you can learn, the better your experience will be.

Those back pages in your Lonely Planet are very useful for discovering some basic things about how things work (like how to order drinks in a bar) and what actions to avoid (like eating with your left hand in the Middle East).

Make Contact

It is not easy to make genuine friendships unless you have a lot of time available. Get into the habit of asking for help. At worst it wastes a few minutes, but at best it can open the way to conversation.

Gen up on the politics of a country, and find out if it is acceptable to discuss them. Know something about festivals or national sport obsessions. Above all, ask questions.

Sleep and Eat

Go as local as possible. Stay away from western style hotels and look for smaller family run businesses. Airbnb properties are often in less frequented parts of cities. By definition, they are more likely to be the sort of homes that local people will live in, and you will usually meet the owners in person.

Try local foods in local eateries. Eat what other people are eating. In some countries, street food can wreak havoc with the western stomach but, unless you are warned against it, you should definitely try it.

Open a Box of Treats

Taking the trouble to immerse yourself in a foreign country takes courage and hard work, but those who try it will nearly always find that they come home with a richer experience (and better stories) than those who play safe.