My absolute favorite thing about traveling to different places is experiencing new and different cultures. I love immersing myself in the way the locals live their daily life. You always hear of the American tourist with their socks with the sandals and baseball caps so I try my best to adapt and travel like a local, but I know sometimes I probably stick out like a sore thumb. If you want to try to blend in better on your next trip, here are some tips I have for fitting in better to your new environment.
As soon as I have my plane ticket bought and my accommodation booked, my next step is to look up different things to see and do. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the city or area you are staying in. I always look up to see the distance between point A and point B to see if I can walk or need to take another form of transportation. We will get more into that next! Every place has different quirks; learning some of these could help you during your travels. I also recommend learning a few or more key phrases if you are traveling to a different country that does not speak the same language as your home country. Yes, some people in other countries can speak English, but it might be their second language and difficult for them. Plus, they will hopefully appreciate the gesture of you at least trying to conform to their norm. I did this when I traveled to France and Costa Rica. I think more Americans should learn a second language and become bilingual; that’s why I am currently on Duolingo studying Spanish! I took Spanish classes in high school but have always wanted to pick it back up and become proficient in another language. By trying to be more empathic to the locals in the places you are visiting, the better chance you have of integrating with your surroundings.
Now, back to transportation! Every city has multiple options of getting around that don’t include taking a ride share or taxi everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, there are times and places where these forms are necessary, but there are more economical, environmental, and local friendly ways to go from place to place. My favorite way to navigate through a city is to use their metro/subway system. I usually download a copy of the map or will use a maps app to see which stop I need to get on and off at and then screenshot it. I have used this mode in at least 10 different cities. There are also buses and bikes to consider. As much as I wanted to I did not hop on a red double-decker bus in London or try to ride a bicycle in Amsterdam. But I hope you try these and let me know how amazing they were! And if none of those work out for you, you can always walk. I feel, at least for a Midwest small-town woman, this is such a crazy thing to think about since you need to drive to even get to another town to grocery store. However, it is not uncommon to be able to walk wherever you need to in big cities. Slowly, I am getting more use to this idea, but it still gets me sometimes.
Here are some random tidbits I have learned along the way as well! I almost always wear headphones while on the metro or walking. This is a win-win-win because you will look more like a local commuting, random people won’t talk to you, and you get to listen to music or a podcast. This helps me out a lot while I am solo traveling. Plus sometimes, I don’t even listen to anything or I have it turned way down so I can have all my senses. When I am walking through a city, I usually have my phone out for navigation. Now, this part might be tricky. You don’t want to have your nose glued to your phone the whole time, but take glances at it, making sure you are on the right course. If you don’t look up from your phone, you cant see where you are walking, and makes it easier for people to target you. Always be aware of your surroundings. This is for all my fashion-forward people! I touched on this but even your clothes could alert locals that you are not from there. Try not to wear socks with sandals, baseball caps, athleisure wear, or athletic shoes. The hardest one for me was hats, but I have learned to either not wear caps or start trying different hats. One last one for the road is to be considerate of those around you by not talking too loud or causing a scene.
I know what you are thinking… “How am I ever going to remember all of this information?!”. Spoiler alert: you aren’t. There are so many things that make you different than a person that lives in a European city or a country in Asia and vice versa. As much as I wish I could morph into a Scotswoman, I know I am always going to have a little bit of southern Illinois in me, and that’s okay. I will try my best to go incognito in big cities and remote villages; to travel like a local and live like I have been there for years. Maybe you will want to as well.