One of the great experiences you'll ever have when traveling is meeting new people, establishing connections and making new friends. It doesn't matter if it's an international trip or a domestic tour, the fun of making friends is universal and very enriching. It is also a very personal experience that could even become the most memorable part of your trip.
If you're the shy type or you're not sure how to go about meeting locals then you can follow these tips that will surely help you make friends with locals:
Talk to people on your way to your destination
One of the best ways to set up connections is by talking to people on your way to your destination. Talk to people sitting beside you on the plane, train or the bus. There's a good chance some of them are actually locals going home or may already know someone who lives in your destination.
You can even begin "chatting" with locals way before you even leave your home. Visit online forums that locals go to and engage the members. Ask them about their culture and traditions, and encourage them to make recommendations for places that you should visit. Of course, you need to be cautious about being too trusting. Don't freely give out your contact details and be aware of offers or invitations that are too good to be true.
Don't be afraid to ask questions about the area you're visiting. Your inquisitiveness and desire to gain information is a great way of showing you are genuinely interested and would love to learn more about the culture and the people. Locals will warm up to you more quickly when they see your enthusiasm. Ask where the locals usually hang out and go there. Doing this is so much better than just following recommendations from a tourist guide book, which is usually just filled with recommendations to already popular tourist traps. A local recommendation means you get to see less popular destinations but where the locals are more engaging.
Go off the beaten path
Tourists usually just stay in the big cities and the tourist sites. If you really want to experience local culture schedule a trip to small towns, where the locals are usually friendlier. Talk to the friendly locals you meet and you'll be surprised at the wealth of knowledge you'll learn. You'll also get to see sights that not many tourists have seen. Of course, the real pleasure here would be the privilege to see the locals as they live their everyday lives.
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said "Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax." Being polite has a positive effect on any person. It will bring down their defenses and will compel them to be polite to you as well. Remember to always be polite when visiting another country and when dealing with locals. Always say thank you and show appreciation for the little things that they do for you. If you're being hosted by a local, it would be a good idea to bring a gift to show your gratitude. You can also contribute to the meal, which is quite a sincere gesture.
Politeness is not just limited to being kind to locals. It also means respecting their culture and their way of life. Do your research and familiarize yourself with the local customs and traditions so you won't offend them and you'll know how to act during certain situations. This is one of the tips you should follow to the letter. Tourists have earned a bad rap because they don't respect the local culture.
Derek Gallimore is an experienced traveler. He works for “Boutique London Lets”, a company that rents out serviced apartments.