As much as we want to bring in something to where we travel, sometimes it is also nice to be intimate with the people, the place, and the culture which we are visiting. Blending in with the locals allow us to see their culture in a way some outsiders are not privileged to see.
Here are tips that can help you blend in without losing your sense of self while discovering other cultures:
Wearing Muted clothes
Your first line of defense if you want to blend in is your get up. Simple clothes will help you to go around “unnoticed”. It might be very popular to wear the Cavs jersey or a NY Yankees cap but this stuff will give you away in the place you are visiting.
Pack Versatile Clothes
You will somehow know that you are blending well if you can go to a barber and also eat at the best restaurant of the place. You do not have to wear anything flashy or anything trashy but go for versatile clothes which you can wear practically anywhere. Remember though that comfortable clothing is not always what you call versatile. Sometimes cargo pants or shorts do not work in all cases.
Tone down a bit with the camera and other tourist must haves
It will be our instinct to click on the new places and things we see when we travel. If your purpose is to blend in then you fail at this area if you have the digital camera hanging by your neck. You might want to tone down a bit and spend more time discovering about the local color of the culture. A honking camera by the way is also good signal for thieves that you are a tourist trying to find your way around. Other things that you might want to keep on low profile will be your guidebooks and fanny packs.
Check your shoes
Yes. Even your shoes can give you away as a tourist. In Europe for example, wearing running shoes coupled with white your white socks is just worn when working out. In some tropical countries in Asia, it might be weird if you will be wearing nice leather shoes while everyone is on their flip flops or running shoes. It is not really about any fashion sense but your white shoes can be an antithesis to your goal of blending in.
Buy clothes where you are going
Not everyone has a budget for it but if you do, it will be best to get clothes at your destination if your goal is to blend in. Well, do not go to the souvenir shop but go to where the locals buy their stuff. Another advantage of this is that you have to check in fewer bags when you depart from your airport of origin.
Plan your activities for the day
Plan out what you want to do and where you want to go for the day. Do everything in your room and do not look at the map or bus schedules while your in the middle of the road or while at a street corner. If you will be driving, plan your route ahead so you can confidently navigate like a local around the place.
Search for images on the web
Do not take your glossy brochures seriously. They show you all the best things and sometimes not the real picture. If you want to know how locals would dress up or look like when you travel to their place, search the web. Look for pictures, local news, and more information about your destination.
Be likeable, be courteous
Locals love tourists but most of them do not want to feel that they are there just to please visitors. They need the revenues but as tourists we sometimes appear as a boss who does not want to pay that much. You can take the cue from how locals react when you talk to them. Most of the time, it will be best to be on the courteous side and be likeable to them. It is always effective to smile and thank someone for little things and for sure the locals will be more than willing to show the best treatment they give to other people.
Shop at local stores
Blending in with the local can be a success if you can fit in buying stuff from a local shop. You can also try getting a haircut at a local barber shop. You can also go for the lunch being sold at the food cart where most locals buy a quick snack.
Move against the flow of tourists
If you want to blend in with the locals then going to a famous spot will have you surrounded with other tourists. Go with the locals and go where they usually go. So what you should do blending in is to get a room that is not on top of the list of most tourists, explore beaches other than those popular to tourists, and discover some unusual sights that are out of the way of most tourist tours.
Try to learn the local language
It is a give away that you are not from the place when you mangle the local tongue. It will not hurt when you try to say a few words, you will make the locals smile and somehow get some slack for trying. Explore the language and ask the locals if you do not have an idea to say something. Practice is always the key and being more familiar with the local language can help you see deeper into their culture.
The least you can do is say hello to the locals that you encounter. Say hi when you cross paths in a local bakeshop or when you go to a park.
Get in control of your money
You might want to browse on how you can spend wisely when going to a certain place. Try to understand the local currency and its different denominations. The more you are familiar with the local money, the better you will be able to blend in. Of course, it will follow that you will be able to get better deals. Don’t carry a big wad of bills or else you can easily be spotted as an outsider and might be taken advantage of by thieves.
Tone down if you must
Every place has someone who really laughs his heart out, if you are that kind of person, you might want to tone down a bit so you don’t get all the attention since you want to blend in with the locals. Remember though that you might need to speak a bit louder in a noisy market place. If you are an English speaker, saying things louder does not really make a difference if the local does not understand the language.
Be a good driver
It is like putting a big sign “ Am not from here” on your rented car if you drive really slow, stop at every corner, gawk out your window, or just simply clogging the street because you are looking for something. Browse through the map and be sure of the routes that you need to take. If possible, let a copilot handle the map work for you so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Blending in with the locals means knowing how they act, where they do stuff, how they look, and what they love to do. You must try to observe and walk the way they walk as the cliché goes. You must be sensitive with their customs. One thing that you used to do back home might not be as accepted as a polite act when you visit a place. You need to adapt to their style but of course you will not get that with your first try.
Try alternative lodging
Going to the most popular hotels will not really help you blend in with the local culture. Try renting an apartment or a homestay in the middle of a residential neighborhood. This will allow you to interact with the locals and feel how things go on a daily basis.
Instead of going to the events where most tourists go, you can discover much of the local’s soul by seeing local festivals, concerts, and other events. It might not be that popular a choice but attending these local highlights can be one of the best memories of your trip.
What you can really do to blend so you will be one with the locals is just very limited. You are what you are. Even if you wear a local traditional costume, you will still reveal a part of you. And that is good somehow. You will be able to meet a lot of people which is really the purpose of discovering other cultures.
Follow these tips and who knows, a tourist might just ask you which will be the best way to take to go somewhere.
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