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Live like a local! 10 Cultural immersion tips

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 28-01-2022

Probably one of the main reasons for travel is to learn and appreciate different cultures and customs. By immersing ourselves in the culture of other communities or countries, we can learn so much more than by being a simple tourist in a destination. Here are a few pointers on cultural immersion experiences and getting the most out of a destination! 

1.Learn about your destination. 

It is always a good idea to learn a little background information about the country you are going to visit. Cultural expectations, traditions, customs and belief systems are all really good ways to get a feel for a country and how life is going to be while you are there.  

2. Stay with a homestay family. 

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of a country is to stay with a homestay family. The day to day life of normal individuals gives great insight into a number of different aspects of life in a different culture. Anything from sleeping arrangements, food preparation, conversations and practising the local language, even the local TV, is a normal, everyday routine for families worldwide and an intimate way of getting to know a culture from the grassroots level. This will also be your second home while on your travels. 

Kids picking potatoes in a homestay family farm

3. Go out of your way to meet local people. 

It is too easy to fall into the trap of hanging out with other like-minded travellers when you go to a different country. The fact that the situation all around you is usually different enough; people often try and look for companions or friends from similar countries. While it is great to have that kind of support network away from home, there is a reason why you have decided to travel to the other side of the world! Try hanging out in local cafes, or restaurants, language exchange groups or get your homestay family to take you dancing or even a local cultural event. Some life- long friends and even life partners have been made during such encounters and is a great insight into life in a different country, as well as being fun! 

4. Learn to cook local food. 

The perfect way to get to know a different culture is to eat their food. The different herbs, spices, tastes of the local cuisine are usually delicious and will educate your taste buds. But why not go that step further and learn how to prepare a local dish? Sign up for a cooking class or ask your homestay family to teach you a traditional recipe. You will be the envy of your friends when you return home when you know how to prepare a “ceviche”, Peru’s national dish!

Freshly-prepared ceviche

5. Learn the language 

One of the biggest barriers when learning about a different culture is the language barrier. It is difficult to learn about a culture if you cannot communicate with the people from that culture. Language exchanges are great to practice a local language while sharing your English skills with the locals. Most people are only too eager to learn some English, so we already have the advantage. Many language schools all around the world offer language classes and cultural exchange programmes which are perfect for getting to grips with the local lingo. Learn some basic words and phrases before you leave home and download the google translate app to help you on your way! 

6. Get lost! 

This is not usually the best travel recommendation, of course, however, to experience a culture, it sometimes helps to get away from the well-trodden routes and head off in different directions. Sometimes when you have to think on your feet, ask people for directions and go to places you haven't been to before is the best way to see different aspects of a destination and even meet new people! 

You will need your best spanish to ask for directions!

7. Take local transport. 

One of the best ways to experience a culture or country is to use its public transportation system. Fromm tuc tucs to trams, from moto-taxis to camels, locals need to get around just like everyone else! If local people are using a certain way to get around, then there is usually a positive reason for it. Local transport will give you a different perspective of a city, its people and how things on a daily basis are organised. It is also a great way to practice the language and get chatting to others. 

8. Visit a local market. 

The local market is usually the central hub of all activity and the different smells, tastes, activities and products, are a sensory experience without equal. Buy the local products, barter for a reasonable price, try a local delicacy, ask to taste a product you are not familiar with. Take care of your pockets, of course, but go local and make the most of the experience. 

Street market in Cusco

9. Participate in a local sport. 

 A great way to mix with locals is to play a local sport. Local people are usually passionate about their local sport and are usually welcoming if you want to try and join in with the local activity. It's also a great way to get some exercise while travelling! 

10. Go out dancing! 

A great way to get to know the local community is through their nightlife. Go and dance with friends or your homestay family to catch up on the local music and the dance moves trending on the dancefloor. Go to a concert, a festival or a cultural event, hang out in a coffee shop. All these activities will increase your chances of socialising, getting to know a culture and of course making new friends.  

Local festival in Lima