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7 Ways to blend in with the locals when you travel

We all know the feeling of being the tourist, the confused person with the camera who doesn’t know about the local customs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By following a few simple steps you could become a true traveller at one with your new destination.

 1. Keep an open mind

Image courtesy of Frontier's Vietnamese Projects

It might sound obvious, but keeping an open mind is vital when you travel around the world, especially if the countries you visit are very different to your own. We often tend to view our own culture and traditions as the ‘right’ one, but it couldn’t be more wrong – there is a whole world out there of ideas and history, people with their own unique ways of doing things, so whenever something strike you as odd or even wrong, try to do whatever you can to understand it, go behind the surface. This way you will get a better idea of the country as a whole.

2.  Make an effort with the language


Image courtesy of Frontier's Panama Projects

Earth is a rotating globe of words and sounds coming from the many species living on its land. Even though human beings can get a long way by using sign language and our facial expression, learning a new language is never a bad idea. Whenever you go somewhere new, try to pick up phrases and learn new words from the people you meet. This will definitely earn you respect among the locals, especially if the language is somewhat unique.

3. Be prepared for a change of wardrobe

Image courtesy of Frontier's Mozambique Projects

If you don’t fancy standing out too much like a ‘tourist’ a change of outfit might be needed. This does not have to be anything drastic, but turning up in a Barbie-dress is probably ill advice if going to a village in the jungle. Once you arrive at a new destination, take a few moments to familiarise yourself with your new environment and find ways to blend in. Being a copy-cat does not have to a bad thing – if you are skilled enough, you could gather important intelligence for your own personal travel book! 

4. Eat local - forget about McDonalds

Image courtesy of Naomi Prescott and her time on Frontier's Maldives Teaching and Beaches Project

I know, they are everywhere in most countries around the world. The yellow signs are shining like only money can shine and for some people the famous McDonalds sign might remind them of home, something familiar – but don’t fall into the trap. Apart from being unhealthy, eating food you know from home is a bad way to start your trip. Travelling is all about immersing yourself in new cultures and that includes eating local food. Want to blend in? Eat like they do.

5. Learn all about the local customs

Image courtesy of Frontier's Madagascar Projects

So what place have you ended up in? Do they have any specific traditions worth knowing? Do you do things differently to you? Stay curious and visit cultural places at each destination you visit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, people are often happy to share their knowledge with you.

6. Offer your help in the local community

Image courtesy of Frontier's Indonesia Projects

Are you still dissatisfied with being the tourist? Ask around and see if there is anywhere you can help out in the local community and sign up for a volunteer project before going abroad. Being a part of a project in another country can help you gain a better understanding of the culture and eventually you might even blend in and pick up a few local traditions along the way. Who knows if you will ever get home again?

7. Embrace cultural differences

Image courtesy of Frontier's Brazil Projects

It can be a little scary arriving in a new country, especially if the place is significantly different to your home country. You miss your own culture, might find yourself feeling alone and confused on foreign soil, but rather than clinging on to the safety of your own culture you should embrace the differences. Enjoy the fact that you get to experience different ways of living around the world and jump into the unknown – eventually you might forget about home and pledge your allegiance to the world as a whole.

So what’s your next step? Maybe you already have your travels planned out, but if you are still at the ‘dream stage’ you could get some valuable inspiration from Frontier. By taking part in a community project abroad, you will get the chance to explore a new country whilst helping out. You could also start out by learning a new language and then start your big adventure. Learn Chinese, Spanish, French or even Mongolian! Words are powerful – start using them.

Wanna test your lingo withe he locals? Frontier runs over 300 dedicated conservation, community and adventure projects worldwide. Why not have a look at our projects and internships or find out more about great ideas for your gap year, and opportunities to volunteer across the globe.

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