1. Research your destination so you have a sense of what to expect. Talk to others who have been where you’re going, read traveler discussion forums (TripAdvisor.com, Lonely Planet and Fodors.com forums are a handy place to do this), and read books – guidebooks, history books, novels. Reading a piece of fiction written by a local author is a great way to begin to understand the local culture.
2. Ease into things. If you know that you do best in a new place with a sense of familiarity, stay in a hotel chain you’ve used before, and stay in the town’s tourist centre. But consider branching out into different neighbourhoods and perhaps a smaller boutique hotel after a couple days.
3. Keep an open mind. Seriously. This is something we hear all the time, but it’s also advice that many of us ignore! Things are going to be different than they are at home – that’s why we travel, right? Withholding judgment will allow you to be an objective observer and will facilitate the process of cross-cultural understanding.
4. And along the same lines, do your best to go with the flow. Wherever you’re traveling is not going to adapt to you – it’s up to you to adapt to your surroundings. Traveling feels like less of a struggle if you accept cultural differences and behaviour. We all know the ancient adage: “When in Rome…”
5. Find a local friend. This is our raison d’etre at ToursByLocals! By pairing you up with a local guide, we’re giving you an entry point into the local culture: someone to show you around, explain local customs, and help orient you to a new place, quickly.
6. Find a favourite local place and return there a few times. Whether it’s a café near your hotel, or a little park by the water, finding a place that you feel a connection with can help increase your feelings of comfort and familiarity in your new surroundings.
7. Finally, have a sense of humour! Do the traffic rules make no sense? What on earth was that person trying to tell you? Did you really just dodge a cow on the road? Sometimes the most challenging travel situations make the best stories once you’re home.