One of the Locals: Immersing Yourself in the Culture Around You

By: Matteo Fardella

Ah yes, moving away from home is a scary thing, a new culture, new language, new people, new everything. Nobody wants to be that outsider that sticks out like a sore thumb in their new surroundings, that person who knows people are talking about them but can’t understand what is being said. As much as you may have your habits and tendencies, there are some things that you might have to adjust. It’s important when living in a new place to feel that sense of self-confidence in your daily life.

Firstly, take in absolutely everything you do and see without resistance, learn the language, eat the food, make friends with the locals and do as they do.

Clothing is a major standing-out factor, even if you aren’t a fashion guru it’s easy to recognize the difference in trends around you. If your plans include moving to a new location permanently or if you have some spare change lying around, leave your clothes at home and shop where the locals shop. Try to avoid showing the common tourist “add-ons’ like fanny packs, a giant map of the city, or selfie-sticks. I’m not saying don’t use them, just keep them more under the radar as these are the some clear tourist red flags.

Understand the currency of the country before moving there, this will prevent you from looking like you have never used money before because you are fumbling about when it’s time to pay. Be sure to understand where you are going before leaving the house so that after a while you don’t have to GPS your way to every location, staring down at your phone and risking being hit by something or running into the person in front of you in the process.

On the other hand, get lost. This is the single easiest way to learn and understand the geography of a city. You’ll be really impressed with yourself later when you actually start figuring out where you want to go on your own.

Learn the language. Try your absolute hardest to acquire as much of the language as you can. This will make communication and friendships so much easier, greet the shop owners and make friends with them as it is always good to network with new people. Leave your outside voice at home, shouting and screaming amongst your friends whilst out is a sure way to annoy the locals and give your home country and language a bad name. Keep it quieter and try not to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Keep an eye out for social cues, things that are acceptable at home may not be in your new location. Carry yourself with confidence, even if you have no idea what you are doing, at least act like you do. Fake it until you make it.

Choosing home-stays or apartments in a residential area instead of a hotel/hostel increases your chances of interacting with locals. Participate in local events that tourists would not or do not know about and go and sit in the heart of local entertainment and culture.

Lastly, just be yourself. You are who you are at the end of the day and there is only so much you can do to blend in. Absorb everything around you and take each day as it comes. It will take time and you will be frustrated occasionally but at the end of the day, it will all be worth it.