How to get involved in a local community
By: Ali Haymes. Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel Program Assistant
Whether you are traveling abroad with family or moving across the world for a new job, getting involved with your local community is one of the best ways to adjust to life in a new country. It can also lead you to a much more meaningful travel experience. By immersing yourself in the local community rather than following the tourist path, you will get to know a new place on a deeper level. Below are a few ways that can help you get to know your surroundings and connect to the local environment!
Shop at local markets
Depending on where you are, locals may shop at street markets instead of larger grocery stores. This is a great way to learn more about the local culture and products. Take a stroll through the market, ask the vendors about different ingredients, and maybe try a few local snacks. This is a very cheap way to see the daily life of people in the country you are visiting.
Find your favorite restaurants
Food is one of the best ways to learn more about a local community. No matter where you are, friends and family will come together to share a meal. Find some local restaurants by asking for recommendations of places that are authentic and delicious. Try a sampling from the menu. You can also talk with the waiters and shop owners to learn more about the food and the surrounding area – they might have recommendations for other places to check out, plus you’ll get to know a local community member.
Join social groups
If you are moving to a new country, it can be overwhelming and daunting to wonder how and where you are going to make friends. However, all cities will have some kind of social group you can get involved in that plan events for expats. For example, in Myanmar, the French Institute hosted great parties for expats and Burmese youth to get to know each other. This helped me become a more integrated part of the expat scene while checking out different areas of the city.
When I first arrive in a new city, I like to walk around and explore without much of a plan. Get lost wandering the streets and the backroads. Going to see the main attractions of a city is something you don’t want to miss. However, I often find that I learn more from walking the streets and seeing the daily life of the locals without being part of the tourist crowd.
Get involved with your favorite activities
While traveling abroad is an amazing time to take risks and try new things, it is normal to miss the comforts of home. To help with this, I tried to find some activities that I loved doing at home while I was in a new country. I joined a yoga studio in two different countries, and sought out a ceramics class in Vietnam. These were things that were familiar to me and that I knew I loved. These activities helped me meet more people who lived in the community by connecting with them over common interests.
Befriend the locals
This may seem like a daunting task, but this is by far the best way to get to know the local community. People will likely be excited that you are visiting their country and will want to get to know you too. Whether you are at a bar, at a famous tourist attraction, or just wandering the streets, guarantee you can find a local to help you on your way. Not only could you develop a beautiful, new friendship, but you will have a much more authentic view of the city if you can see it from a locals view.
Hopefully these tips help you when you are on your next excursion abroad, and you can make significant connections with a local community!
Would you like to engage with a community abroad? If so, visit us online at Greenheart Exchange.