Some travellers approach new places in much the same way they do checklists. Once all the destinations have been visited, they feel completed and wish to return home. Others find this type of vacation dissatisfying—they need to connect with a place more intimately. If this describes you, then you’ll need to explore lesser known places to completely immerse yourself in the local culture.
Classes and Clubs
Typically, programs for learning and advancing skills attract a local audience because:
- They meet often enough that the participants incorporate them into their weekly schedules;
- They are advertised through local channels.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with attending a session as an outsider—so long as the program welcomes newcomers. For instance, one of the best classes you can take abroad is cooking. You will get a far more authentic feel for the cuisine than through a restaurant. Same goes for sports clubs; different cultures put unique spins on sports already familiar to you.
Neighbourhoods over Attractions
A tourist attraction doesn’t say much about the local culture. It might signify a piece of its history, but you cannot gauge what makes the city tick from a monument. For this reason, the best way to experience a local culture is by visiting neighbourhoods, frequenting the places there where people eat, shop and socialize.
This relates to another point—local establishments over franchises. Franchised shops and restaurants conform to brand identities, which robs them of their local presences. For instance, apart from minor variances in the menu, a McDonalds in Europe resembles one in North America.
If you are a spiritual or religious person, then the most intimate setting you can find is a house of worship. The communities here are tightly knit yet accepting of kindred spirits. Religious institutions will reveal more about a city’s moral fabrication than any other activity too.
That said, depending on where you are travelling, there are customs that you must respect to not offend gatherers in such places. Always do your research and err on the side of caution.