Skip Navigation

How to get in contact with locals???

Travel Forums General Talk How to get in contact with locals???

1. Posted by marimia (Budding Member 12 posts) 12y

Soon leaving for my first backpack trip and on my own, I'm getting somewhat nervous... how do you do to get in contact with the locals??? From my experience it's very seldom that the settled people care enough to make friends with foreign travellers that stay for no more than a couple of days (and I suppose I can see why...) and the ones who does tend to be of the other gender and not really interested in friendships...

I guess that I should be able to answer this question my self but no, I can't, so girls, how to connect???
And then another problem - obviously it isn't a hard thing to get in contact with men (at least not in France) and I suppose that you could get into a culture quite good that way without doing some personal sacrifices (of course not talking prostitution or anything even close to that, but using your gender to achive benefits... - it's a grey scale), but personaly I feel bad doing that. What's the general oppinion? How do you do - and in general, how much can you use/fool/betray a person when travelling (and please don´t get me wrong on this!)?

I've got an impression that travellers have kind of an own society out on the roads - wide spread but not really intergrated with the geographical societies that it covers. Of course it depends a lot on personality, but talking with travellers and reading about travels - it seems like 'no, you're never alone, there's always someone to hook up with' and is it really like that? Is the "society" that strong and the amount of travellers that big?

Well, I'll know all about it soon but I find it a quite interesting thing to discuss...
/Maria

2. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 12y

Hey Marimia,

That is a very interesting question . .. . I would like to know the same thing! Actually, at times locals have approached me, either because I blend in somehow and they think I'm a local or because they want to ask me something and it leads to an interesting converstion. Otherwise, I settle into the place I am travelling to. I take a course or get a job if possible. Sometimes I am lucky, too, and snag an impromptu invite to a party or something. Just be open and honest with people in a friendly (not creepy) way and you will meet people, locals and travellers alike. It isn't so bad to just meet travellers on the backpacker route anyway because everyone is a local somewhere, and I have learned a lot from people that I have met travelling. I don't think that you have to flirt with someone to get on the inside of a culture, though. You just have to make friends. Sometimes it is as simple as chatting up the bartender or the internet cafe guy.

The whole thing about there always being someone to hook up with on the backpacker route is true. It is even easier if you stay at a place that has a lounge or a bar or a place to chill. You will just start to talk to the person sitting in the lounge chair across from you or beside you at the bar or across from you while you eat your complimentary breakfast that is included in the price of your hostel. You won't even realise that you are making friends! Besides that, travellers have a sort of openness about them, they welcome company and they are all about meeting new, interesting people. No matter how boring you think you are in your own town and country you are really interesting to someone from a completely different culture and background, or even a slightly different one.

Peace,
Steph

3. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 12y

Hey Maria/Steph,

I agree it’s an interesting subject.
Unfortuanately I’m also bored and trying to kill some time, so I’m going to waffle on randomly for a while.

From the bottom up, I agree that to a large extent travelers do have their own society, which is huge and extremely wide spread, but in many places barely integrated with the local atmosphere. If you don’t want to be alone, you never will be. Even if you do want to be alone, it’s not always possible! To a large degree, the society is that strong and that big.

With regard to integration, my pet theory is that the more developed a country, the less integrated travelers are. Whilst the two worlds can never be entirely separate, the overlap in first world countries is relatively small. If you take Europe for example, there are literally millions of travelers there each year, most of whom won’t ever spend more than a week in any one place. As such, it’s fairly understandable that the integration between locals and travelers is relatively small.

There is no “wow” value for the locals in travelers, and unless they particularly want to, they have no need to interact. For example, traveling on a train or ferry in Europe and trying to strike up a conversation – other travelers are normally delighted to sit and talk rubbish or have a beer with each other. Most local people will pay no attention to each other or the travelelrs. In the normal day, how many of us on here even will speak to strangers at home, for no apparent reason, especially to other local people?

For me, how often do I try and talk to a random stranger on a train when in the uk? Barely ever. If I go to Germany and sit opposite a guy with a big backpack, chances are I’d at least say hello, often try and talk with them. It’s just the way it is. And I have no idea why being in a foreign country makes any difference to me at all, but it seems to (to coin a phrase, answers on a postcard!).

I’d guess it’s to do with the feeling of being sort of in the minority. The people that live here all the time don’t care for all the transients – it makes no difference to their lives. But when your there in a hostel with your rucksack or on a night train, and in the country for only a week, you all talk to each because for you it means something. That is the week you were in Munich on your big trip as opposed just being week 2780 that you’ve lived there and in the same old routine.

Having said that, the more undeveloped a country, the fewer tourists there, the more the “wow” factor is for the locals – in that case they are likely to remember it as much as you are. We once stayed for 2 weeks in an obscure remote village in the middle of Kazakhstan (long story). It almost felt as though we were the first non Soviet foreigners they had ever seen. In that time, virtually everybody (especially the kids) came to stare at us, have their pic take with us, follow us around, offer to help/cook for us etc. etc. When we left, the entire place literally stopped and came out to saw us off, some following us for several kilometers down the road. And I’m sure this isn’t unusual in less touristed areas of Africa, South America, China etc, especially if you are of different skin colour. For you it might be a great experience amongst many other great experiences in the same travel, But for the village it might be the highlight of the year and something still talked about many years later!

On your original point, I obviously can’t offer a personal female perspective, but I know and have met some girl’s who really try and use their “advantages” to get to know the locals etc whilst traveling. Most have had no serious problems, but virtually all have had some uncomfortable moments. This approach can be fine, but you is a very risky plan unless you REALLY know how to take care of yourself. If you do it regularly, Sod’s law says that you are guaranteed to meet at least one creep who won’t take no for an answer or will believe that you have promised something which if he doesn’t get it means things turn nasty quickly…

But having said that, good luck with whatever approach you use to try and meet some of the locals!!!!

Rich

4. Posted by bob flinn (Full Member 173 posts) 12y

Hi, can I add a little to the conversation, I find that asking locals questions and for advice can start a whole new friendship, work on the basis that a stranger is just a friend you haven't made yet and see where it leads.
In shops I often ask other, local, customers to explain something, like how to cook local produce or things like that is a good starter.
Asking for directions and advice on a bus journey will usually get you a few people all intent on giving you loads of help.
Maybe it's a matter of making the first move and see what follows.

5. Posted by orienteyec (Full Member 84 posts) 12y

Speaking their laugange, learning how to give a big smile are keys:D