Captivated By Culture Travel Blog

Slow travel , Immersion travel , Cultural travel

Captivated By Culture Travel Blog

How to make friends with local people when you travel

The whole point of cultural travel is to meet local people and become involved in their culture. So how do you meet people? Can you really become popular when you don’t even know the language? 

Be open to invitations

I am an American working in a foreign country for the next 6 months and it is important for me to make some friends among the local people. I live in a condo which has both apartments and offices housed in its two towers which are attached at the pool. One day after work in the office tower, when crossing to my condo, I meet my first local friend. He’s actually from Malaysia, but he lives here so I still consider him to be a local. Mahassnor had noticed several of my English speaking co-workers and I walking past the pool to our condos each night and thought I looked friendly, so today he introduced himself and invited me to join him, his Vietnamese wife, Thuc for a glass of wine. Within a few days, I have a whole group of new friends.

If you want to become popular, take a lesson from Hasno and Thuc

Thuc brings a pack of Vietnam’s Tiger, Larue or Huda Beer to the pool nightly and holds court, entertaining everyone with her off-beat personality and inviting every passerby to join in the merriment. She is also tri-lingual, which helps a lot when you are entertaining groups with varying languages. As Hasno’s Vietnamese language is limited, he’s been actively searching for English-speaking friends to join in the fun. It doesn’t take long until I introduce my co-workers to the group, so now there is fun to be had at the pool by all. I don’t join in every night, but it’s comforting knowing that whenever I feel lonely, there is always a welcoming group of new friends waiting for me at the pool.  Simply by saying yes to an invitation, I meet new people all the time and have a whole international conglomerate of friends.

How I made friends with 3 local families

My friendship with Thanh Su morphed into a support network of 4 local families and all their relatives. I met Thanh Su when he sat next to me on the park bench at the river. He was opening a new pack of raisins and in his broken English offered to place some atop my rice pudding. I figured the raisins were newly opened and lots of people were around, so I accepted.

We talked for quite a long time and I discovered that he was a music teacher. He showed me some videos of his concerts and invited me to be a guest at his home the next day. Even though I knew he was legit, my first reaction was to refuse, but I told myself, “I came here to investigate the culture and I am not going to meet anyone unless I say yes, so I accepted the invitation with the caveat that I would have to bring my grown son along.

When we arrived for our visit the next day, Thanh Su had also invited 2 of his friends, Tran, a male math teacher and a female friend Dung. Thanh Su and his son treated us to a concert while Dung and I danced away. In the future I  would have many adventures with them and their families. Just to mention a few including: be treated to meals at their homes, celebrate birthdays with them, join in their beach parties, have tea with a female Buddhist monk, give a speech at a Tran’s high school, etc.. Opportunities provided just by saying yes.


More ways to make friends in a foreign country

Being an English speaker provides you with a unique opportunity to interact with the world citizens, because most countries are making a real push for their citizens to learn English. You can meet people by offering free or even paid English lessons. 

Taking a job in a new location is an excellent way to immerse oneself because it provides an instant connection to the people and to the culture.

Volunteering accomplishes the same goal.

Another option is to hire a local person to be your personal tour guide. My sister and her husband did this in Asia last year. They had the privilege of sleeping in small villages, meeting the residents and experiencing things that one would never see on a group tour. 

Travel tip: Be open to invitations. If a local person invites you to join them in an activity, say yes!

How do you meet local people when you are traveling?

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