How to embrace a new culture while travelling

Learning about a different culture is one of the most rewarding aspects of travelling to a new country, and here are some great tips on how to do it.

Do your research before the trip
As soon as you’ve decided on your next destination, get researching. Read up on the spots that can’t be missed. If possible, search internet forums for itineraries or accounts from people who have made a similar trip. Without knowing a little about what to expect you may be in for a bit of a culture shock.

Check the local cultural practices before you go, research the appropriate dress codes, whether to barter or haggle at markets and how to say a few words in their language. Knowing these things beforehand will make it easier to blend in. 

Read: Tips for coping with culture shock

Language is key
In most cases, a new culture will come with a new language. A language barrier can make it harder to travel around a country, but it can also be a lot of fun to be immersed somewhere completely new. Learning a new language is a process but try to retain the most important words such as hello, thank you, goodbye, toilet, cost, water, etc.

Taking the time to learn some words will enable you to interact more with the local people and discover more about their culture firsthand.

Travel far and wide

Travelling wide rather than sticking to one region is a great way to understand more about the culture of a country as a whole. You will interact with many people and cultural aspects if you take the time to step outside the regular tourist channels.

If you really want to immerse yourself, try to visit local villages rather than staying in the big cities.

Make local connections
One of the secrets to finding out more about a new place or new people is by making local connections. Talk to the people working at your hotel, talk to your taxi driver, the local shopkeepers, anybody who can give you an insight on how they live. Come up with a few questions you’d really like to know the answer to and ask as many people as you can.

Research tours and day trips that are run by the locals, as they are the people who really know the area and can give you the top tips.

Try new food
Food is largely one of the most celebrated things about a different culture. Try the most recommended dishes of the area you’re in to immerse yourself. You might just find your new favourite dish.

Use public transport

Travelling on public transport can create a way to interact with more people and see how they live day to day. You can use trains, ferries, and buses to get around your chosen destination. It’s usually an easy and enjoyable way to observe everyday life in a new country.

Just ensure you stick to any personal safety rules such as not going out alone at night if they apply to the destination you’re in.

Read: Safety trips for older travellers

Head to events and festivals

Many cultures have unique events and festivals they celebrate every year. Do your research to see if you will be in the country during any of these special times.

At festivals such as food festivals, or traditional music festivals, you will often find people willing to teach you about the event, what it signifies and any stories behind it.

Go rural

Cities often have a mixture of everything a traveller could need, so it can be harder to immerse yourself in culture. They’re usually a melting pot of other cultures too.

In contrast, rural areas are typically rich in traditions, culture, natural beauty, and people are proud of their culture. If you can, seek out a short trip to more rural areas to get a feel for the culture there.

Read: How to make your travel dollar go further

Visit museums
If you simply don’t have time to visit many places or regions within a country, museums are the next best thing. They are brimming with history, artefacts, and items showcasing the people and their culture. You will often also get the chance to speak with the guides to learn more.

What’s the most fascinating culture you’ve witnessed? How do you immerse yourself in the culture when visiting a new country? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Ellie Baxter