Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, it's important to not only respect the local people, but heed their advice as well! The most delicious and authentic cuisine in the city that locals flock to is likely only known by locals, and not found online or in travel guide books. If a local tells you about a local restaurant, check it out. If they tell you about a certain place within the city with which to visit, they've likely taken their own family members or friends there and have seen their expression of awe enough to highly recommend it even to strangers. Whenever I was looking for an authentic experience on my time off to get a true feel of that culture, I'd ask a local where to go, and they would never let me down!
- Don't be afraid to ask. It can be daunting to become vulnerable and ask a person for assistance or tips. This one was a hard one for me to conquer, I felt as though I was disturbing their day by asking a local where the best place to explore was, where the nearest train station was, or even just basic directions. For us introverts, this can be a tough one. But I assure you, most people around the world just want to help out a stranger in need. Not only that, but they do want to show you their knowledge, afterwards they will likely feel more fulfilled by not only helping a stranger, but sharing the things they're passionate or knowledgeable about within their own country. Which brings me to my next point.
- Accept their help. It's okay to be vulnerable and unknowledgeable when it comes to traveling in different countries. That is why when locals offer you their assistance, take it! I've found that it's more of an insult to reject their help rather than accept it. They could be offering you directions, a ride, a meal, either way, you need those things or deep down you know you want to experience them. Even if you're short on time, take the time to accept their help. Trust me when I say, it will make their day.
- Learn their story. While we're on the topic of asking and accepting help, take a moment to learn their story. You never know what a person has been through until you hear it from their own mouths. We can only assume, but we truly will never know. If you're the type of person who likes to take photos of people in their cultural element, be sure to learn their story before invading their privacy like that. I've come across many people who enjoy having their pictures taken, and many who despise it. You can leave them feeling neglected and confused if you just take their picture and walk away. Give yourself a story to go along with that photo, and share your story, too. Travel is all about human connection and creative positive memories. Cherish these brief moments in time and make new friends.
- Attempt to speak their language. This one can be a true challenge, but thankfully with body language and a decent wifi connection, a conversation can be made between two people who don't speak the same language. I know it's easy to speak your native language when communicating with someone in a different country, but be honest with yourself, they don't understand you. Make an effort while you're in their country, as embarrassing as it might be, to string words together and attempt to make a sentence of it. It goes a long way, and if they see that you're making an effort to speak their language, they'll likely make more of an effort to speak yours. Win-win!
- Share with them. As much as local people want to teach you about their culture, they also want to learn about yours! Share stories, show them pictures, make jokes, and show them the country you represent through your own eyes. As an American, people across my travels have often been skeptical based on the political situation and power of our country. Some dislike America, most love America, but either way, I find it my job to prove that I do not represent the political stance of our country. I represent myself, an open-minded individual who is in their country to explore their culture and only show my respect and appreciation. Share with them the good things of your country aside from politics and religion; the natural landscapes, the local dishes, the events and the music.