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Travelling is not only about exploring unknown places – it’s even more important to meet locals if you want to get to know a country. If you’re moving abroad or for some reason plan to stay at a place outside your homeland for a longer period of time, meeting locals is the best thing you can do. A whole new world will open up in front of you :)
In this post we’ll focus on ways how to connect with locals in cities. These tips won’t work for approaching members of tribes in the Amazon (more about that in another post one day)
Not everyone is brave enough to approach people on the street. So to make friendships and establish closer connections, it’s good to start with some sort of a platform.
Here are a few options:
Sign up for InterNations and go meet some fellow expats as well as locals at one of their monthly mixers. The setting is usually (at least a little) fancy, but you’ll find a wide variety of nice people there. If you stay with the unpaid membership, you’ll typically have to pay a small fee for attending an event. InterNations’ communities exist in most capital cities and some countries have several strong communities in smaller cities as well.
Just check their website and you should find various meetups in your area. The themes of the meetups vary greatly so you can easily choose a meetup matching your interests.
Yes, you can meet people via couchsurfing, and not only while occupying their couch! There are many events organized by the Couchsurfing community. The crowd is fun and the events are plentiful. I once went hiking with a bunch of Couchsurfers and it was a lot of fun! Everybody’s welcome, no need to crash on somebody’s couch or offer your own.
Ok, if you’ve been reading TravelGeekery for a while, you might be already aware of my affection towards Airbnb :) How to meet locals through it? Well, it’s often useful to get an Airbnb flat before looking for a longer rent for the rest of your stay. Why not get one room at somebody’s apartment and hang out with them a little? In the reviews at Airbnb you can often read about the personality of the hosts. Many offer their rooms via Airbnb to also meet some fun travelers!
www.airbnb.com (affiliate link: both you and me will get Airbnb credit)
The same applies to hostels. Even if you’re moving to a new country, staying for the first few nights in a hostel will make it easier to meet people. Of course they’ll be mostly fellow travelers, but the staff can also become a ‘target’ of your socializing :) Don’t be afraid and ask the staff for tips on where to go to meet locals. In many cases they’ll invite you to a party/event they themselves are going to attend.
There are tons of groups on Facebook for organizing various meetups and events. Just search the groups together with the city name you’re in and you’ll be able to find quite a few with valuable tips on what’s happening in the city.
Groups on LinkedIn
Groups on LinkedIn are typically made for business networking. Many also organize professional networking events. There’s usually a blend of locals and foreigners, recruiters and coaches… you name it. Just get some business cards made and head to one of the events!
Working together bonds people. If you’re on your own and you don’t have a real job at your new destination that would provide you with an office, you can explore the co-working possibilities in the area. You don’t need to work on the same project, just sharing a working space goes a long way. Such spaces often organize networking mashups as well.
Do you have favorite travel blogs you read? Well, check where the bloggers live. As people who write about travel are usually avid travelers themselves, they’re often also pleased to meet fellow travelers and help them blend in with the local community. If not meeting in person, they’d at least give you some useful tips.
Any local events
Except from the online resources, you can also just head to a library, any university or a community centre and check what’s hanging on their public boards. There can be diverse opportunities to meet some locals:
- Classes or courses (cooking, anyone?)
- Events organized by libraries, community centers
- Language exchange groups
- Volunteer work
Obviously, it takes time to form friendships with locals. Using some of the sources above will help you at least get your ‘foot in the door’. In most of the places where I stayed for more than a month, I managed to meet some locals as well as fun foreigners and with some of them we keep in touch till this day. I’m pretty introverted, so if I’ve managed to be social then you should have no problem! :D
Do you have any other ways to meet locals? What’s worked best for you?