There is always a fear when travelling that you may appear a tourist. They can get in the way, bother locals and generally make themselves a nuisance - no one wants to do that.
It’s especially worrisome for those who plan to stay in a place for an extended time- students abroad, for example. One of the foremost ways to ingratiate yourself in a new populace is to improve your interactions with the locals. You can learn so much more about your new home and generally just feel more comfortable, so why not try?
Some places will be easier to move to of course, depending on the language, cultural barriers and so on, but there are a few general tips that will always be of use, whether you’ve previously spent time in a country or you are a complete beginner.
Take extracurricular classes
Of course, you will get to know your new classmates just as a consequence of your time at college, of working together, but be aware that universities can often be quite insular. Most often, people tend to make their friends and stick with them, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it can prevent real exploration of a place and its inhabitants.
It’s also easy for a student to rely on their college to provide education, but the most intrepid will look beyond those walls for things to learn. So kill two birds with one stone and take a class you wouldn’t normally expect of yourself and see if you don’t meet some different people to learn from.
When you explore your new city, undoubtedly you will be drawn to the biggest spectacles, the best known landmarks, but (and this is often repeated advice) it’s often best to take the road less travelled.
Turn down a street you wouldn’t normally walk down, spend a day without your phone and just get lost. You’ll be surprised at the beauty and wonder you can find. You may just have to rely on your fellow compatriots to get around, but isn’t that what this is all about?
It may just be attending a community function like a meeting or even just offering some help at a local library or school. You can learn a lot about the local lifestyle and it can open doors to social activities.
Communities appreciate that extra bit of effort, and if you have a spare afternoon, why not do something to help out? After all, this is your community now as well.
Don’t worry about being different
The world would be a boring place if we were all the same. So don’t be self-conscious about how you act. There’s a little trust involved, but that’s how you build relationships. If you think you’ll embarrass yourself, trust your new friends to correct you.
Equally though, you shouldn’t be judgemental about other people’s differences. Everyone has their own way of doing things and we all do stuff that probably looks weird to other people. So observe your new friend’s cultural habits, and you may even learn why some people do some things differently.
Share your own culture and customs
Just as you would like to learn from your new environment, it’s likely that your new community would enjoy hearing what it is like where you are from. So as long as you’re friendly and avoid being too forceful, try and share the customs of your own culture. Ask about their preferences and hobbies of course, but also be prepared to share some of your own interests.
It takes time to adapt to a new place, to learn a new way of life, to understand a new culture. Do not rush yourself to form an opinion or expect to be understood immediately.
Take some time to get to know this new place, practice hard on your course, make some new friends and have some fun. With time, you will surely find yourself more and more at home, your new home.