Monday, 6 October 2014

Avoiding the tourist label: four ways to blend in with the locals

Getting asked if you are a tourist can be particularly frustrating for expats who have lived their entire life abroad. Even if you live, work, shop and send your children to school there – you can still find yourself being mistaken as a tourist who is simply ‘here on holiday’. Here are some tips we’ve put together to help you shake off this label and blend in with the locals! 

1)      Eat Local: Eat what they eat
Getting a taste of the countries cuisine is a great way to move away from ‘tourist’ and move towards ‘local’. Not only will you discover exciting new dishes, but you will have a great opportunity to meet friends outside the expat bubble, soak up the atmosphere and become better acquainted with your new country.
 Image source: Pixabay/Goelze

      Top tip: If you’re not sure about what to try, ask a local to choose a few dishes for you. Not only is it a conversation starter but it means you can try exciting new dishes you wouldn’t necessarily pick. 

2)      Look local: Watch what you wear
While some countries may have embraced the contemporary fashions, in others your choice of clothing may make you stick out like a sore thumb whilst also causing offence. One of the best ways of blending in is by abiding to the local dress code to avoid upsetting the locals. A good rule of thumb in more conservative countries, particularly places whose legal system is informed by Sharia Islamic law (these include Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei), is for women to cover their ankles and shoulders, while men should avoid vests. Some countries have their own specific stricter rules though. In Saudi Arabia women must abide by a strict dress code where clothes are conservative and loose. An abaya (cloak) must be worn and a scarf kept with you in case the religious police (Hai”a) request you to cover your head.

Image source: Pixabay/Makunin

Top tip: If you’re worried about confusing the dress code, save some wardrobe space and pick up some clothes locally to guarantee that you’re dressing the part. 

3)      Act Local: To barter or not to barter
Attempting to barter in a shop in England would get you some rather strange looks. Accepting the first price given to you in China however, would make you look crazy. Knowing whether to barter or not will help you blend in and may even save you some money. 
Image source: Flickr/Joanna deSllva

Top tip: Bartering isn’t the only culturally sensitive issue when moving abroad. Get acquainted with the local tipping etiquette with our blog post, ‘To tip or not to tip’.
4)      Sound Local: Learn the lingo
While it isn’t the easiest task, learning the language is one of the best ways to truly blend in with the locals. Being able to converse in their native language, without having to revert to sign language or another tongue that is ‘common ground’ will help you sound like you’re at home. Even if you’re struggling, locals appreciate the effort and the practice will help you improve in no time at all.

Image source: Wikimedia
Top tip: Check out ‘Do you speak the language?’ blog post for some language learning top tips.  

Share your tips for blending in with the locals with us in the comments section or on Twitter (@expatexplorer).

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