When travelling around the world, it’s understandable that you want to do all you can to immerse yourself in the culture of your destination. It’s easier than you think – here are six of the best ways to have a cultural experience whilst travelling.
Try the Local Cuisine
There is arguably no better (or easier) way to experience the local culture than by trying the food. Whether it be a fancy sit-down meal in a restaurant or a simple bite to eat from a food stall, there is no denying that sampling the cuisine of your destination gives an authentic insight into the culture.
There are also certain places around the world renowned for their delectable dishes –India, Thailand and Vietnam are just some of the destinations where travellers flock to the street stalls to try fragrant curries, spicy meats and sweet treats in abundance.
That’s without mentioning the stranger foods across the world – from the Icelandic “hakarl” (fermented shark) to the meaty haggis in Scotland as recommended by 1Cover, food also provides an opportunity to challenge yourself.
Jamaican Cuisine: Ackee and Saltfish, Steamed Calaloo, Fried Festivals and Plantains
Jamaican local Cuisine: Spicy Jerked Chicken
Talk to the Locals
Why not strike up a conversation with the locals wherever you are. It’s one of the best ways to gain an insight into the culture and to learn the local language, especially if you’re travelling solo. Head to a bar or somewhere similar and try your hand at sparking up a chat. This is how I managed to perfect my Spanish speaking skills.
More often than not, the locals will be willing to speak to you whether it’s for a spot of help, an insight into the country’s history or even just a casual conversation about your day.
Visit Historical Sites
Don’t skip the sightseeing. There’s always a place or two you can go to experience culture at its fullest; temples, museums and ancient ruins all exist in abundance depending on where you’re travelling to. As an added bonus, they’re almost always beautiful.
Take the Taj Mahal, for example, or Chichen Izta in Mexico. Despite there ever-growing popularity with both locals and tourists, their beauty and grandeur are unspoiled by the surrounding crowds. But don’t consider just the popular places as there are plenty of hidden treasures to be discovered around the world, some of which are visited only by the locals –allowing for an authentic cultural experience without the distraction of other tourists.
Learn The History
Make sure you take some time to understand and learn about the history of your destination. Often this history is what shapes the culture of today, and so it would make sense to go back to the roots and witness just how things became how they are.
Japan is a prime example of a culture shaped profoundly by history. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (primarily the former) of the Second World War had a prevalent effect on the Japanese way of life, and you’ll see it for yourself as you visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, described as a must for any visitor to Hiroshima, however disturbing it may be.
The locals showcase forgiveness and peace in the wake of such heinous, devastating attacks, leaving the culture untainted and perhaps even inspiring to some.
Understand the Cultural Norms
Before you arrive, be sure to brush up on your knowledge of the cultural norms. Whether it be stopping to pay respect to the national anthem twice a day as they do in Thailand or using cemeteries as green spaces to relax in Denmark, there are some unique customs around the world. Go and experience some of the most surprising and intriguing norms wherever you are.
Street Music in Trinidad, Cuba. The town centre for Salsa music.
Stay in The Midst of It All
Last but not least, even your accommodation allows for an opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture. Consider a homestay in the centre of your location for the prime cultural experience – staying with locals has become a popular choice for many travellers, both for monetary reasons and for the fact it provides an authentic insight into various ways of life.
With the above suggestions, you’ll be in for an unforgettable experience rich in culture. Go forth and immerse yourself.
Do you have your own suggestions in ways to experience a new culture? Share below! (: