"" Writer's Wanderings: Travel Experiences - How Do You Meet The Locals?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Travel Experiences - How Do You Meet The Locals?

So much of what is written about how to have the best travel experience talks about meeting the locals. We don't usually make this an intentional part of our travel adventures but if you are at all engaging with people it's hard not to get to meet the locals. They are the people who are waiting tables, serving drinks, driving taxis (even if they are from another country living in the place you are visiting), clerking in stores, etc. Here are a few incidents from our travels that I wouldn't trade for anything.

In Lichtenstein we found a small store and were exploring its contents when I noticed colored hard boiled eggs on a shelf behind the counter when it wasn't anywhere near Easter. Now my four years of high school German are just enough to get me into trouble sometimes but the lady behind the counter smiled pleasantly and in German told me that we would speak slowly. By the time we were done, I learned that the eggs were colored to distinguish them from raw eggs and I got a "Sehr gut!" from the lady. My German teacher would have been so proud.

Our trip around Ireland took us into territory (I believe we were in county Donegal) where the old Gaelic language (Gaelige) is often spoken. I remember it being a small town and my brother-and sister-in-law went shopping while we opted for a cup of tea. On a short side road was a small cafe and we purchased our tea and took the cups outside on the small porch. An older gentleman came up the steps and tipped his hat to us as he said something we didn't understand. I thought at first it was just a heavy Irish brogue but on his way out of the cafe he stopped and rattled on in a tongue we had never heard before, tipped his hat again, smiled, and moved on. We realized we had just had a lesson in Gaelic. I don't know what he said but hopefully the smile meant it was nice.

While travel books will encourage you to get off the beaten track, it isn't always a good idea in some places and really you don't have to in order to meet the locals. You just need to be pleasant. Ask a question or two. Smile. Be polite. Use all those good manners Mom taught you. Small cafes, pubs, little shops, even a picnic table or park bench are great places to start a conversation. Nature, architecture, museums, churches are all interesting but it is the people who make a country what it is.

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