Article originally published on The Wayward Road

One of the main reasons people travel or move abroad is to experience a new culture and way of life. This usually comes with big dreams of really immersing yourself in everything a place has to offer. However, it’s not quite so simple. It’s often all too easy to surround yourself with familiar things and never leave your comfort zone. This is not the goal.

The following tips aim to help you get the most out of your travel experience. They mostly apply to people planning to move abroad, but are also helpful to those staying in one destination for a while. Afterall, it is pretty difficult to truly immerse yourself in just a few days.

Prepare

Do some cultural research before you leave so you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s important to understand some of the norms before you arrive so that you don’t stand out too much or unintentionally offend someone straight out the gate.

Talk to others

Talk to any friends or family you have who have already been to the place you are planning on going. It’s likely that they will have some good advice and can help you get a better feel for what to expect, especially since they were once in your same shoes.

Have an open mind

This is important in many circumstances, but especially when traveling. Not everything is going to be how you expected it to be, or even less so, how it is back home. That’s kind of the point of going new places. You have to take the good with the bad. But remember, different definitely doesn’t mean bad.

Explore

Once you’ve arrived, get out and explore! Check out the different neighborhoods and learn to take public transportation. Better yet, (and if it’s safe enough to do so) walk around. You miss so much of what a place has to offer when you’re constantly taking taxis or metros.

new culture

Source: Flickr

Expect culture shock

Culture shock is one of those things that people talk about a lot, but you never really understand it until you experience it for yourself. It can happen the minute you step off the plane or even after you’ve been somewhere for a few months. Recognize it and deal with it accordingly. Call home, watch a movie in your language, or eat some comfort food. Trust me, it will help.

Eat

Speaking of food, try some local dishes. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a culture just from its cousine. Try to stay away from the chain restaurants, and instead find a small family owned place. Then, ask what their special is and go for it.

Attend events

Take part in festivals, celebrations, and sporting events. This can be one of the best parts of traveling and living abroad. Find out what holidays the country you’re in celebrates and join in the fun. Who says partying can’t be a cultural experience?

Stay away from tourist traps

The best parts of a country or culture are rarely found in resort areas or expat communities. Try to stay in an area where locals actually live. This way you’ll get a much better look into what their day-to-day lives are like.

Learn the language

Now I’m not saying you need to become fluent, but knowing at least some of the local language can really take your experience to the next level. Even if you only learn a few phrases and pleasantries, it can make all the difference. People are much more willing to help you out and get to know you when they see you are making the effort to speak their language.

Embrace it

Embrace the place you are and it’s people. Without a doubt the best way to immerse yourself in a culture is by making friends and getting to know the people who live there. Just by talking with the locals, even a little bit, your perspective on a place can be completely changed.