What do I mean by ways to become a local? There are so many benefits and advantages of moving to a new country (or I guess, even a new city) – particularly one that is considered a tourist destination. But when are you considered by others as having found a home there? When do you yourself feel like a local rather than just a tourist on an extended stay? If you want to speed up the process of your naturalization to your new home, you might try these ways to become a local.
1 Change Your Perspective
If you’ve moved to a tourist town in anticipation of feeling as though you’re always on vacation, then think again. Visiting some place for a handful of days is entirely different than living in that same place for months and even years. Instead, the place will feel start to feel so familiar that it quickly feels homey. And, yet, you’re still not a “local” per se. However, you can get there. One of the most important ways to become a local is to recognize it is not, in fact, simply a vacation-getaway-tourist-town. The locals have lived and worked here for many years, and so even if the economy is centered around tourism, they are still very much invested in the area’s schools, parks, hospitals, law enforcement – everything it takes to run a town. And if you’re wanting to become a local, then you should be invested in these non-touristy things too.
2 Map It out
One of the simplest ways to become a local is to become ultra-familiar with the town – the streets, the bus stops, the districts, the areas of interest – all of these are things locals will know like the back of their hand. And so should you. Not only will you stop looking such a tourist when getting lost all the time, but your familiarity with your new home will impress upon those who visit (or upon other locals) that you’re no tourist any more. You’re a local.
3 Be a “Regular”
Once you know your way around, find your favorite shops, cafes, restaurants, and become a regular. This will establish your street cred around town, and the locals will begin to recognize you for who you are – a friendly newcomer with a vested interest in their town – rather than passing you off as a tourist. When you’ve established some relationships around town, you’ll begin to feel less of an “outsider.” Also, you’ll glean so much valuable advice in the process, that you’ll become a local before you know it.
4 Know Your Neighbors
Know your neighbors, too; while you may be expecting someone to come around with a plate of cookies to welcome you, try flipping the paradigm and going around to introduce yourself around your block. Your neighbors are the ones who will be looking out for you, watching your animals while you’re gone, keeping you up to date on what’s happening around town, and establishing friendships with your family. Make it clear that you’re aware you’re new to the area and have a lot to learn, and that you’re ready to learn from them.
5 Attend Local Events
Attend local events – show up at the festivals, the holiday gatherings, the theatre performances – anything and everything that will have you at the center of the community. And once you’re there, don’t lurk in the shadows – get out and network. Even better, volunteer to contribute in some way; this will allow you to get to know some townsfolk while working alongside them. Everyone loves a team player! Meet people, tell them why you’ve chosen to make their town your home. Especially if it’s a small tourist town, the people are likely curious about why you’ve settled there. And the fact that you’re at their local events will demonstrate your interest in becoming part of their community as well.
6 Don’t Be Too Political, Too Soon
You’ll start out on the wrong foot with the locals if you show your true political leanings the day you arrive. Instead of voicing your opinions through a bullhorn, become knowledgeable about local politics – watch local debates, listen to discussions, read about elections. Become better informed. If you fly into town with guns a-blazin’, you may find locals are hostile to the gun-enthused. You don’t know the history (and you may not even know the culture), so don’t be so ignorant as to think that you do. It won’t make you any friends. In fact, you might be ostracized for it.
7 Humble Yourself
Along the same lines as the previous point, remain humble. Once your new locale starts to grow into home, it’s important to realize you still have a lot to learn from the locals – especially those who’ve called this place home for generations. Be open to continuing in your learning from others. Not only will it help you reach your goals, but being open and humble is a beautiful way to be.
I think if you have made the momentous decision to emigrate or move across country, you’ve done it for some very good reasons and not just because you want an extended vacation. Given that, it makes sense to follow the ways to become a local so your new home feels like home as quickly as possible. If you have a story to tell about moving to a new country or tourist town, we’d love you to share it.