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Tips for creating those special moments with locals?

Sometimes these things just fall in your lap (like the story below). But what tips or strategies do you have to create those connections with locals that are sure to be remembered for many years to come?

On a trip to Italy, my travel companion and I had a plan to spend two nights in Sorrento, with a day trip to Amalfi. We missed our bus back to Sorrento because it was labaled Naples, so we ended up in a cafe on a dark, rainy January night without any luggage and barely any money. At the very moment we took that big breath of what next, "Red-headed Willie from Manchester" stormed in and said hello to the regulars. He then came over to us and sat down to ask what we where up to. Before you knew it, we were all hitchhiking up the hill to his Grandparent's Vineyard at the top of a 100 step stone staircase. When we reached the top, we turned around, and looked down at the entire village asleep for the night and realized once again what travel is really about.

Posted by
525 posts

Be open and friendly. Sit at the bar not at the table by yourself. Ask questions. Show interest in their area.
One instance my husband and I were in Germany. We saw a local pushing a handtruck with empty cartons on it. We motioned that we would help him. He motioned to us to follow him.He took us down under the building to his wine cellar. We spent about an hour drinking and talking - him in German and us in English. What a fun time we had. In Italy we stopped in a vineyard to watch the harvest with one of the zamboni? type machines. The owner came over and started talking to us in broken English. He invited us to his cave and explained how he processed his grapes for the local co-op. YOU have to create your memories. Another time, I was in AAA getting my euros and heard another lady ask for some. She had a brother in Ireland. I asked her for his name and where he lived. My husband and I looked him up when we were in his town. He owned the grocery store and pub. He opened the pub for us and we spent about an hour talking with him. Like Rick says, look up a friend of a friend, etc. Last year we "introduced" ourselves over the internet of a cousin of a cousin. They drove two hours from Southport near Liverpool to meet up with us to show us around Llangollen. A week later my husband and I drove to their house for a day. They showed us the two cathedrals in Liverpool. All this was very memorable and will never be forgotten. Make the effort to open up to the locals around you.

Posted by
1358 posts

Best way I know of is to be friendly with the locals. Not all of them will welcome you, but a majority will and you can bond with them easily if you are open and congenial.

My wife and I often remember friendly experiences with natives all over the world. Often the national will initiate contact when he sees me studying a map by asking if he can help us find a place.

Our favorite times occur when when we enter a restaurant and ask another couple if we can join them at their table. We have never been refused and the meeting always adds to our travel adventure.

Many foreigners like to practice their English and welcome the opportunity. Why not make them happy too?

Posted by
8497 posts

One word: Festivals.
Go to any kind of local fest, which will probably have long tables, yummy food, great music and lots of people looking forward to having a good time. Sitting next to folks, it is easy to come into conversation with them. Check the local tourist info board for fests in any of the towns and cities you will be visiting. Even big cities have neighborhoods and ALL these neighborhoods have fests. Spending a day doing this, in my opinion, is far more valuable and memorable than many other things that people plan for on their vacation. You will come home from Europe with a far different outlook than someone who just went to monuments and museums and art galleries.

Posted by
43 posts

On the last night of our trip to Germany and Austria my son and I were in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.We had to take the first train the next morning to Frankfurt to catch our flight back to the states.The plan we had was to spend our remaining Euro on a nice dinner but save enough for one beer each at the hotel and about 10 Euro to purchase lunch at the airport.We had dinner and went back to Hotel Gerberhaus to have our beers.It wasn't all that late, maybe 8:30-9:00pm, but Debra was closing up and getting ready to go out for the night to celebrate her male friends 24th birthday(Debra's parents own the place but she and her brother basically run it when she is home from college.)We had our beers in garden and as we were cleaning up our glasses they were so kind to ask us to come along with them for the night.The friend played military football and was so interested in talking to my son (who only played 4 years of high school football) about American football.Yes, I made sure that we were talking about the same kind of football, not soccer.We stopped at the ATM for a bit more cash even though we had this plan in motion.They took us to the local ice cream parlor and then to a local pub where we met up with some of their friends who had a huge birthday cake for him.We sang "Happy Birthday" and took pictures, had some wine, and had a lot of fun. They were just as interested in us as we were in them.And then...they took us to listen to a concert.I mean a rock concert.There were young people everywhere. Looking over the wall to the city down on the Tauber Valley there was a massive Jumbotron,lights, a few bands and lots of beer and loud music.It was an evening we would not have had on our own.Kind of bizarre being in a medievel walled town listening to rock music blasting from the valley.It happened to be a very memorable evening.I believe the locals made those "special moments" rather than us creating them.Tip...just be friendly.That's a language we all understand.

Posted by
63 posts

I am absolutely loving these stories! Diane, Jo, all of you: thank you so much for sharing. There is hope in creating spontaneous moments and that makes me very excited.

Posted by
121 posts

Even in a touristy place you can have a special experience. We were at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich and met two German couples from near Hamburg. We drank and spoke broken german/english with them all afternoon as they said 'We're tourists too'. What a great time!

Posted by
1357 posts

Stay with locals and go where locals go. If you're only in touristed areas, you'll only meet tourists and local service workers who are probably fed up with tourists.

We stayed at a farmhouse in Austria with our son a couple of years ago. They rent out 4 apartments and 1 double room, so there were 4 other families there (we all squished in the double, he was pretty little then). And although the other families (besides the owners) weren't locals, they were all German or Austrian and all of them had stayed there before. Every night after dinner, the kids would all play outside and the adults would play cards. We're still in contact with most of the families and may have one of their daughters stay with us this summer.

Posted by
881 posts

Buy them beer. Seriously. hehe (or whatever the favorite local drink happens to be - take a round on you.) I bought a Slovenian Choir a round of beer at a music festival in Germany, and they spent a month passing me around Slovenia to make sure I saw the entire country. It was a great bonding experience. The $40 I paid for the beer turned into a lifetime of experiences, and 3 lifelong friendships!

Posted by
63 posts

Wow. Again, I'm loving these stories. Please keep them coming. I know you all have many!

Posted by
11494 posts

Look up distant relatives, really, most will at least have you over for drinks and dinner, they are as curious about you as you may be about them.

I think Rick suggested something similar on one of his shows,, something about looking up your sons pianos teachers aunty or whatever,,, use what ever connections you can ..

Posted by
432 posts

We met an older German couple many years ago at a B+B in York, and have developed a 17+ year friendship with them. We were both on holiday, staying at the same small B+B, and ended up having dinner together in the same pub. We started visiting and discovered that the husband had a cousin who lived very close to us. They had traveled to our small city and knew our part of the world -- amazing !! We have developed a strong connection over the years and have visited each other often.

Our strategy is to talk to people and be friendly. We often stay in smaller towns for several days, so people get to recognize you after awhile. We have had some very interesting conversations and experiences.

Posted by
342 posts

Last year at the Hofbrauhaus I struck up a conversation with a German businessman from out of town - another "tourist." We spoke our limited English and German - I provided the English word when he didn't know it, he provided the German word when I didn't. I bet we talked for two hours! Great fun!

And, the more beer I drank, the better my German got! Hmmmm...cause and effect?

Posted by
9363 posts

When we were planning our first trip to Ireland, I was a regular user of a video chat program called iSpq. I looked for people on the network that were from Ireland to ask about things to see, etc. I made friends with one guy who lived not far from Cashel, and we decided to meet up so he could show us around. He came to the B&B where we were staying, and we all sat around with a map deciding on the next day's itinerary. Then he and I went out to a local pub for a drink. The following day, we met up with him in Cahir, and he took us up into the mountains to the Vee area, then on to Kilkenny. He then led us to our next B&B near New Ross, after showing us how to get to the Waterford Crystal factory the next day on our own. He showed us places that we could never have found on our own, and we all had a great time.

About five months later he came to the States to attend a cousin's wedding in Michigan, then drove down to visit us here for a couple of days. And it was reassuring to see that he was as over-cautious and uncomfortable driving on our side of the road as we had been on his. :)

Come to think of it, I met my Spanish friend the same way, via the internet. And I have since visited there and am looking forward to hosting his family here, perhaps later this year.

Posted by
82 posts

I think that to create these special moments, one must be open-minded and, like the others have said, friendly. I'm in a female in my mid-20s and generally travel alone, and I am a very social person... I'll talk to anyone!

My favorite experience with locals was when I was in Strasbourg, France last year during the Christmas Market season. At the time, I was living in Burgundy as a language assistant and was on Christmas Break. Originally, I was gonna go with two other girls but they ended up not being able to go, so having traveled solo before, I decided to go anyway. So, the day comes and I took the train up to Strasbourg. There ended up being an accident in Bourg-en-bresse that day so I ended up getting to Strasbourg 3 or 4 hours late, so by the time I got there, it was dark and dinnertime.

When I finally got there, I was really hungry so the plan was to go to a corner store to buy some fruit and some bread, check into my hotel, and go to bed early so I could get up early to check out the city. Well, I ended up wanting a real authentic Alsatian dinner, so I decided to go to a (pretty fancy) restaurant all by myself, even though I did not know how safe or unsafe Strasbourg was, since it was my first time there. So I get there, sit down, order my food, and then about 15 mins later, it comes out. The couple next to me said "guten Appetit", and I thanked them and started to eat. It was so good that I actually said outloud "wow, this is amazing!" in French. Well, the couple overheard me and started laughing. They started talking to me, asking me where I was from (They thought I was from Germany!), what I was doing in France, etc. Then I asked them about themselves, they were from Luxembourg, and they were in Strasbourg for a 3 or 4 day trip. As we were talking, another couple who were actually from Alsace joined in and we ended up sitting in the restaurant talking about various things until it closed at 11PM. This would never happen at home!