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Meeting Local Strangers While Traveling

I was recently watching one of Rick's shows where he gave tips on traveling. He spoke about getting to know the locals. My wife and I laughed as we saw Rick helping out a Swiss man raking hay in the Alps and how Rick made it sound so easy to just get to know the locals. I'd love to hear if anyone has actually done that level of interacting with locals? I think the only level of that I've come close to was when I was 24 back in 2000 and I got a car ride from a local woman in a Tours, France from the train station to the hostel because while I spoke to her and her friend on the train to Tours, she got that I was a little confused on how to get to the hostel on public transportation which was not centrally located.

Has anyone ever done something with/for a local? Spent time in a local's house or workplace? Anything like what Rick has shown on his shows?

Caleb

Posted by
59 posts

Not quite to the extent that Rick seems to be able to do! However, last year in Montreal I was traveling alone and was waiting to be seated at table in a restaurant for dinner. The host thought I was with the couple in front of me, and while I quickly corrected him, they actually invited me to join them. They were on their way back from dropping their daughter off at University, so I think the motherly instinct kicked in for the woman (I was 29 at the time, but I often appear younger) :-D. They weren't local Montrealers, but were from a neighboring province, and we had a lovely dinner together. I don't even remember their names, but I will definitely remember them for their warmth and the insight into Canadian culture they offered me!

I've also done some international touring as part of a few non-professional community concert bands, and each time we've performed a concert or two with a local group and had a mixer afterwards. While not as "serendipitous" as simply running into locals, they have given me a wonderful opportunity to connect with locals over our shared passions.

Posted by
9421 posts

Working the farm? A privilege for Rick, I think. But then he has had friends in Gimmelwald for many years. And filming a show brings certain opportunities.

We often visit with neighboring tables at dinner and have a few friends from living in Italy for a few years. But we have found Italians do not make new friends easily as many of them are life-long friends with people they have known since childhood and are all-too-aware of the transient nature of travelers and expats.

One thing I noticed as soon as we moved to Rome is that merchants and vendors recognize you as a local and a regular after about 3 visits and they start to chat more. We have businesses we go to 3 times a week in the U.S. that do not recognize we are regulars!

Our hosts in one village in northern Italy where we visit every year have become very friendly after several visits, although we are still in the category of clients as we rent an apartment from them.

Posted by
1087 posts

I have to admit I had an 'in' - so this didn't happen completely spontaneously.

Our first trip to Europe was Poland. While there, we spent time at Warsaw University and ended up meeting the choir. They invited us to their end-of-school-year picnic, which was full of the most wonderful Polish food and a couple dozen young people all dying to try out their English.

We were also kidnapped (or so I like to joke) and taken out of Warsaw by a woman we didn't know prior to being there, but she had been put in charge of us. She never said we were leaving overnight and we ended up at her parents' cabin in the woods. She also took us to the home of her friends' -- these people didn't speak a word of English but brought out the vodka and communication ensued. Later she insisted on taking me for a massage with her Russian masseuse. Only problem was he wasn't at his salon, we had to go to him home. It was the weirdest thing I've ever experiences. We couldn't communicate and the massage happened in his bedroom (decorated with Soviet memorabilia and weapons) while his old mom and my DH watched Harry Potter dubbed into Polish in the next room.

Later same trip we went to a farm to pick strawberries. The old woman gave us lemon cake and milk straight from the cow.

No wonder we were addicted to European travel by the end!! Actually, it could have gone either way after that massage. At the risk of TMI (and repeating the story since I'm sure I've told it here before), at the end of the massage Sergei the Russian Masseuse stood and watched me dress while smoking a cigarette.

Posted by
1087 posts

And to add some spontaneous examples, we've gone to Liverpool several times for football and have had great meetings with local strangers:

  • driven back to our hotel by the man and his son who were sat beside us at Anfield for the match
  • being on the Magical Mystery Tour with a bus load of locals who were doing it for charity and being feted as celebrities, especially after they found out we had tickets to the match the next day ("them's tickets hens' teeth, they are!"
  • at the pub after the match meeting the people who run the pub that hosts the Belfast Liverpool Supporters Club.
Posted by
6412 posts

We have had an expat that grew up in the hood of Chicago who was married to a local in Amsterdam invite us to their house (one of those real old narrow ones like you see there) for dinner.

We have had a local from Madrid that had a connection to my sisters neighbor in Tampa (whose kid was in a Spanish language exchange program) invite us to show us around including driving us to El Escorial and Segovia and paying for a traditional 2 hour lunch including a bottle of Rioja and Cochinilla (roasted suckling pig) and other regional dishes

I went to Umbria Jazz Fest Italy July 2016 and attempted to walk to the main area where the festival takes place in Perugia. Needless say I got lost and asked a local "dove si trova il festival" and normally I do not take rides from strangers but he drove me there. The city of Perugia is very proud of that festival one of the best of its kind jazz wise.

Also have been listening to the podcast of a jazz program since 2011 that airs daily at 18:00 Paris time on Radio France (the equivalent of NPR). Occasionally they have a contest where you can win new release cd's if you can be the first ten people to answer jazz trivia question. I have won several times and they send the prize all the way from France to my home here in Chicago. Once when I told them I was passing through Paris the DJ invited me to sit in the live production of the program in the studio

Posted by
3951 posts

I suspect Rick's haymaking was far from spontaneous. He was making a TV series and it's amazing what show 'fixers' can achieve.

There's a restaurant in Llucmajor, Mallorca where we went a few years ago, we enjoyed our meal so returned a few days later where the manager greeted me by my name having only clocked it from my credit card on the previous visit, such service simply prompted more visits and it has now become a firm favourite on our returns.

I've always found most Americans to be very friendly and accommodating, particularly in the less touristy areas. I recall an occasion in a small township outside of Atlantic city where my wife and I were enjoying a few drinks in a local bar, we got talking to a local off duty police officer and at the end of the night he offered to drive us home (he hadn't been drinking, his son was at a school dinner in one of the function rooms there).

Posted by
2092 posts

The closest I've come to mixing it up with local strangers was at Budapest's Ecseri flea market a couple of weeks ago--I had a chat with a rather attractive man who had a decent command of English and seemed to be inviting me over to have goulash at his mother's house. Unless that was a euphemism for something else...

Posted by
431 posts

We met another couple in a pub in Venice. Turns out the girl was going to be in NYC over the Christmas holidays. We had gone out of town so we weren't actually able to meet up but she had my phone # in her wallet, which she lost. Someone found it, contacted me and I was able to pass the information along and she was able to get her wallet back. All the positive energies were at work!

In Greece, I simply move out of the way when the pub owner was putting something away. I received a nice rose for my troubles. There was an older lady that let us into a cemetery in that same town, did not speak very good English, I speak no Greek. We did find out we had a common denominator, her Dr is from my home town, Pittsburgh.

Other than that, it is limited to B&B owners, bartenders, chatting to people in a table next to you at a restaurant or at a bar. My husband is very good at starting a conversation with unknown people. Noticing when this occurs, it helps if they are not working and are relaxed too.

Posted by
16771 posts

It's not necessarily easy. You have to look for opportunities and maybe be more outgoing than your own nature. Don't always be in a rush and don't be afraid to talk to people. It sometimes come more easily when people are already "at rest" in trains, restaurants, or on park benches. Sometimes it starts with hoteliers and merchants, if they don't have other customers waiting. If you see someone doing something interesting, greet them and see how they respond. Maybe guys filling a hole in the pavement want to get their work done or maybe they don't.

One of my recent experiences was talking with a man in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue who was at work in his chair caning shop. Not a particularly tourist-focused business, but in an area that would get a fair amount of traffic. I was interested, told him that I had caned a chair once, asked a few questions about the business, asked if I could help, and he gave me a practice chair to "work" on. I wasn't really helping, but was sincere in my offer.

Posted by
1307 posts

Riding in a train to Stockholm from Kalmar, I was engaged in a very pleasant conversation with a young woman who was traveling home with her infant daughter. She gave me lots of tips on things to see and do, asked me a lot of questions about the USA and about my travels, and was just enormously friendly. By the end of the conversation, she gave me her phone number and invited me to come visit her if I wanted to see how regular Stockholmers live (warning me that it was pretty boring).

I didn't end up having time to accept her invitation.

But I've stayed (via Airbnb) in the homes of locals on several occasions, and had very enjoyable interactions with my hosts. (I'm talking about staying in a guest room in their home where they lived too.) I've remained Facebook friends with a couple from Copenhagen since staying with them in 2012.

Posted by
484 posts

I've had many times where I've made friends and had quite a talk with local people. My kids say, Mom you can talk to anyone, haha!
In Split, it was easy to strike up a conversation with a gentleman while listening to his son's band play. He has lived in Split his entire life and also remembered when the US bombed Split. That made me sad, especially seeing this magnificent city. The least we could do was buy him a beer.
Just last month we were in Salema, Portugal and headed into a small bar because we heard cheers. Found a spot to watch a major football match with all the locals and met some great folks, including a food writer from Lisbon, who gave us a great tip for lunch the next day!
One of the best days was on a river cruise down the Main and we stopped in a small town and had a bretzel making demo, then free time. The afternoon was on a friday of a holiday weekend. I found a wine shop which also sold wine by the glass. I ordered a glass then made my way to the one standing table in the street. It already had 4 people around it, but they spoke a good bit of English and we made great friends in minutes. Coincidentally, the woman had visited my small part of Michigan and was good friends with a women in a small town near me. (Later found out that one of my good friends also knew the same women).
Not all my interactions with local people are over drinks, but it makes it easier.
I've also had great conversations about food or families with many people.
I've also been invited to a young shop keepers wedding while in Romania.
Rick's meals with locals on his shows are planned well ahead. The "local" tour guides he works with are so happy to have his business, I would think they can't wait to have him dine with them. Not that this is bad, it is just what happens. Lucky Rick!

Posted by
973 posts

I agree with Laura. You have to be outgoing and open to an opportunity to interact with the locals. The story of RS helping out on the farm in Switzerland reminds me of an experience that I had in Italy. We were driving through the Dolomites and saw a woman herding her cows. We stopped the car and I ran over to the fence to watch. The woman came over to the fence and asked me if I liked cows. I told her that we grew up in the country close to dairy farms and it reminded me of my childhood running through the pastures. She suggested that I jump the fence and help her herd the cows to their next pasture. I wish I could say that I did just that but we were making tracks to our next destination. Still a great memory. I have had plenty of experience like that in my travels.

Posted by
844 posts

Andrea!!

I want to travel with you! Not sure hubby would but what the heck!

Posted by
352 posts

I've seen this go both ways.

My wife and I met an utterly charming Parisian mathematician who graciously engaged us in a light conversation -- his English was so beautifully accented -- then helpfully gave us directions to the Muse'e Rodin (which I promptly forgot, got lost and ended up 6 blocks away before my wife got us back on track). He was the very model of a French gentleman and meeting him was a highlight of that trip.

On the other hand . . .

On our first trip to Paris, while riding the train from London, my wife and I sat across the aisle from a Frenchman in his 20s and next to him was a character we came to call 'The Aussie Bore'. No sooner had this guy sat down next to our poor neighbor than he began to launch into a monologue about himself, about where he lived (Sydney), about the Outback (dry), spiders (deadly), snakes (also deadly), the trains down antipodes way (slow), his job (boring), his travels (etc etc etc). He would switch between STRINE English and French that even I could tell was atrocious. He kept this one-sided conversation up for THE ENTIRE TRIP. The Frenchman at first was engaged, then was slowly reduced to nodding, and finally staring mournfully into space while the book he'd brought sat unread in his lap. And the Aussie kept talking and talking and talking without pause to the point even the oxygen molecules he was breathing were praying for atomic decay to end their existence. The train stopped, but his mouth didn't. The Frenchman disembarked ahead of us and I gave him a sad, knowing look to which he replied with a wonderful Gaelic shrug.

When we got into the taxi at Gare du Nord, I started doing impressions of the guy; my wife was not amused with my attempts at a Paul-Hogan-esque accent and let me know such in the form of a threat to kill me in my sleep.

I feel sorry for whoever got stuck next to that guy on his 14-hour flight back to 'stralia.

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
1956 posts

While traveling to the Cook Islands in 1994 we were seated at a restaurant with another couple who were from New Zealand. We had a delightful lunch conversation. Found out they were staying at the resort next to ours. We ended up having dinner with them and sightseeing together during our stay. We have remained friends all these years. Since then we visited their home in the North Island, they came to see us in the Pacific NW, and we also met them in Hawaii. You never know what a "chance meeting" can bring.

Posted by
6047 posts

Traveling on my own I've not had many interactions with locals outside of those that deal with tourists. I'm pretty much an introvert so don't go out of my way to interact with strangers. But I will say that I have had b&b hosts go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and help if needed. One host in Colmar was helping me by calling a taxi to get me to my rental car pickup, but when she couldn't get through to them she offered to drive me to the garage where I picked up my car. When I dropped off my car in Chartres I ran into the same situation, not able to get a taxi to the train station. Luckily the girl was just closing up the rental location for the lunch hour and she was going that way anyway so gave me a lift to the station. So many people are very kind and maybe since I'm an older woman traveling solo I look helpless.:)

When traveling on tours they often have local interactions 'arranged' so you do occasionally have more contact than when traveling on your own. I have had tour guides detour from the regular route to have us make a rest stop in their hometowns and have us meet members of their families. I have had tour guides that arranged tours of private homes, farms, etc so we could see how locals go about their normal activities. Even when planned these events are unique, at least for me and most of the other tour members, and are very worthwhile. One of the perks of tours.

Posted by
3318 posts

I have always met people on my tours that wanted to chat and have always enjoyed the time spent. I shared drinks with a Scottish farmer during a lunch stop for nearly an hour. Never understood a thing he said except his crop was good that year, but it was probably one of the best conversations I ever had. :-)

Posted by
1461 posts

While in Munich we went to the Augustiner-Keller beer garden and sat at a communial table. The gentleman sitting next to us heard us speaking and asked if we wouldn’t mind talking to him so he could pratice his English. We had a lovely time, enjoyed our dinner and conversation.

Posted by
12103 posts

Ever since my first trip in 1971, I have had numerous encounters , ie, "meeting local strangers while travelling." That is most effectively done when communicating in the local language. You don't impose your language on them, you speak their language to communicate. You start talking to them on trains, or at a train station waiting for the same train, etc.

I have had local "strangers" buy me food (a pastry), drive me to the hostel, lead/walk me to a museum that involved walking several blocks, or a site I wanted to get to, eg, a bridge, hostel, or a hotel, etc. Two of these nice encounters were in Poland, in Torun and Krakow, where the Polish woman in the rynek first addressed us in German, so we continued talking in German. The rest of these encounters were in Germany. These events stick in my trip memories, whether they happened in 1973, 2001, 1971, 2005, 1987, 1984, etc.

Posted by
557 posts

OK, confession time here.

My mother, now 94, traveled a lot and usually learned a fair amount of the language wherever she went. Even Turkish and Chinese and Russian. She would glom onto random locals everywhere, in the nicest possible way, but it embarrassed my brother and me to death, and we were always wanting to escape. We dreaded being invited to people's homes, getting in their cars, meeting their families, having to eat some weird food, etc., etc.. It seemed like it took FOREVER to get away from the encounter and do what we had been planning to do. Privately, and rather snottily, he and I called these people "Mom's huggable peasants," even though none were actual peasants. We just could not fathom why some total stranger in a foreign country was more interesting than some total stranger at home in America. Yeah, that was my brother and me.

i'm afraid that I still retain some of these feelings of risking entrapment and a forced detour in my plans and embarrassment decades later. And I am pretty introverted and xenoglossophobic (look it up!). But (mostly in Italy) I have certainly enjoyed talking with many airbnb hosts, B&B and agriturismo hosts, eating a few dinners with locals, staying in apartments and speaking with people in the neighborhood shops and on buses and trains, etc.. My husband, equally introverted but speaking both French and Italian, has all sorts of brief but fun encounters just getting his hair cut or going to the opera or taking our young grandchildren for a walk around a piazza. But we could do a lot better! Nowadays, I am kind of embarrassed that we don't.

Posted by
3811 posts

We host couchsurfers in our home (and have been hosted by them as well) so we've done lots of hanging out with 'strangers'. For ones who have stayed with us, generally we show them around the local park, but we've also taken them to the wildlife park, took a German girl to a wildlife rehab open house, we had a lady from California stay with us and she took us out for supper twice - and when we went to California, we were able to meet up with her for an evening and she took us out for supper again!

We stayed with a guy in Genoa who took us out for a nice walk along the waterfront and fed us 'real' Genoese pesto. There was a couple in Bern who took us out to a mountain for a hike (the first time we were ever on a ski lift!). An older couple in Northern France who cooked us a lovely meal, waiting until almost 10pm until we got back to their home before eating. A man in Avignon who took us to a friends house for spaghetti - we had a bit of a language barrier, but we did OK. An amazing hostess in Augsburg who took a half day and showed us around her town - we loved our time spent with her so much, we didn't leave until early evening for Munich, after planning to leave in the morning. So many other great experiences.

We've had surfers stay who did WWOOF-ing (not with us, since we don't have a farm)...but a German couple who were staying with people all over and helping with things like beekeeping, renos, farming. We had a fellow from Amsterdam stay earlier this year who was biking from Nova Scotia alllll the way to the tip of South America and he has randomly met lots of people who offered to let him stay with them. (We are following his blog - he just crossed into Mexico).

If it's something you are interested in doing, you could join up couchsurfing - they even just do 'meet-ups' - generally bigger cities where people will get together. And not everyone hosts - some people just have their profile set to 'meet up for coffee' - a chance to maybe have someone show you around a bit, or just to chat with a local over coffee for a few hours.

Posted by
3811 posts

...and we stay at a lot of airbnb's now, the bulk of them with owner's present, so we've had some great chats. We stayed twice with a gal in Paris, and last year made the mistake of asking her how she felt about the upcoming French elections - well, needless to say, she was a bit of an anarchist. Hubby had some nice chats with our hosts in Dordrecht and Ghent.

And when we stay at B&B's, we easily fall into convos with the other folks at breakfast - in Venice had a great chat with an Aussie family. in California - a long chat with some Brits.

The best out of the blue interaction we almost had tho (and I'm kicking myself for not taking them up on it)...we were in Corniglia. We were going out for breakfast but the place we went the day before was closed. An Australian lady told us about how they rotated openings...and invited us back to her apartment for breakfast! She was making bacon. BACON! And we said no. We saw her a few hours later on the shuttle bus with her husband and small child - imagine inviting total strangers to your place for breakfast!

Now, I work retail, so I'm totally used to making random small talk with anyone and everyone. My husband is a little harder to come out of his shell, but once he starts, you can't shut him up.

Posted by
272 posts

Probably my best experience was having a foreign exchange student live with us for 8 months. Carla was a beautiful young lady from Sao Paulo Brazil. We learned so much from her about Brazil, her family, her foods, her customs etc. My husband is a Rotarian and we have also hosted Group Study Exchange professionals in our home as well. We have had people from Mexico, England, Australia and Sweden. These we so much fun.

My favorite experience in Europe was in Keswick (The lake district of England). We were eating at the Dog and Gun pub. Some men came to our table and asked if they could share out table. I answered that they could join us if they would tell us where they had been hiking (they were still in their hiking gear). They sat down and told us about hiking the "Wainrights". Apparently, this is something that hiking afficianados try to achieve. One of the gentlemen had hiked all the trails once and was working on doing them all a second time. They were delightful. We talked to them for a couple of hours. Another experience on this same tour was in Bath. We were looking at a map trying to find a particular site. A local walked up to us and asked if we needed help. He was so kind to walk with us to the location that we were searching for. Since we are Texans we are used to helping strangers, but didn't realize that the British would be as friendly.

Posted by
1961 posts

I'm not a very outgoing person, so it's hard for me to strike up conversations with strangers. Here are my strategies for interaction with locals:

  1. Buy it. I generally stay in B&B's/small family owned inns and hire local guides to show me what's cool in their area. Sometimes I particularly hit it off with a B&B/inn owner or a guide and end up having interactions beyond typical customer interaction. I've had dinner/coffee with guides after tours, and I've had dinner/drinks with a B&B owner in the evening.

  2. Know people who know people. I visited a couple of teenagers I knew from my SC town in Germany while they were doing an apprenticeship there. When I visited them, an 80-something-old friend of theirs (and their parents) invited me and my travel companion to his house for "Kuchen" (cake) and then took us to a secluded cabin in the woods built by his father during the Third Reich Era for secret Bible studies that taught the not-so-Nazi ideal that devotion to God is the sole duty of man.

  3. Speak German to Germans/Austrians. I've been learning German in my free time for around 3 years. I've had conversations -- some in German, some in "Denglish" -- with Germans and Austrians that would not have otherwise occurred without me speaking some basic German. I was once given a Manner wafer as a gesture of friendship by an elderly couple on a train in Austria after a long conversation. My favorite story is getting a ride to my hotel on a stormy night at midnight from an "Open Air" music concert that was part of a festival in a small Austrian village where no English was being spoken. My friend and I would have had a 30-minute trek on a foot path through woods and fields to get back to the nearby town where our hotel was. Instead, an apology to an Austrian woman for not understanding what she wanted me to do led to a basic conversation in German (including why a US American was in the small village), which led to an offer for a ride to the hotel after the concert ended.

Posted by
20634 posts

Our greatest interact with locals have been on European cruises. And to this day there are several that we exchange cards and email with a couple of times a year. Second area generally has been breakfast at the B&B especially if staying several days and finally in small restaurants or bars.

Posted by
167 posts

My wife and I just returned from an 18 day trip to London, York and Scotland. Being able to speak the same language as the locals made interaction much easier. We had a great time at a small pub near the University of Edinburgh when four grad students made room for us at their table. Immediately upon learning we were Americans they wanted to discuss US politics. It was very civil, enlightening and down right fun. On the train from London to York we sat across a table from a retired English couple. We had a great conversation about their lives as professors at the University, about retired life in Scarborough, about their travels and also some suggestions for places to go on our adventure. The 2 hour train ride went by in a flash. When we were in London I dragged my wife into a pub for a much needed pint. An elderly gentleman offered to move a bit so we could sit down. We had a great time conversing with him and his pal. He informed us that retirees get free bus fare for life so they had taken advantage of this benefit to travel to the South coast of England for the day. They were very interested to discuss our travel plans and offer advice. They were especially excited to discuss whisky in Scotland.

Posted by
1491 posts

Our first European trip was to Urbino, Italy, with a college/adult group. We fell in love with Urbino. In surfing the web, I found a "guest book" posted by a woman in Urbino and signed it. She responded by e-mail, and on our next trip to Urbino she picked us up and took us to their home outside of town for both a lunch and a dinner on different days. The following trip, we took them out to dinner in town. She had taught English in public schools (junior high, as I recall), and they were owners of an agriturismo (hazelnut and walnut farm), where she also offered English language lessons to those who booked longer stays in their apartments. Wonderful memories.

Posted by
1530 posts

On our recent trip to Scotland we went to the Oban Lawn Bowling Club. We sat and watched the tournament for a while and then one of the men offered us to play, so we did. They have us some tips on how to do it and after the tournament was over, they invited us into the clubhouse for tea.
In London, I got pickpocketed and caught the guy with my wallet in his shirt. So we called the bobbies over ( we were waiting outside Westminster Abbey for Prince Charles) and I got to go to the police station to give a statement.

Posted by
52 posts

This is going way back... in the late 1980s, I was a student in a Glasnost-era student exchange program between the USA & USSR. It was in its second year, & I think it was the first (and last) of its kind, given the prior rocky relations between the countries. I was in Leningrad University-- now, of course, St. Petersburg.

I was there a few months. The last full weekend before I left was the solstice, the height of the white nights. I took the train to Moscow to hit the celebrations & ended up showing a bunch of other students also traveling for the parties how to play poker (& they showed me how to drink bootleg vodka, but that's not a recommendation). We split up, hungover, at the station in the morning.

Anyway, the main festivities were in Gorky Park, and peaked with a Beatles cover band concert close to midnight. Now, clothing with the Roman alphabet on it was trendy in Russia at that time, much like clothing with Chinese glyphs was trendy in the US. The handful of other US students & I had tracked t-shirts for state fairs, softball leagues, pretty much anything, though clothes from American universities were especially popular. I was walking back to the hostel where I was staying (built for the 1980 Olympics) and caught, out of the corner of my eye & waaaay off, someone leaving the park wearing a sweatshirt from my college. This wasn't UCLA or Harvard or any school that might be known outside of the US, but a regional university with an arts bent.

I hightailed it across Gorky Park and eventually caught up with him-- Serge & his friend Evgeny. We ended up spending most of the night walking around Moscow. They were students, majoring in aeronautics. Serge bought the shirt on the black market & had no idea what it meant. They told me about where they grew up, what they liked & disliked about Gorbachev, and we talked about books and planes and surfing, which they both wanted to try. We exchanged addresses and I eventually made it back to my hostel at about 5 AM (and got a glare from the babushka watching my floor).

Posted by
12103 posts

Re: "denglisch"...yes, those words have crept into German, haven't they, or, to put it another way, these "denglisch" words have been "consumed" by German a la the famous quotation by Goethe on the power/strength of a language.

Words like "einchecken...eingecheckt, auschecken, fokusiern....fokusiert, durchgecheckt. or kontaktieren, or "Left Luggage" instead of Gepäckaufbewahrung, or "Ticket" instead of Fahrausweis, Fahrkarte, and Fahrschein, or for entry, Eintrittskarte.

Do i use these "denglisch" words? Yes, admittedly I have when that momentary linguistic laziness takes over.

Posted by
875 posts

A few years ago I was in London and went to the Temple Church for a free lunchtime organ concert. As I waited outside the church for the doors to open, I asked one of two men standing near me about the time. They started telling me all about the church, the organ and organ music in general in London. When the doors opened, they invited me to sit with them; they both played the organ in various venues, and knew the best place to sit for the acoustics. After the magnificent concert, they invited me to join them for a pint in their favorite pub a few blocks away. The pub turned out to be Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub many hundreds of years old just off Fleet Street. We sat at a battered oak table and talked for a couple of hours. I heard fascinating tales of surviving the War as children, when they each were sent out of London to family members in villages, and watching London be rebuilt after the War. I also heard much about organ music and the community of organists in Britain...all because I asked a local the time, and shared a love of music.

Posted by
774 posts

The main one that comes to my mind is on our RS holland/Belgium tour in 2016. On a free afternoon, we took the tram ride to Den Hague. My grandparents use to live there for a couple of years when he worked for Shell oil. Summer of 1962, they paid for my family(4) to come for the summer. Ok... so I wanted to go find their house. Had the address, found it, took nerves to go up and knock on the door. No answer. Husband and I took pics, hung around to see if someone I could ask about this house. Down a few houses was s grandmother with the grands . They went back in the house, knocked on the door, she knew enough English to ask questions. Boy, was I shocked .... she envied us into the house, met her cute little grand daughter full of energy, husband. They were there watching the kids. I told her I was from states and on holiday and my gparents use to live there 55ish years ago. She had no info for me, but invited us to go to this beautiful park with the grand daughter . Then she walked us back to the bus stop.

It was such a fun afternoon and amazed how friendly she was

Posted by
279 posts

Our last two trips to the UK have included the hire of a "narrowboat" to cruise the Llangollen Canal. This is an adventure that is seldom tried by Americans. Almost everyone we encountered was British, either a local or a family who were also on a narrowboat hire. The process of narrowboating involves going through a lot of locks. Most of the locks are operated by the crews of the narrowboat(s) transiting them. Usually the individuals operating the locks are women. Because the men do the more "technical/management" job of driving the boat. Transiting the lock can take some time so there is plenty of opportunity for the women to discuss this or that. Often the foibles of their menfolk. I don't know the details of what my wife discussed with the British women, but discussions at the locks is one of her good memories of the trip.

The tow path of the canal provides locals with an excellent venue for bicycling, jogging, walking the dog, and just plan walking. One morning in Ellesmere we struck up a conversation with an older couple (older is relative, we are in our early 70s) who, as kids, had lived in the area during WW2. I don't remember details of the conversation, but I do remember that they evacuated the homes with thatched roofs during the bombing raids because of the fear the roofs catching fire.

As with any trip, it is eventually necessary to do laundry. Ellesmere has a launderette (Americans call them a laundromat). We have visited it twice to do our accumulated laundry. Both times these have been all male adventures. The women explore and the men do the laundry. As this is the 21st century I have only seen one woman in the launderette, she stuffed a couple of duvets in the dryer and took off. A typical problem in a launderette is not having enough change to feed the machines. While one of the guys took off to get change a local fellow came and started doing his laundry. We struck up a conversation to try to get some change, he was very helpful. We continued to talk and he turned out to be someone who been made "redundant" in the 1980s and as a result spent some time touring Europe with an RV (caravan). He then took a class (part of the deal of becoming redundant) and became a long haul trucker. He was now in his second and permanent retirement. We had some discussion of Brexit and Trump. No need to go into the details. He liked Ellesmere because of the opportunities for participating with singing groups. He also recommended a place for dinner that night.

My camera triggered one encounter with a local. It is an Olympus EM5, a fairly compact and very retro looking camera. It very much looks like a late model film camera. While we were riding the train in Wales a fellow came aboard and struck up a conversation when he saw my camera. He was hard core film photographer and thought he had found a like thinking person. He was also a steam train enthusiast. We had an interesting conversation.

I have had several conversations that were initiated when a local said (words to the effect, and more politely) "I can tell from you accent that you are not from around here. Let's talk".

My wife and I have take a couple of cooking classes that were taught in the instructor's home. This has given us an opportunity to spend several hours with a local and to talk about a lot more than just cooking. Always very enjoyable.

Posted by
4500 posts

It is not easy to do. Locals know you are tourists, and they encounter plenty in their daily lives. They might be kind or offer assistance, but that is a far cry from an invite to a homemade dinner.

I have been fortunate to have been given "referrals" by those who know a lot of Europeans. In some cases, I've been given all day tours of their city, been invited to dinner with their family, invited to a private sauna club, and even given "referrals" to other people they know. But in each case, it was based on a personal connection between someone I know here and someone they know there.

One place to start would be people you know that still have family in Europe. Of course, you have to visit the places where those people live. But I've visited some small towns that are completely off the regular tourist path and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've had a few times when I've made a connection with a local just by chance. Once on Christmas day when I was walking in a London park and a nice gentleman chatted me up and wound up inviting me to his Christmas party that evening (attended by a variety of artists and theater people). It was an incredible memory. Another time I met a French girl traveling in England to many of the same places I was and we toured around together. We later hung out in Paris where she lived (I was living there on study abroad). I've met other Europeans in similar fashion but in part because I was living there.

More common if you are just touring and are willing to engage in chat, is to meet other travelers. It can be easier when traveling alone, but I've met people from all over the world and spent time with them while we are in the same city.

Posted by
597 posts

Very good question, post and responses. I have always got a good chuckle at the statement of "become a local". 98% of the people I meet are travelers themselves from all over the world who of course speak English. You meet them on trains, in restaurants and on tours, etc. 99% of the locals I meet work at restaurants, hotels, travel guides, etc. Raking hay, making cheese, etc. make great TV and boost tour sales. However in reality, no matter how outgoing you may be, you are a stranger to a local walking down the street unless you have a common denominator. Great post.

Posted by
12103 posts

There are numerous ways of meeting and talking to a local. In Austria and Germany that is not too hard eg. on a train ride, all the more so, if the ride is a long one. I talk to them in hotels, restaurants, train station eateries, on train rides, the destination helps too as a common topic, etc assuming the other party is willing to engage in conversation. I don't talk to them in English, not my purpose. True, it is matter of luck too...just depends where and with whom.

Posted by
5318 posts

The easiest way to get invited to someone's house ? Be Rick Steves and have a 20+ year relationship with the family.

Posted by
2235 posts

Caleb, did you ever hear the definition of “good luck” as being in the right place at the right time? Of course, the more places you are, and the more times you’re there, the more likely you’ll bump into “good luck”. Same with getting to know locals when traveling I think, the more times you smile and try to strike up a conversation, the more likely you’ll find a friendship. Of course, language is important. For most of us, it’s much easier in English-speaking countries than it is in countries where we just know some basic tourist phrases. Having a common language can be important.
As I think about this, I remember a time some years ago in the boonies of Guatemala. A couple of American friends and I were at a small restaurant, waiting for our food, and there was a group of 4 young adults also waiting at another table, two young ladies in Mayan textiles, and two young men in westerns jeans and shirts. Fortunately the three of us travelers all spoke some Spanish, although of course no Ixil, the local Mayan language. I was the one who broke the ice, in Spanish: “Excuse me, but we’ve been told about a local dish called “beach ball”, do you know, is there a restaurant here in town where we could try this dish?” “Oh” they said, “you mean boshbol, you probably won’t find that in a restaurant, but if you’d like to try it, come to our house for lunch and we’ll make boshbol for you!” (It’s actually written boxbol.) Turns out the two young ladies were sisters, a teacher and a social worker, and the younger fellows were their brother and a friend. We made a plan, and sure enough the next day at 1:00 pm, after we returned from the market in a nearby town, the brother was at our little hotel to led us on the long walk out of town to the family home, where the two girls and their mother were working away making the boxbol lunch, the dish being sort of a cornmeal mash, cooked inside of squash leaves, with a delicious squash and tomato sauce. Served with Pepsi Cola! It was a wonderful time, the oldest girl took us into her bedroom and closet, and shared her special Mayan clothing, huipiles for her graduation, for her hope chest, and on and on, and then the two women I was traveling with began trying them all on, with traditional skirts and sashes and all that, and taking photos. We all went back to town and caught a little bus to another tiny little town where about 8 of us hiked into the evening. Quite a remarkable and memorable spontaneous travel experience! This was in an area that had been really off-limits during the civil war in Guatemala, because of all the violence of the government forces toward the Mayan towns and people. The older sister in “our family” was telling us how horrible those times had been, and how their town had even been attacked by helicopter. Quietly, she added, almost in a whisper, “you know, those were your helicopters.”
Maybe meeting people is easier in small towns and rural areas, especially where visitors are more of a rarity.
A rich memory from years long past, thanks for listening!

Posted by
3384 posts

I have talked with locals during train rides. My most recent example was talking to a professional woman during my train ride to Verona and hearing about the lack of opportunities in her field.

I think the place where my husband and I have both felt like we spent the afternoon with a local is taking a cooking class during each trip to Europe. We learn so much about them beyond the cooking aspects.