5 Easy Tips for Meeting Local People While Traveling
Remember the girl from high school who moved to Spain, developed a friendship with her Brazilian neighbor, then spent three weeks in Sao Paulo with his family for Christmas? Or what about your uncle—the one who has such a close bond with the local butcher that he gets free cuts of meat every Friday? Or your co-worker? Her Airbnb hosts in Thailand offered her free scuba diving lessons after she stayed with them for a week.
Have you ever wondered how these types of people manage to score such exciting opportunities? Here’s how: they network.
Networking when you travel is one of the easiest ways to have a more meaningful, authentic, and immersive experience. And networking doesn’t need to be professionally related either—although it can be. Rather, it’s all about initiating conversations, meeting interesting people, participating in a give and take dynamic, and maintaining the relationships you form. Communicating and networking well with people when you travel leads to profound friendships, unique opportunities, and unprecedented generosity.
Here are a few easy pointers for meeting local people while traveling.
1. Make friends with people in the service industry
Developing a friendly relationship with people in the service industry can lead to discounts, better service, and more enriching experiences. In many smaller, local restaurants, it’s common for the chef or owner to mill about the venue and ask how customers are enjoying their meals. If you’re having a pleasant experience at a particular restaurant and someone approaches to ask your thoughts, tell that person. Be complimentary and sincere.
But even if there isn’t a warm, friendly owner leaning down to the table to ask you how you like your spaghetti, there will always be an opportunity to thank someone for the experience. Tell a server, hostess, or bartender how much you enjoyed the food, ambiance, service, or décor. A kind word goes a long way.
2. Ask sincere questions
To network well with others, you have to possess and express genuine curiosity about something. If you have a sincere interest in a subject and ask meaningful questions, conversation will flow naturally. You should always consider the local customs and manners you need to abide to before you walk up to someone and introduce yourself, but if the opportunity arises to have a casual conversation with a stranger or acquaintance, take advantage of it.
Maybe you’re interested in Costa Rican surf culture and you happen to be eating lunch next to a table of local surfers fresh out of the water at Playa Avellana. Say hello and ask them how big the swell gets on a typical day. If you’re at a restaurant and you’re dying to know what’s in the sauce on your chicken, if you’re curious about how the Australian bartender ended up working in Santorini, if you’re at an outdoor market in India and you’re looking for the best afternoon tea to drink—ask. Be polite and make sure the context is appropriate, but just ask.
People enjoy talking about things they’re familiar with, so initiating a conversation by asking someone to tell you about something he knows well is the easiest way to have an organic and enlightening chat.
3. Show loyalty to people who have helped you
A crucial part of networking and maintaining positive relationships is being able to demonstrate loyalty to the people who have helped you in some way. This can mean a number of things. Maybe your hotel concierge went beyond his typical job description to find nearby pizza places that can accommodate your gluten allergy. In that case, show your gratitude by telling a manager about your positive interaction or by recommending friends and family to his services.
Or maybe your tour guide shifted his typical hours to work around your inconvenient flight schedule. Demonstrate your appreciation by writing him a stellar review online or delivering a hand-written thank you card. A reciprocal relationship is always a mutually beneficial one.
4. Say thank you
This tip seems obvious, but so many people forget the power of basic kindness. Say please and thank you, ask instead of demanding, and enter every interaction you have without condescension or judgment. These are simple, but immensely impactful gestures that make all the difference in how someone chooses to treat you.
5. Stay in touch
Whether it’s in person or via Facebook, email, or phone calls, keep in contact with the people you enjoy meeting. Even a quick hello and well wish is enough to maintain a friendly relationship as time passes. Plus, the more often you casually connect with someone, the easier it is to reach out to that person in the future if you need assistance or advice.