Traveling in Asia is in itself an emotional experience. Visiting all the monuments and tasting the local specialties will leave you with countless memories that you can share with the people around you. However, you can take your travel experience in Vietnam and China to the next level by hanging out with the locals and building relationships with them.
Sometimes it can be difficult to connect with someone of another nationality because we usually don’t know their culture well. Especially since it can become even more complicated to deal with locals due to the rapid increase in tourism in Asia and the countless tourist scams.
Here are some tips for making real connections with the locals you’ll meet on your trip to Vietnam and China.
Tips for befriending locals when traveling in Asia and around the world
Accommodation and couchsurfing
Almost everywhere in Asia, you can find locals willing to host or available for couchsurfing.
The main idea of hosting or couchsurfing is very simple – you get in touch with a local family and stay with them for free or for a small fee. What are the advantages of being hosted by locals?
- You get to see the local traditions first hand. By choosing to sleep in the homes of locals, you can really immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the place in Vietnam and China .
- You can learn to cook typical dishes. During my last couchsurfing experience in Thailand, I learned how to cook my favorite Thai dish, “Tom Yum Goong”, which I had previously only tasted in Thai restaurants in my area. Tip: Before cooking with a local, take them to the market to shop. This will help you understand the local culture even better.
- Get to know the best places to visit in the area. No one knows the city better than the people who live there. Invite them with you to strengthen the bond you are creating even more, to learn about their culture, traditions and of course how they live in their country or better yet, their daily experiences.
One of the best ways to make friends with the local population is to stay at organic farms or agritourisms. Last year, on a trip to Cambodia, I stayed with a family growing rice on an all-organic farm. During the day, I helped them with some work on their farm and in the evening, we gathered around a table to enjoy a traditional dinner or to go out and discover the region. This kind of experience leaves a mark, as well as an unforgettable feeling of being part of their culture. Relationships with local people are not just temporary bonds, but they can develop into true lasting friendships.Like volunteering, I have traveled to many parts of Asia, but no country has touched my heart like India. It not only fascinated me from the first moment, because of its customs and traditions. During the trip, I always felt the need to personally help the Indian community by volunteering in Vietnam and China.
I believe that volunteering is one of the most effective ways to make friends with the locals. For the past two years, I have been actively involved with Teach Children in Kerala. For two months, they put me in contact with Indian students to teach them English. This volunteer program promotes education and gives you the opportunity to live a unique experience in the heart of rural India.
The connections I made while in Kerala not only gave me a deeper understanding of Indian culture (I believe that it is only possible to fully understand a culture in the rural areas of a country), but also helped me build my career. The people I met during this program contributed to my doctoral dissertation focused on teaching English as a second language.
Choose an adventure with a local guide for sustainable development in the world
If you prefer conventional accommodations, you can gain experience with the locals by choosing a local tour guide. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon in Asia to get scammed in this area. Tourists get in touch with locals and end up discovering that they know very little about the place and have no in-depth knowledge of the place. Fortunately, there are apps like WithLocals and Jetzy that can help you choose a local guide. All tour guides are certified, so even if you get scammed, you can easily switch guides without losing more money. Be careful in Laos, Japan and Indonesia.
Many tourists prefer to choose hotels with all the comforts and safe roads when they travel. If you are such a traveler, you can still have a real experience by establishing a relationship with a local guide. Your companion can introduce you to other people who live there and you can build a real network of contacts while having lunch with them.
Open your mind to the world
We know very little about Asian culture, but by traveling, we have the opportunity to increase our knowledge and expand our minds.
As long as you can better understand their roots, they too will be excited to learn more about your culture.
Meeting and building relationships with local people in Asian countries has brought me many benefits and opportunities. So, aren’t you curious how these encounters could positively influence your life as well?