5 Tips to Embrace Foreign Cultures Like a Pro

 

Appreciating the richness of the cultures around the world is at the heart of our values at Volterre. And since we think everyone should experience the world through our lenses (no pun intended), we've compiled 5 tips to help you get the most authentic cultural experiences while traveling.

 

1. Enjoy the local cuisine

One of the best ways to absorb yourself in a place's culture is by trying the foods of the region. Whether it be 99 cent pizza slices in NYC, interesting curries you never knew existed in India, or legendary street food in Thailand, you'll be sure to discover a multitude of diverse cuisines and learn a lot about the accompanying cultures in a genuine way.

You can also qualify eating as a personal accomplishment without being judged! The Secret Traveller challenges readers to try dishes such as Cambodia’s fried tarantulas and Morocco’s sheep’s head, dubbing them some of the most difficult bucket list foods to check off. Go on, be adventurous - with the help of some travel insurance and some shades, you can rest assured your health and teary eyes are covered even if your body can't handle the Icelandic hakarl (aka fermented shark with a particularly pungent taste and smell). 

  Volterre's    É  tienne Marcel  sunglasses dine out in Paris.

Volterre's Étienne Marcel sunglasses dine out in Paris.

  In Colombia you can have sweets for dinner! Pictured here are plantains filled with cinnamon and sweet potato from  Capital Cocina y Cafe  in   Bogotá, Colombia

In Colombia you can have sweets for dinner! Pictured here are plantains filled with cinnamon and sweet potato from Capital Cocina y Cafe in Bogotá, Colombia

 

 

2. Visit the important sights... but don't forget to go off the beaten path, too

While it's great to learn about the famous landmarks and broader history of a place, take time look for hidden treasures as well. Often times the more off-the-beaten-path destinations give a more authentic and less touristy experience than the crowded major players (which also tend to have jacked-up prices). So how do you find them? Do some extra research beforehand beyond the top 10 list of Tripadvisor - sites like LikeALocal offer tips from locals, and Airbnb now has local-led experiences. And for the places where those local hidden gems may not have the ability to advertise their businesses online, leave some extra time just wondering the streets and dipping in to hole-in-the-walls, and check out tip #3. 

@bykarissa explores the streets of Bali. 

A post shared by Earth Close (@earthclose) on

 

3. Get to know the locals

Be sure to communicate with the locals if you want a hint of true culture. Whether you're in a bar, store, or restaurant, don't shut yourself off - strike up a convo with a native and you could find yourself learning a whole lot of cool stuff you wouldn't have otherwise known. 

At a family owned restaurant? Ask them which their favorite dish is. Getting a tour from a local guide? Ask them to take you to their favorite places (rather than the typical tourist places) and you'll probably end up with a much more unique experience.

Engaging with locals is easily one of the most rewarding parts of traveling. It's an effortless way of hearing unique stories about their lives that can enlighten you about the general vibe of the destination as a whole.

  @megdowdy befriends the local Nicaraguans while volunteering there and wearing her    É  tienne Marcel  frames. 

@megdowdy befriends the local Nicaraguans while volunteering there and wearing her Étienne Marcel frames. 

  @megdowdy's new friend models the    É  tienne Marcel  sunglasses.

@megdowdy's new friend models the Étienne Marcel sunglasses.

 

4. Observe cultural practices

Make sure you're respecting the cultural practices of each place, too. Each destination is likely rich with dozens of spoken and unspoken traditions you might not be aware of - and these traditions are often of the utmost importance to locals.

In Thailand, for example, bad-mouthing the royal family - especially the King - could potentially see you landing a lengthy prison sentence as a result of the lèse-majesté laws. Be careful and respectful, as although the locals will likely be willing to oversee a slight cultural faux pas, deliberately going against the norm could get you into big trouble.

  Forget the white dresses - traditional Korean weddings involve each family wearing bright colors, tossing chestnuts into the bride's lap to see how many kids she'll have, and giving ducks as wedding gifts. Volterre founder Sarah had the privilege of attending a traditional Korean wedding when her cousin Robert married his wife Min in Daegu, Korea in 2015. 

Forget the white dresses - traditional Korean weddings involve each family wearing bright colors, tossing chestnuts into the bride's lap to see how many kids she'll have, and giving ducks as wedding gifts. Volterre founder Sarah had the privilege of attending a traditional Korean wedding when her cousin Robert married his wife Min in Daegu, Korea in 2015. 

  Not only is rice farming a major staple to the Balinese economy, but it's also the center of many traditional Balinese rituals, as the farming process is seen as a cycle of hard work, spiritual connection, and celebration. Pictured here is a local farmer we spoke with sporting the    É  tienne Marcel  frames. 

Not only is rice farming a major staple to the Balinese economy, but it's also the center of many traditional Balinese rituals, as the farming process is seen as a cycle of hard work, spiritual connection, and celebration. Pictured here is a local farmer we spoke with sporting the Étienne Marcel frames. 

  Bowing in Japan is used in greetings, to express gratitude, or apology as an indication of respect.

Bowing in Japan is used in greetings, to express gratitude, or apology as an indication of respect.

 

5. Take time to learn the history

Make sure to take some time and learn about the history of your destination - it's often the root of current culture, so if you truly want to learn more about it, do your research! 

Museums and art galleries come in handy here, showcasing relics and artifacts from hundreds and thousands of years ago. It gives you insight into the people and the events that have helped shape the modern-day culture you can witness today. The lessons you'll learn will enrich your experience and can even give you ideas for activities that will help you immerse even further, like Jess Bellamy's salsa lesson on her trip to visit her relatives in Cuba below.

Being a v shady gal post salsa lesson

A post shared by It's Jess! (@jbellzamy) on

  Lanterns from the historical Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

Lanterns from the historical Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

Do you have any tips or special experiences from exploring another culture? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or tag us using @volterre.co #volterrevoyages!