Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > Does anyone ever "meet the locals"?

Does anyone ever "meet the locals"?


May 11th, 2016, 12:46 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,447
Does anyone ever "meet the locals"?

People often include meeting locals in what they want to do when they travel. Does anyone really meet "locals" when they travel?

That's not my goal when I go to Europe. I want to see the architecture, take in the ambiance, see the countryside. When I meet people I usually enjoy it, but that's not why I travel. I want to learn about the history and culture, and I guess that's pretty hard to do without interacting with the inhabitants of the area, but it's secondary or tertiary for me.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 22,516
I meet my relatives when I visit England, they're locals, lol.

I've also met locals who volunteer as Goodwill or Welcome Guides, and enjoyed the interaction.

But in general, no. I suspect most locals are busy living their lives....
thursdaysd is online now  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,575
Generally, I agree.

On the other side of things, my parents generally strike up a conversation with tourists in their town- usually at the bar of their favorite restaurant, lol. So there are apparently tourists out there who "meet the locals"...
marvelousmouse is online now  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 01:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 66,643
Yes it is a fallacy that you can meet locals without really moving into a neighborhood - like thursdaysd I meet a lot of French locals when I visit my son's French family and stay for weeks in a real neighborhood where I can talk to locals casually.

But except perhaps being sentenced to prison or such it is hard to mix with the locals except on say special exchange programs.
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 01:13 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 59,855
I meet locals . . . at Fodors GTGs

Also when staying in country villages/towns for a few days always meet a few locals down at the pub each evening.
janisj is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 01:17 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 5,904
Many times they do not want to meet you, especially in areas where there are many tourists. It is awkward.
IMDonehere is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 01:23 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 42,109
Sure, people run into fellow diners, people at bars and cafés, and such and strike up conversations, IF "the locals" are so inclined (which they most often aren't because they're on their own time and hardly looking to "meet non-locals"), and if there are shared languages, which most often there simply aren't. I understand. People tend to come home with special memories of the beery conversations they had with Gerhardt who bought them a mug at some bar in Berlin or the family that sat opposite them under the stars at some agriturismo outside Siena and shared some local info on where to get the best biftecca alla fiorentina or a local cheesemaker, or the fromagerie they happened upon in the Ardèche that they felt they discovered, and they spent a half-hour talking with the proprietor and learning a few local secrets. Thing is, these interactions mean a thousand times more to the visitors than the locals, which isn't a bad thing, just the way it is.

It's human nature to be intrigued by these sorts of experiences and find them special. They do make great memories. But I consider them to be just "snapshots" of local life. You're right that for the most part the locals aren't out looking to embrace visitors - they're busy. The next step up from this is "living like a local," which is a nice-enough fantasy, but it is definitely a fantasy for most people. Sells a lot of apartment rentals, though.

That said, if you do manage to interact with the locals, there is a wealth of information you can learn from them about history, architecture, culture, cuisine, and so forth.
StCirq is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 22,516
And of course, if you do rent that apartment in a residential area through AirBnB or whatever, you are more likely to seriously annoy any locals in the area than to have a friendly chat with them. (Just ask me how I feel about the AirBnb that started up right across the street from me, in violation of our restrictive covenants. (Although it looks like the second cease and desist letter has got them to pull the listing, if not cancel reservations....))
thursdaysd is online now  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 66,643
Go camping to mix with locals or at least Europeans - campsites are intimate places with little room between campsites (most have camping cars not tents) and folks typically eat outside - I've stayed in zillions of camps and always talked with locals, etc. Camping is kind of like moving into a European neighborhood - great for families as many kids are around and there are usually swimming pools and kids games, etc. And pubs where folks gather at night - if you are in a camp for several days you get to know folks even better.
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:07 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,575
I always like to find out how locals see their town. I often find good live music or fun parks or hikes by talking to locals over beers as you say, stcirq.

But I've never really understood why the "live like locals" is such a powerful marketing tactic. It does work because I see so many posts on the forums along those lines.

But actually living like a local...I mean, I don't know about everyone else but the most exciting "new" spot I've found as a "local" is my current laundromat. And it's terrific, but somehow I don't think that is what most tourists headed to Bellingham really want to hear about...and most tourists don't really need to know about the library system, grocery stores, veterinarians, etc. Pretty sure the "locals" all over the world spend a lot more time obsessing over that type of thing than the local attractions. (Unless it's during high season and then they take a break to obsess over tourist traffic).
marvelousmouse is online now  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 2,586
I like GTG's but am usually considered as a local ;-)

I like StCirq definition of 'snapshots' - in my memory that's what they are.
The Japanese who offered us a bottle of Sake. They didn't speak 2 words of english, we don't speak japanese...
The US tourists we shared our wine with opposite Gare de Lyon.
The tourists we drank a beer with in a Brauhaus in Muenchen.
The Guadeloupean owner of his café we talked to for more than one hour.
The SDF who told my wife she has beautiful eyes, in the subway. The other one with a rat on his shoulder who told me 'I have to leave you, I must ask for money' - and me 'ztart with me, stoopid !'

Not interacting is for me impossible but most interactions are with people from tourism : hotels, restaurants etc. With people who are not necessarily locals... the ones we saw in the caribbeans manning a tourist information were coming from Toronto and Toulouse !
Whathello is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,989
I think many people who mention locals think that the locals speak English or that their inadequate French or Spanish is fluent and will suffice.
Bedar is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:45 PM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 11,243
Almost by definition those staying at campsites are not locals, but other tourists.
Some will be happy to talk but many prefer nothing more than a Morning or Evening as you go about your own business, just as other hotel guests don't necessarily want to strike up a conversation.

If you really want to meet locals stay in a British pub, and drink there. Some old bar bore will be delighted with fresh blood for his stories.

As for living like a local, unless you want to work and shop and juggle child care and worry about bills whilst away, just as you do at home, then you can't live like a local.
hetismij2 is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:47 PM
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 9,171
When we rent we meet locals. We love the big tables in the beer houses because we always get into great conversations with locals. Always at the pubs, twenty years ago we met the nicest couple in a pub and they spent the day with us taking us to places way off the tourist map.
flpab is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 02:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31,780
Certainly I've had lovely conversations with locals - often in restaurants - but those are not enduring relationships. I've met locals at gtgs, and in one case, we developed friendship with a family.

But I agree with others that the "live like a local" and "meet the locals" advertising has little basis in reality. I don't go on vacation to deal with the hassles of everyday life - getting the gas or electricity or air-conditioning to work. Those everyday tasks are what the locals have to do and I don't want to do.
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 03:15 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 5,904
Some of our European friends:

One worked in an art gallery in Madrid (from 1972)

One was a British couple who heard English spoken in a small Perigord restaurant

One became a friend through Fodor's

And a whole bunch through my wife's Camino Walk.
IMDonehere is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 03:23 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,055
Thinking that you're living like a local because you buy a head of lettuce in the market is a bit like "playing house".

I saw someone meeting a local at an outdoor café in our town this morning. He was the town drunk, but in the early morning he's still sitting fairly straight in his chair. He was delighted to find someone who would listen to him for half an hour, and she either didn't realize he was spouting nonsense, or she was awfully polite.
bvlenci is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 05:24 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,536
By far the most rewarding meetings with locals have been Fodor's get-togethers in an assortment of cities in Europe. I have far more insight into life in Portugal, Barcelona, Scotland, London, and probably other places I am leaving out through the people I have met and shared good times with.

But even without Fodor's as a catalyst, I have had many fascinating conversations with people I just met in the course of visiting a city. People who end up telling me their life stories, not just where to find the nearest cheese maker. People who talk about politics, lifestyles, music, all sorts of things. I have always assumed it is because they find it easy to talk about personal things to people who are not part of their lives, and because they are interested in learning about people and the way they think, as I am. Sometimes they are people who have visited the US and sometimes they are people who want to talk about things they have heard about life in the US.

Until I started reading threads like this one on Fodor's, I assumed this was a part of everybody's travel experience.

It is true that the people I have connected with are almost always able to communicate in either English or French, and it would be harder if we had no common language.
Nikki is online now  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 06:05 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,646
No - we don;t go with the aim of "meeting the locals". I used to work with some colleagues in our european branches and we have met then for a dinner or something if in the area.

I have found that meeting local is not something that happens organically unless you are taking a class or some other activity that involves locals and even then it's still a professional or semi-professional capacity.

On numerous trips we have met and had dinner or even spent a day with other tourists - or tourists from other countries - encountered in a hotel or bar or whatever.

But usually locals are too busy with their own lives in areas not in the tourist centers of cities or even countryside.
nytraveler is offline  
Reply With Quote
May 11th, 2016, 08:23 PM
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 507
I don't know about anyone else, but the main reason I've rented apartments in Europe, is simply because I've been traveling with a teenager, who is happiest (and when she's happy, we're all happy, believe me!) having her own room and space; and I like having a kitchen in the morning to make my own coffee and breakfast.
I guess we've met locals at the grocery. I suspect they usually end up annoyed at me, though, because I always forget my own bag and pay with a credit card... If there's a vegetarian restaurant in town, I'll frequent that place multiple times, if it's good. In every town I've done this, the second time, the same waitstaff/owners are there and then they get chatty/friendly with us, and that's nice.
But that would happen if I stayed in a hotel.

And I've always been aware of the fact that my presence in a rental apartment might slightly annoy the other tenants, and we try to not stay out too late or talk too loudly...

I travel to "see the sights", and places, and maybe witness and observe a different culture - but tourist culture is not the same as local culture. I don't know how many locals are hanging out in tourist-y squares and museums on a weekday.

I will say this - I think the farther outside the tourist center you stay, whether in hotel or apartment, the more locals you might interact with, and the more you can get a glimpse of local culture. Our first visit to Paris, we stayed at a hotel on the edge of the city center, too far to walk to the any of the famous sights. We bought a metro pass and took that every day. We did it to save money, but I'm glad we did, because that was such a nice, relaxing and quiet neighborhood to go back to every evening.
It also colored my view of Paris in a more positive light than I'd been led to expect. My very first meal I had in Paris was a crepe at a local creperie, and the young lady running the place that day was exceedingly friendly and smiling, and made us feel so at ease, and welcome. She slowed down her French so I could understand her, and was just very patient with us.
We never got that kind of treatment in the more tourist-y areas (no one was rude, of course, just more formal) and I'm sure it's because service staff probably get tired of Americans with our need for friendly small talk... But to this lady at the creperie on the edge of town - well it was blocks from our hotel, in a residential area, and I got the feeling she didn't get many tourists, and we were as much of novelty to her as she and her food was to us.
BumbleB6 is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:26 PM.