The amount of places in the world that are truly unexplored is rapidly decreasing. What’s worse is that most places are completely globalized, washed clean of too many unique features, customs and ideas. Nothing is more frustrating than traveling to the other side of the world with your Ultimatesafe to find that the same amenities, services and businesses are identical. Immersing yourself in local culture is about finding ways to get underneath the local skin. Find out what defines the people who live there and jump in.
Religious Service You could be the world’s leading atheist and still get something out of a religious service in a foreign country. These services usually only last a few hours and offer incredible insight into local communities and customs. Always check to make sure you’re welcome to participate, or at least welcome to observe. Remain respectful and all times and soak up the intensity, whether it sneaks in on the silences between prayers or rumbles down through a dramatic choir group.
Sporting Event Sporting events are jackpots of cultural immersion. For a good time, grab a home jersey to root for the town you are visiting. For a great time, grab a jersey that represents the visiting team and walk around alone after the game. You never know what might happen, but be assured that it will be memorable. Join in the chants, yell at the referees and live each moment as if you are part of that sporting community.
Holiday Keep an eye out for any holidays that you can take part in. Avoid holidays which are more globalized, like Christmas or Easter, and go for more unusual events. Independence celebrations, parades, riots; whatever involves lots of happy people shutting down an entire town for just a few hours. Blend in with clothing that matches the holiday colors and by finding out what food is associated with the special day. There is always associated food.
Harvest Imagine the lives of orchard pickers featured in John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. Now consider that similar stories play out across the country, across the world, every day. Volunteer or work to harvest the foods of other countries, even if only for a few days. In most cases, business and organizations are desperate for the help and you are desperate for a few stories.
Natural Disaster It’s dangerous and in most cases you can’t plan it, but natural disasters are the most effective way to dive into a culture quickly and powerfully. Consider volunteering in areas of the world struck down by flood, famine, fire and otherwise. The connections made between individuals in distress is far more powerful than anything you’ll get out of a pub happy hour, city guide or language immersion course.