Making friends with locals when traveling can create lifelong friendships that you will forever cherish. More importantly, friendships with natives can score you free lodging, food and the best tour guide money can’t buy. If your intentions are good, you can encourage these sorts of friendships everywhere you go, as long as you know where to look and how to act.
Step 1: Location
The first step in finding new international friends is picking the right location to begin searching. If you are lucky enough to end up in a town with a university, head there immediately and look for the international studies, anthropology or history department. If you are without a university, head to any amiable gathering of young people including church services and
Step 2: Selecting a Target
Look for locals that are of approximately the same age and social status as you. Keep in mind that your new beard and unwashed clothes may make you look older and more poor than you actually are. On rare occasions, you may have luck selecting an older target who has more money, food and wisdom to share with you, but don’t count on it.
Step 3: Setting the Bait
Strike up a conversation with your target. Try to avoid talking about being a foreigner needing a place to stay…At least for now. Discuss food, weather, and any other neutral topic to give that person time to ask you questions about yourself. Once they ask, freely discuss your epic backpacking adventure, hinting at how it’s hard to find a decent place to sleep and eat on a budget.
Step 4: Encourage Kindness
This is not the time to be too polite. If you are offered a free place to stay and eat, take it for everything it’s worth. Be courteous and thankful, but accept whatever they are willing to offer. Keep in mind that these experiences often foster new friendships and are not necessarily about getting as much free stuff as possible.
Step 5: Seal the Deal
Once you’ve established a connection with someone, be awesome. Offer to clean dishes if they serve you a meal, offer to help with any household chores that you see them doing, be tactful, respectful and kind. In other words, imagine you just opened your home to a foreign stranger and are slightly terrified of stumbling upon them shaving your cat or drinking all your beer; both terrible houseguest acts.