- Carry something to share. Stop by the local market and buy a half kilo (a little over a pound) of an easy to share food. I recommend oranges or dried fruit. Throughout the day, offer some to the people around you. Even if they don’t accept, it’s a great way to break the ice.
- Learn these 5 phrases in the local language: hello, thank you, delicious, beautiful, fun.Locals are often flattered by your attempt to speak their tongue. Strike up a conversation with someone, even with just these few words and hand signals, you can have a great exchange.
- Always accept a meal, even if it is something as unusual as insects or as odd smelling as durian. As a vegetarian, this gets a little trickier. Typically, if I let people know, they will offer me something else. But there have been occasions when I’ve made exceptions, such as the time that a grandmother hand fed me chicken as part of a ritual in Thailand, or a woman in Cambodia insisted (I couldn’t refuse her more than three times!) that I try the red ant rice salad. It was delicious.
- Support small local businesses. One of my favorite ways to meet women in southeast Asia is to get my hair done. I try to find a small shop located in someone’s house where I get my hair washed (usually with a great scalp massage), conditioned and dryed, all for just a couple of dollars. I spend time chatting with the other customers, playing with the kids and appreciating the attention. Also, try smaller guest houses, locally owned restaurants and small boutiques or shops.
- Smile!! A smile is something that translates across almost all boundaries. Be open, respectful and gracious and others will respond in kind.
What are some ways that you’ve met locals while on the road?