Why It’s Important To Live Like A Local When You Go Abroad
I’m not going to lie, having such a large language barrier in Tokyo made it difficult to step out of my comfort zone and live like a local. It’s easy to get comfortable in popular places and touristy hot spots that had English help. After I got comfortable in the city, I did my best to go out of my way, explore new places, and try to make myself a regular at a few local spots. It was at these places where I made some lasting memories from my study abroad. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to experience life like a local when you are abroad.
Let’s face it; your time abroad is precious. Even though you might be spending six months to a year overseas, time will go by quicker than you think! Use that time wisely, but also take time to enjoy the small things about where you chose to study. Taking different routes to school or to other places can help you catch a glimpse of what everyday life looks like in your town. When I did this in Tokyo, I was able to observe and appreciate the culture in both a different light and in a way that a common tourist would never notice.
The third week into my stay in Japan, a friend and I stumbled into a very small standing-room-only bar only a five-minute walk from our apartment building. This little bar became a frequent go to spot for drinks to wind down after a long week of studying. Not only did we befriend the owner, we also spent many nights mingling with tipsy Japanese that allowed us to practice our language skills.
With taking the unbeaten path you can sometimes find yourself in some cool and unusual situations. For example, the third time I ventured to my neighborhood bar I stumbled into a spontaneous TV show being filmed and became a local celebrity (okay, maybe not a celebrity, but a few people did recognize me). You never know what you may run into.
When I first began my studies in Japan I was a bit hesitant to enter places that local’s hung out and sit amongst them as a foreigner. When I began checking out local events, markets, and eating at local places I was stepping out of my comfort zone and building confidence. I realized I had to use my language skills to survive and improved on them in the process.
Hanging out at local spots may not all be fun and games. Sometimes being an outsider entering places where not many other foreigners hangout can give you good attention while other times it many the wrong impression. While discrimination is not something fun to deal with, it has helped me learn a ton about culture and views of others.
When it comes down to it, living like a local while you are studying abroad allows you to appreciate the culture you are living in. You will never know what unusual encounters you will have when walking down an unbeaten path or what adventure it will lead you to next.