Connecting with people from other cultures is IT. It’s why most adventure travelers love traveling. Hanging out with locals (and nonlocals), trying their food, hearing their stories over dinner in their homes, continues to prove itself as the most gratifying of experiences and Brooklyn’s favorite part of this nomadic life.
We want to see how people are somewhere else. We want to see what they eat, what they love, how they live, how they raise their children, what their schools look like, what challenges they face every day.
And while nothing substitutes for one-on-one interaction, the following are a few ways you can make the introductions.
What Does the Music Look Like?
Music needs no champion. Its longevity, influence, and connecting powers speak for themselves.
What’s more is its ability to expose a culture’s core. To open it in a way that no other form or medium allows.
Notes and lyrics do more than entertain. They speak of history, struggle, and hopes. It comforts and it provokes.
Music reveals the heart of a people.
So, naturally, this provides an ideal avenue to embrace a culture.
The question is, how can you help with the introduction? What details can you provide? What stories can you uncover? What voices can you spotlight?
Questions to Get You Started Talking about Music:
- What are the roots?
- Who were the pioneers?
- How did the instruments come about?
- Where can Brooklyn go to see the best, quintessential music?
- Who are the musicians?
- What kind of instruments do they use?
- Are there songs that everyone in that area/country knows that are sentimental or speak to a time? Maybe that came out of a difficult period? Like a political regime? Or similar to how Blues came out of slavery in the United States?
- Who are the artists? Old and new?
- How has it evolved over time?
- What are the best venues?
- What are the best hidden secrets?
What About the Art Scene?
“Buenos Aires is known for its street art. With no laws preventing this style, graffiti covers walls and creates an artistic, creative, and distinctly engaging feeling about the city,” Brooklyn says. “You feel inspired every day, wondering what amazing creativity you will see next.”
This makes just walking around San Telmo, Palermo, or one of the other 48 barrios, completely fascinating and exciting.
Like a treasure hunt.
“What it also does is give great insight into the people. What they care about as individuals and as a collective. Even if you never had a conversation with these people, especially with the possible language barrier, the art speaks for them. And it says a lot about a city that lets its people feel free to create.”
But Brooklyn wants to know more.
How did it get started? Why has the city let it go? Who are the famous artists? Those more renowned? What do the other porteños feel about it? What do they think it says about who they are? How does it separate this culture from other cultures? How does it uniquely identify them? For some cultures, art is the lifeblood…the inspiration, the clue. How can we see this more clearly? What can we get out of this? How do they do it? How did they learn?
Also, don’t just consider paint and canvas. Remember to include the literary and theatrical traditions.
Questions to Get You Started Talking About the Arts:
- Where is the best place to see this?
- How can Brooklyn get the most out of it?
- Tell her about the artists. Why do they do what they do?
- What about the artists that are more local, street, not in a museum?
- What does the style say about the culture as a whole?
- How has the form changed over time?
- How did the artist come to this work, this style, this painting, this space, this work?
- What is the current discussion in the art community? Is there a prevalent movement?
What Are Your Sports?
Humans are physical. Active. Competitive. So it goes without saying that an outlet that encourages the development and exploitation of such traits fits seamlessly into society. Simultaneously dividing and uniting impassioned hearts all over cities, states, territories, countries. The world.
Wear Giants colors at the Eagles stadium? Sorry, buddy, but you’re fair game. Tell an Aussie you’re an All Blacks diehard and be ready. Express your love of soccer/football in Brazil, and you’re bound to find instant friends.
Sports aren’t simply entertainment. They’re alive and foster cyclical relationships with those who follow them. They mold the people, and the people mold them. You cannot look at the United States without considering how baseball has played a role in the fabric of Americana.
What sports get your people in the stands?
Questions to Get You Started Talking Sports:
- What are the sports in your area?
- Are there particular teams or rivalries?
- Who are the standout players?
- How did the game come to the area?
- How does it affect the area? Do stores shut down during game time? Are the stadiums standing-room only?
What Can You Tell Us About the Language?
With the 2011 Census reporting that native speakers have risen from 85,000 to 94,000 in just 5 years, Gaelic continues to make a strong comeback in Ireland. The language had taken a hit due to the nationalization of education, famine, and the dominance of the English language.
Knowing this offers us a doorway into the history of the country, as well as the mindset of those committed to maintaining tradition.
It also sets the stage for a host of questions.
How do those maintaining the integrity of the language feel about those who have no interest in it? How are they going to ensure its longevity continues? How has the acceptance of English affected the overarching culture?
Brooklyn believes language speaks to a location’s lifestyle. She says, “Many people don’t know that Spanish is heavily influenced by Arabic. This just shows how, through further investigation, we can uncover truths about a people, learn from where they came, and inform their future.”
And not just verbal language.
Making up over 80 percent of communication, nonverbal plays a major part in how humans convey information. In Japan, it’s considered rude to accept a gift with only one hand, and one should even decline it several times. As a certain President learned the hard way, in some countries the OK (thumb and index finger in a circle) sign means something completely different than it does in the States.
For travelers, it’s important to know these things.
What about slang and idioms? For some locales, this comprises a significant thread of the culture. But to outsiders, they can be darn confusing.
Brooklyn says, “I have a friend from Mississippi, who, before going out to a party one night, said she was going to go ‘Slap on the dog.’ Turns out that’s Deep South for ‘I’m going to rally, get dressed, and pretend like I want to be out, even though I’d rather be on the couch in pajamas eating ice cream.’ Sayings like that add color, character, and maybe to some, a bit of the bizarre. But it’s authentic.”
Questions to Get You Started Talking about Language:
- How many languages are spoken?
- How did the language(s) come to be?
- What do locals talk about? What don’t they talk about? And why?
- Are there taboo topics you just don’t talk about?
- Are there pleasantries you’re expected to engage in before getting to the point? In Italy you don’t just dive in and ask for directions at a shop. It’s considered rude if you don’t at the very least say hello to the other person and ask how they are. But in Spain, when ordering food or talking to a shop clerk, they often skip the pleasantries and say “Dime,” or “Tell me.”
- What are some common sayings? Uuufff in many Spanish-speaking countries. Sweet Az in New Zealand. Tranquilo in Venezuela. No worries in Australia. Allora in Italy.