· 11 months ago

What does it take to be a local?

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Project manager, TravaPowa

After so many destinations that have become places to live, I wonder where I can consider myself a local. In how many places can we feel like locals?

Is local still an appropriate term or has it been so overused that it carries with it divisive overtones (us vs them) in the tourism industry?

11 months ago (edited)
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

To me, being a local is a scale.

Example: When I lived in Bangkok, I probably reached level 2.5 (out of 10) of being a local. A tourist would be 0. A frequent traveler might achieve level 1. Spending more than 6 months in the city and speaking taxi Thai attains level 2. Buying an apartment, opening a bank account and paying my electricity bill and rates in Thai took me to level 2.5 (maybe). Spend the next 20 years living in Thailand, get married, learn the language, and have kids might get you to 5. And so forth 😁

The point about considering "localness" on a scale is not to look down on people who are "less local" than you, but to look up to people "more local" and learn from them. How you choose your scale is up to you!

11 months ago
Project manager, TravaPowa

So it's an exercise in self-awareness and connectedness within a certain place.
How you set the scale tells you what has been important on your personal journey.
I’ll try to apply it to new homes and past homes.
I first have to figure out how to level the “paying the taxes” milestone as in some places it really makes you want to de-localise 😆

11 months ago
General Manager, LATC Turismo

such a great answer, Ian. Loved that!

11 months ago
Sales | Nomad | Photography, ahimsaimages

What does a 'local' do that a tourist doesn't?

11 months ago
Travel Writer/Photographer, Have Glass, Will Travel

We know the shortcuts and back roads to avoid tourist traffic. We know the "dive" bars that a tourist wouldn't visit, but has the best bartender in town. We know the best restaurants with fresh food and low prices that reside in strip malls and shacks. We know not to go to the grocery store on a weekend!

11 months ago
Sales | Nomad | Photography, ahimsaimages

Great. So OP can start here to find some answers.

In saying that though, everything you've described above; all that local 'knowledge', can be acquired in the space of a couple of months. Does that then qualify you as a local?

I don't know. Perhaps it goes deeper than that. Maybe being a local means coming from the land. Maybe it's generational.

Personally, when travelling, I aspire to 'live' like a local - like find the best bartender, get the best prices, know the right day to do the groceries etc. But to 'be' a local, that's reserved for where I was born and where I grew up.

11 months ago
Project manager, TravaPowa

The generational input is interesting. Latest generations seem to develop wider identities probably thanks to technology and the habit of travelling

11 months ago
Head Chef, Travelfish Pty Ltd

I’d sum it up as “You were born on the island or you weren’t.”

Case in point—my two teenagers both have Australian passports, but were born in Indonesia and Thailand, and between them have spent perhaps six months in Oz, versus the vast majority of their lives in Indonesia.

Yet, there’s no way an Indonesian would consider them to be locals, so I think outside looking in, I’d return to my opening quip—you can’t “become” local.

Inside looking out though, as others have mentioned, there’s certain degrees of “local knowledge” one can gain by spending however long in a place, and I guess, the more of that information one absorbs and applies to their day-to-day lives, the more local they may appear in behaviour, mannerisms etcetera, and these are all good things, but overall I think it’s a bit of a funny kind of label to strive for. Ditch the label, keep the learned behaviour.

Also, it’s been woefully miss-applied/overused by the tourism industry, so yeah, more generally, best avoided imo.

11 months ago (edited)
Project manager, TravaPowa

You're right, in the end it depends on the behaviour. Although today getting free, or feeling free, from labels can be tricky.

11 months ago
Entrepreneur, Coffice Prague - Beach Life Porto de Galinhas - 06 Central Hostel - Pleasure Surfcamp, Enter Travel, NOMADSCOOL -

In my case, I think that local or not local is more about a feeling.

I love my country, and I would never, ever choose to be born anywhere else. But it often happens to me when I go there that I no longer feel so local since I don't identify much with the daily lifestyle. However, there are other places in which I feel more comfortable or "local" and they are those in which at this moment in my life I feel more myself on a day-to-day basis.

But I do know that maybe tomorrow this feeling will change, and I will surely go to another place or who knows to my country. I think it's the lovely part of those of us who choose to be open to any possibility and let life and chance take us in different directions.

Likewise, I agree with many that the knowledge that one acquires of the place places us on one side in the local, tourist or slow traveler trilogy.

11 months ago
adventure travel blogger, Liquid Traveling

Having grown up in a place and experienced it from a perspective of a child, teenager, and adult. Having favorite places from each period of one's life; playgrounds, ice cream shops, hiding places ;), bars.

11 months ago
Travel blogger and writer

I can only say my experience and passions of travel when I visit a different country, or have people visit my country (England - specifically London), but it's a balancing act or doing touristy experiences but not thinking that those experiences define the place.

I find there's a large group of travellers (not people on here!!) look down on tourists who, for instance, want to see Buckingham Palace or Big Ben when they visit to London - and that makes me sad. When I visited Paris, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, because it's an iconic symbol of Paris. No matter how many locals told me I shouldn't I still wanted to. And I probably will go and see it again the next time I go!

For me, travelling like a local is seeking out (often free) non-tourist traps to get the same experience as you would do if you paid! I've lived in London for 6 years and still love a view of the city from high up - but I don't go on the London Eye, I visit the Tate Museum or the Sky Garden Of if you want to go further afield, Primrose Hill in North-West London with a picnic at sunset. They're free and you get wonderful views of the city! Londoners visit these places too. Just like Londoners go to a traditional pub and have a pint. And on Sundays we like to go out for a roast. They're stereotypes for a reason :)

Just my thoughts anyway...

11 months ago
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

What if you couldn’t get a seat at your local pub because Lonely Planet added it to their latest book, and the prices went up too?

Perhaps overtourism (and the conflict caused between tourists and locals) is like throwing a house party. If 10 friends turn and each bring a friend to your house, then it’s fun and you enjoy showing some hospitality to your guests.

If your party gets shared on the internet and 1000 people gatecrash it (even with the best of intentions) you’re going to feel pretty upset! And keep repeating that every night… that’s what happening to touristic cities and famous landmarks.

11 months ago (edited)
Travel blogger and writer

Very good points Ian!

11 months ago
Tour guide & Tour operator, MTT-Marta Tours & Trips

From my 10 years experience as a Guide I consider myself a local for the following reasons. First, I am a native to the country I guide. I offer authentic experience to travelers, something different from their day to day life. Most of my tours benefits local communities and nature.

I consider also a travelers been local when their trips benefit local people. Stay in locally lodges, prefer local restaurants, markets, use local transport. Experience trip that bring you closer to local people and nature.

11 months ago
Project manager, TravaPowa

A certain scale of knowledge, sense of belonging, and sense of responsibility sounds like a good combination (although not all locals act responsibly).
I'm struggling to find a clear answer on the benefits that a tour can bring locally, even though I've been studying it for some time. Perhaps it's another topic worth opening a debate on ;)

11 months ago
Tour guide & Tour operator, MTT-Marta Tours & Trips

Well said Eugenio,
Knowledge, sense of belonging, and sense of responsibility are aspect that count a lot to be considered a local.

11 months ago
Photo Journalist, RK Journeyman

I have lived here 50 years. Both children were born here. Maybe the next generation would be considered local. But she doesn't live here...

9 months ago
Cofounder at a social nomad app, www.punta.app

I consider oneself a local in a place when you start getting bothered by tourist behavior.

9 months ago
Founder, Scapade

Being a "local" transcends mere geographical proximity; it's about fostering genuine connections with the community and respecting its traditions, values, and environment.

To truly embody the essence of being a local, it takes a holistic approach that goes beyond surface-level tourism. It involves immersing oneself in the local culture, engaging with locals on a personal level, and actively contributing to the well-being of the community.

For our startup, being a local means prioritizing local businesses, artisans, and guides who intimately understand their surroundings and are passionate about preserving their heritage. It means designing experiences that offer travelers authentic insights into the local way of life while minimizing our ecological footprint.

Moreover, being a local entails giving back to the community in meaningful ways. This could involve supporting local conservation efforts, investing in infrastructure projects that benefit the community, or even empowering local entrepreneurs through skill-building workshops and fair trade initiatives.

Ultimately, being a local is a mindset—a commitment to fostering sustainable practices within the community and nurturing a deep respect for the places we visit. It's about leaving a positive impact on both the environment and the people who call it home. At the end of the day, it could also mean understanding and accepting that the term 'local' can't apply to you no matter how hard you try.

1 month ago
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What does it take to be a local?

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What does it take to be a local? was posted by Eugenio De Gregorio in Discussion . Featured on Jul 19, 2023 (11 months ago). What does it take to be a local? is rated 5/5 ★ by 1 member.
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