Text by Shreya Acharya
Image from Shutterstock
There are numerous tribes around the world that boast a stunning diversity of cultures, practices and beliefs. As such, visiting the people of these tribes can prove to be a memorable and fruitful learning experience – so long as one knows just how to make the most of their visit.
Here are 6 ways to immerse yourself in a tribe’s culture for the ultimate local experience.
1. Do your research
Every tribe has its own set of customs and traditions that are very important to daily life. To really appreciate how the locals live, do your research before your trip.
Read up on how people greet each other, how they say hello, and how they feel about eye contact. Check whether people remove their shoes inside and whether they wear certain types of clothing. Some cultures are very sensitive about their customs, and some tradition-minded locals may take offense to a tourist disregarding or disrespecting their customs.
The more awareness you have of how people act and carry themselves in a particular tribe, the more you will blend in with locals, and thus have a more authentic experience of the tribe’s natural rhythm and culture. Tribal people will appreciate your efforts, and respect you more for being willing to immerse yourself into their culture.
2. Learn some of the language
You don’t have to be fluent, but trying to pick up a few useful words is doable. Learn how to say simple words like “hello”, “please” and “thank you.” It may even be helpful to learn how to say “I don’t speak (local language)”, or “Do you speak English?” to help navigate certain situations.
3. Venture beyond the tourist attractions
Tourist attractions are usually flooded with people for a reason: Most of them are stunning and have a significant place in the history and culture of a country. But you can learn even more about local culture by trying to find the places that are special to the locals and unknown by the tourists!
Speaking the local language can come in handy here, as you can ask locals for ideas for interesting places to go. When you venture away from tourist crowds and hotspots, you discover architecture and hidden beauty that reveals so much more to you about the country you’re visiting. This gives you a more unique experience and is usually way more exciting than just snapping photos of the typical wellknown spots.
4. Indulge in local food and drinks
Food is a massive part of a culture. When you eat and drink what the locals do, you are actively immersing yourself in that culture through your senses and your tastebuds.
5. Engage in the arts
Art, in every shape or form, is essential to understanding tribal culture. People express so much emotion about the human experience through art, so you can really understand the vibe of a place through observing local art. You will learn so much about the history and current lifestyle of a country with this method of cultural immersion.
This last tip for immersing yourself in a tribe’s culture takes things a step further. If you want a deeper, richer cultural experience and are staying somewhere for a few weeks or more, try to work with or for a local. Volunteering can benefit you educationally and spiritually, and allows you to create a deeper bond and connection with a tribe, thus bringing you closer to the local culture.
To explore the fascinating cultures of several Asian tribes and read more stories from around Asia, get your copy of Asian Geographic Issue 2 /2020 here.