4 ways to spend a day out in a cultural neighborhood

Outside an Okinawan pork restaurant in downtown Naha

Traveling isn't always easy to fit into our schedules or budgets, but there's always a bit of exploring you can do locally to discover new things. When you get the itch, find a little ethnic area of town to spend the day or even a few hours exploring. It'll provide the perfect way to move out of your normal routine and get that cultural fix you may be craving. Here are a few quick tips on where you should aim to spend your time:

1. Find an eatery that specializes in a traditional dish.

If you're gonna go exploring, you really must find a local restaurant, bakery, or specialty food store that provides a traditional ethnic dish. Try it out, taste the flavors, ask how it's prepared, and get to know the story behind how and when people enjoy it. Who knows? You may find a new meal you absolutely love or even an ingredient that adds some kick to a dish.

Specialty food store in Naha, Okinawa

2. Check out the street scene.

There's usually a lot to be said for the busy streets of a neighborhood. You can learn how people spend their days and interact with each other by hanging out on the street for a bit. Go early to watch the shop owners tidying up for the day. Look at the way the buildings, stores, and restaurants are decorated. You can even plan your day out for a special holiday to get a glimpse into how the culture celebrates the days important to them. However you choose to do it, the act of soaking in the atmosphere will give you much more appreciation for the way others live.

A little green streetscape outside a tea restaurant in Naha, Okinawa

3. Go to a local market.

By far, my favorite way to discover new ingredients is to go to an ethic market. There will be so many interesting foods that aren't typically seen at the local grocery store, and the best part is you can just take them right home to try! That's the beauty of a quick trip to a local neighborhood. Trying new flavors and food combinations is well within your grasp once you find a local ethic market that you like.

A shopkeeper at the local market in Naha, Okinawa

4. Have a chat with a local.

Learning about a different culture includes seeing what makes the community unique and special through their own perspective. An insider view is always helpful to understand any do's and don'ts that are culturally specific, the history behind the traditions, and what's important to their way of life. Try sitting down with them for at least ten minutes to get a sense of how all this fits together.

Now, put all four of these tips together, and your bound to have a great day out.  Just remember to be willing to try new things and use the day to broaden your horizons. You'll feel like you got your travel fix in no time!

Kristen KingComment