Pics or it didn't happen. That's the kind of mindset I had while I traveled on weekends during my semester abroad. With cheap Ryanair flights all around Europe, I planned on cramming as many sights as I could possibly see in the short 72 hours I had in any given city. I thought this would be the best way to experience the local cultures and environments of the cities I was visiting.

I spent time planning and Googling "must sees" in the city I was in to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything spectacular. It didn't ever really feel like I was truly embracing all that each city had to offer; I wanted to immerse myself in other cultures and try new things. 

While I loved sightseeing and wandering around cities, nothing compared to the sight, smell and taste of food to better understand my surroundings. It really hit me when I was in Galway, Ireland, walking around the city, when I realized seeing the city isn't the same as experiencing the city. I didn't want to feel like a tourist going through the motions, seeing the must-sees according to TripAdvisor. I wanted to really experience the city for all the history and richness it has to offer. 

I put away my phone and stopped trying to find the best bites via Yelp. I stumbled around the city center and asked locals where the best spot was to grab a bite to eat. I loved finding hidden gems, but being able to interact with other people was the best part. 

Getting a Local Taste

Katherine Liu

The Pie Maker, Galway, Ireland

We were pointed in the direction of a small pie shop that served delicious savory and sweet pies! I ordered a Beef and Guinness Pie with a side of potatoes, peas and pickled vegetables. We even chatted up the owner and listened to him tell his story of how he founded the place!

Interacting With Locals

pizza, beer, tea, coffee
Katherine Liu

Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland 

What's a good time in Ireland without a pint (of Guinness) at your favorite pub? Especially at a place where Guinness and whiskey flow like water? There is no shortage of pubs in Ireland, especially ones with live music! The atmosphere is great and friendly, guaranteed with lots of craic (Irish slang for good fun), especially when everyone is singing along to "Wonderwall" by Oasis. You bet that pubs are the place to be when watching a rugby game!

It surprised me how often local Irish people would interact and make conversation with me when I was out and about. On more than one occasion, I will be eating with a friend when the table next to us would strike up a conversation. People will talk you up at the pub, on the bus and even on the streets. The Irish are the friendliest and most welcoming bunch.

Eating locally was the best way to experience the culture and interact with locals! Food brings people together. It brings cultures together. Enjoying authentic food in each city you travel to is a great way to feel immersed in the city.