Travel Tip #6: Try to integrate yourself into the local society as much as possible, even if that means stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new local customs.

Words by:

Nyssa P. Chopra

We’ve all heard the clichéd adage: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Some destinations are easier to blend in with locals, while others require a conscious effort on your part. As I write this paragraph, one experience in particular comes to mind. My friends and I were backpacking our way through South India during our study abroad stint in Delhi, India a few years ago. We came across this low-key, but highly-regarded restaurant that was known for its biryani (a spiced rice dish). We ordered the special of the house, which came to us in the form of a mound of rice neatly placed in the center of a banana leaf. Scanning the table, we looked for utensils, but they were nowhere in sight, and in fact, thinking the waiter had just forgotten to stock our table, we looked over at the table next to us, only to discover the real way to enjoy biryani was with our hands. The three of us looked at each other, as if we were getting ready to embark on a daredevil stunt, and with a slight reluctance, we dove right in and completely redefined finger food for ourselves. Though a different experience for all of us, we thought we were getting used to this new custom, that is, until the waiter quietly came up to our table, smiling gently, and discreetly dropped off three spoons. I imagine he picked up on the discomfort that was carved all over our faces. The point is we tried our best, and the locals certainly appreciated it, as we were rewarded with a discount on our bill. Though unknowingly, we were glad to have given them some entertainment.biriyani banana leaf