The chance to experience different cultures is one of the best things about travel. 

My love of learning about new cultures actually preceded my love of travel. It was a fascination with other humans and how they live that led me to become a linguist – and that, in turn, sparked my love for travel. 

If anything my fascination with other cultures has only grown as I’ve travelled the world.

While travel will always be my favourite way to dive into a new culture, you certainly don’t need to travel to learn about different cultures around the world!

As a linguist and foregin language graduate, I have plenty of experience in getting to know other cultures without travelling. And, while nothing beats experiencing a culture first hand, there are plenty of ways to get to know it from home. 

Whether you’re planning your next trip, reminiscing about your last one or looking for a travel substitute, here are the best ways to experience different cultures without actually travelling.

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How to learn about different cultures around the world
 

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Why experience different cultures

Learning about new cultures opens up a whole new world – literally. When you understand the culture you’re visiting, you have a much deeper travel experience that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. You can’t beat it.

But what if you can’t travel? Even if you don’t plan to travel, there are loads of benefits to experiencing different cultures.

  • It can open your mind to new ideas
  • You might discover a new passion
  • You can build new relationships
  • You’ll build better relationships when you do travel 
  • You’ll learn about your own culture and identity 

These are just a few of the many benefits of learning about different cultures around the world. And, luckily, there are lots of fun and immersive ways to experience different cultures every day – so you can reap all of the benefits from home!


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How to learn about different cultures around the world

The best way to immerse yourself in a new culture will depend on your own learning style. 

The four main learning styles are Visual (images), Auditory (listening and speaking), Read & Write (words) and Kinesthetic (hand-on).

While you’ll want to try a little bit of everything to get to know a new culture intimately, I recommend starting with your usual learning style. This is how you best interact with the world, so you’ll probably find yourself more immersed this way. 

 

I’ve broken the following ways of learning about different cultures down so you can find ideas to suit your learning style. 

I’ve personally used all of these to learn about cultures and excel my language learning. But, they’re also great ways to prepare for a trip or enjoy experiential “travel” from home.

No matter how much or how little time you have, there should be something for you. Feel free to skip ahead to the section that interests you most!


READ NEXT: How (and why) to get out of your travel comfort zone.


How to experience different cultures through reading

One of the easiest ways to learn about a different culture is to pick your reading material wisely. 

Whether you’re a regular reader of haven’t picked up a book in years, here are some ways to experience different cultures through words.

1 – Read a novel set in the country

At the end of 2019, I made a pact to read at least one book from every country I visited. 

Not only does it get me excited for my upcoming trips, but it also helps me appreciate the culture before I arrive. 

I also love reading books set in countries I’m unlikely to visit soon. I recently finished The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, a novel set in Afghanistan, and learned a lot about the Afghani mentality. 

Fiction is a great way to learn about another culture because the culture’s quirks are often concealed in the details. As an outsider, it allows you to draw your own conclusions and experience the culture in the same kind of way that you would when travelling there. 

Some of my other favourite novels include The Kite Runner (also Afghanistan) and Memoirs of a Geisha (Japan).

 

2 – Read a foreign language novel

If you can speak a foreign language, reading books in that language will teach you a lot. 

If you don’t speak another language, the English translation can also teach you a lot. There are different styles of translation, but most novels are translated as literally as possible – meaning you keep the linguistic nuances that can reveal a lot about a culture.


Travelling full-time in Japan

3 – Read an autobiography

If fiction isn’t your thing, reading an autobiography is a great way to get to know a culture through words. 

When reading autobiographies, you can choose a book on whatever interests you most. From an Indian entrepreneur to a Greek fashion designer, choose something that indulges your other interests if you can. 

I’m currently reading Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, and learning a whole lot about apartheid. Even after having lived in Cape Town, the book is a real eye-opener about modern South African society.

 

4 – Read a travelogue 

If you’re not really into reading, a travelogue might change that. 

If you love travel, it’s hard not to enjoy travelogues. They throw you into the action and take you on a journey from your own home – perfect for when you can’t physically travel. 

Bill Bryson is the undisputed king of travelogues, but he’s not the only one. Just take a look at how many there are on Amazon!

Like novels, I love finding travelogues for my upcoming destinations. I recently read “Not Tonight, Josephine” before embarking on my own road trip around the United States. It was a great reminder of what to keep in mind when travelling the USA!

5 – Read a local newspaper 

You don’t need to speak another language to read another country’s newspapers. Many of them come in English, especially if there are lots of expats living there.

More than just news, reading a newspaper can give you an insight into the culture that you won’t find elsewhere. 

Sure, you’ll see what topics are important and what angle they take. But, more than that, you’ll see what kind of ads feature and what other features they include. Perhaps there’s a dating page, a food section or an opinion column – this is where you’ll really get to know the culture.


TRAVEL TIP

Did you know that you can access magazines and newspaper via Kindle, as well as a huge range of books?

With Kindle Unlimited, you can download up to ten publications at a time, completely free of charge.  My Kindle is one of my favourite travel essentials, but you can also download the Kindle app on your phone.

Click here to get a whole month free and try out Kindle Unlimited. 


6 – Read travel blogs

Okay, this one may be a little obvious! But, with so many travel blogs out there, there’s a lot that can be learned. 

From story-focused blogs to expat adventures, there are endless blogs out there to lose yourself in.
 

 

7 – Open a guidebook 

Of course, there’s always the old-fashioned way too. 

While guidebooks may not always be up-to-date for long, they often have some unique cultural insights. At the very least, they’re great for getting a general vibe for a place and its people. 

Lonely Planet is still my favourite when it comes to guide books. They usually have a three for two offer here, and also make their guides available via the app.


D'Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Things you can watch to learn about other cultures  

Prefer watching to reading? Here are some ways to learn about different cultures around the world from the screens you have at home.

8 – Watch a documentary 

One of the easiest ways to learn about different cultures is through documentaries. Netflix has loads of great options and updates them constantly, so it’s a great place to start.

At the time of writing, current documentaries include Street Food Asia – which explores the lives of the people behind Asia’s street food – Magical Andes – which follows five people’s connections to the Andes Mountains – and Tales by Light, which looks at people and cultures from new angles.

 

9 – Watch a movie set there

If you’re more of a fiction fan, there are also plenty of movies to choose from! Even though the stories might be fictional, the cultural aspects will be based on reality. 

Some of my favourite movies from other cultures include Caramel, which shows the daily lives of five women in Beirut, and Amélie, which shares the story of a quirky Parisian waitress. 

10 – Watch a local TV series 

This is probably one of my favourite ways to learn about different cultures (and learn the language, too!). Watching TV series is a great way to experience the daily life in different cultures and familiarise yourself with life in another country. 

Once again, you’ll find plenty of options on Netflix. I’m currently getting into Justice, a drama series about a female lawyer in Abu Dhabi. 

You can find plenty on local TV stations too – many of them are online now. I used to watch French soap operas when I was adapting to life in France, so there’s something for everyone!


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11 – Watch YouTube travel vlogs 

Travel vlogs are a great way to get a glimpse of another culture and, if the vlogger spends enough time there, get to know a new culture. 

Some channels that dive deeper into the cultural side of things include Gareth Leonard and Indigo Traveller.

12- Watch YouTube vlogs by locals

You don’t need to watch travel vlogs to learn about other cultures! In fact, ordinary day to day vlogs might give you an even greater insight.

As with autbiographies, you can watch anything that interests you. If it’s by a vlogger from a different culture, you’re sure to learn something.
 

 

Duolingo app


How to learn about other cultures from home

Want to actually feel like you’re learning? These ideas will help you experience different cultures while learning something in the process.

13 – Learn a language 

One of the best ways to understand a different culture is through its language. Without language, there will be always a barrier of some kind.

Even if you don’t become fluent, understanding the basics of a language will teach you a lot about the people who speak it. 

I’ve bought unlimited access to all languages on Rosetta Stone and highly recommend it for language learning. If you’re not as language-crazy as me, you can start with just one language for as little as £9 per month – that’s just 30p per day!


Click here to save 30% on Rosetta Stone with the code ‘UNLIMITED30’


14 – Enrol in a course

There are endless courses online nowadays. I even have some of my own

When it comes to learning about other cultures, you can study pretty much anything you like from the comfort of your home. From Korea’s global position to Chinese philosophy, there’s a whole world of ways to immerse yourself in a new culture – or part of one – through online courses.

15 – Take a class

Don’t have the time (or commitment level) for a full course? Or simply don’t know what you want to learn? Why not try a one-off class!

You can learn a surprising amount about a culture from a single class, especially when it has an important cultural significance. From sushi making to Arabic calligraphy, there are loads of way to experience different cultures in a short time.

 

16 – Try a new way of living 

If you don’t want to spend time learning about another culture, why not bring the culture into your daily life?

Replace your usual skincare regime with the 10-step Korean method. Schedule time in the working day for a Swedish style “fika“.  And, when things don’t go to plan, accept it like the Japanese as “Wabi-Sabi“.


traditonal japanese house in kanazawa
Visiting Japan was one of my most transformative travel experiences – but you don’t need to go there to learn from the culture!

Listening to learn about different cultures

Are you an auditory learner? You’ll probably enjoy these easy (listening) ways to learn about different cultures.

17 – Listen to a podcast

Just like books, TV shows and movies, there are plenty of podcasts out there to suit all interests.

Doha Heat shares true stories about life in Qatar while The Renovation Generation is a series of interviews with young people in Vietnam.

 

18 – Listen to an audio book

Prefer fiction? Audiobooks are growing rapidly! With more being added everyday, you can find many novels, autobiographies and travelogues in audio form. 

If you’re new to Audiobooks, make sure you take advantage of this great deal to get an entire month for free.

19 – Listen to music 

One of the easiest ways to experience different cultures is to listen to the music. 

With a subscription service like Spotify or Amazon Music, you can easily throw on a playlist from anywhere in the world. 

I love listening to music in languages I don’t speak while working. Not only is it not distracting, but it helps me get to know a new culture without trying.


A woman sat on a chair pensively

Things you can do to learn about cultures around the world

Even if you’re not a kinesthetic learner, you can have fun immersing yourself in a different culture. And, as these ideas prove, you don’t need to travel to do it!

20 – Visit a museum 

When I lived in London, I spent a LOT of time at the British Museum. I absolutely loved the Islamic Art exhibit there, and learned something new every time I visited. 

Most cities have museums to enjoy, and many of them have temporary exhibits – often from around the world. Whether you’re a fan of history, art or science, you can learn a lot in your home town.

And, when you can’t get out to the museums themselves, there are plenty of virtual tours to enjoy too. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea has six floors to explore virtually. Or, learn about the history that shaped modern day Mexico in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

 

21 – Volunteer 

Years ago, I set up a women’s group for local refugees in my town. As well as helping those women settle into life in the UK, I formed stronger bonds than I ever could have imagined. In doing so, I learned a lot about Afghanistan and Afghani culture.

If you don’t have any opportunities nearby or can’t get out, you can volunteer online. If you can speak another language, Translators Without Borders are always looking for volunteers. Otherwise, the UN posts lots of opportunities on its website.

22 – Explore a destination’s photography

One of the reasons why I love travel photography is because I love capturing the soul of a place and its people. Looking at photos can teach you a lot about a place – and it’s fun, too!

Explore hashtags on Instagram, scroll websites like National Geographic or search for photographers from your chosen destination.


travel instagram feed
I love using my Instagram to share snapshots and stories from other cultures.

23 – Try the cuisine 

If you’ve read much of this travel blog, you’ve probably realised that I love exploring new places through food! A culture’s food is always tied to its history, politics and values. Even in Colombia, where I didn’t expect to care about food, the things I ate taught me a lot about the culture

Visiting a restaurant is a great way to try a new cuisine. But, if you can’t get out to do that, you can also enjoy trying new foods at home. Find a recipe online or enrol in an online cooking class.

 

24 – Talk to people

You don’t need to travel somewhere to connect with the people who live there! While I’d avoid sites that set up “pen pals” or could be used as dating sites (unless you want that!), it’s probably easier than you think to find friends in foreign places. 

As a former language student and full-time traveller, I have friends scattered all over the world. If someone came to me looking to connect with someone in any country, I could probably help them out.

Admittedly, finding people online can be a little hard if you don’t have any connections. But, when you do it, it’s a great way to get to know a different culture and meet new friends.

25 – Google your curiosities 

From your after-dinner Turkish Delight to the Swedish furniture you spent the morning building, other cultures are all around you. 

Have you ever considered the story behind your Colombian coffee? Maybe you’ve watched Trevor Noah’s stand up shows but never understood all of his references to South Africa. What about your favourite wine?

The world is all around you – and you’ll learn a lot by simply Googling the things you come across every day.

 

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Experience different cultures without leaving home
 

Alajode UK travel blog and vlog by a female digital nomad
Jodie Marie Dewberry

Jodie has been travelling the world full time since 2017, sharing the most unique places in the world along with tips for living as a digital nomad. She is a passionate wildlife photographer and has worked with a number of prominent travel brands, including airlines, tourism boards, hotels and tour operators.

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