I have read the guidebooks, have surfed on the ‘net, and talked to people who use the term “get local.” How do you really “get local?” And do you really want to do that?
Yes, you do want to do that. Getting local requires some extra effort on your part. You have definitely started on the right track by asking someone in the know. You need to know a lot about the places you are visiting, prior to going. Guidebooks, the web, and other people are all great sources of information for those great out-of-the-way spots that only the locals know about. Research will help you to understand the area, but there is nothing like having your own local to show you the way. Or at least, maybe a concierge from your hotel can help you find someone who has been there, and knows the place like the back of their hand.
If you are on your own, you can still score a good “local” experience. Wherever it is you are going, you will still want to see the major attractions. It is not as if you would go all the way to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower! In cities such as Paris, or domestically like your home town of Shaker Heights or Walla Walla, you do not have to wonder far to see how the Parisians or locals live. Be prepared to do some walking! Go behind the big sites; wonder those streets, pop into those local music stores or neighborhood coffee shops. Don’t be afraid to ask the other customers or employees for other suggestions. Being respectful and engaging can get you a long way, and may attract local friends who can truly “take you out on the town!”
Have a great trip!