I recently got the chance to travel to Barcelona for work to teach a two-day workshop. I decided to extend my stay a bit before and after to get some vacation time and check out the famous city.
I already talked a bit about how I like to try to get to know the attitude of a city, and have some specific things I try to learn. One is getting the physical walk of the city down well enough that sidewalk tourist sales people ignore me. I can usually execute it well enough to not be bothered within 2-3 days.
This time I also tried to go even deeper in understanding the attitude behind the walk, not just the physical movement of it. I always have to get a little bit of the attitude correct for it to work, but this time seemed harder to me for some reason. I think it might be because the attitude is so different from my own that it took more work.
When I travel to a city and have time to walk around, I really love to try to understand the attitude of the city and the people who live there. Of course I can never really learn that from just vacationing or working there for a few days, but I always try to internalize the feeling a bit and get my own interpretation.
I have a few systems to determine how well I’m doing. For example, it’s a good sign when most of the time the store checkout person doesn’t just assume English even though I’ve got American written all over me. Another one is that when I’m in a tourist-heavy area, I’m ignored by the people passing out flyers and trying to get us to go to their events. That trick is mostly down to walking style and confidence matching the locals. It usually takes me 2-3 days to get it down enough that I’m totally ignored by tourist-seekers. I really love that stage, because I can walk around and be ignored by everyone. I can make eye-contact and smile at those people instead of trying to avoid them so I don’t have to say no ten times to get away.