June 2013: Be A Local

You are here by joelogon Flickr feed via CC by 2.0.
You are here by joelogon Flickr feed via CC by 2.0.

For those of us who live in a constant cycle of breaking down and setting up house, digging in and getting to know your local community can feel a bit like an exercise in futility. I mean, why fall in love with a place if you’re just going to turn around and leave it in a year or two?

Because it’s home. Even if it’s only temporary.

Next to the logistics of setting up home, getting to know your new stomping grounds is an absolute must. Of course, you want to cover your basics like the location of the nearest:

  • Grocery store/big box store
  • Home improvement store
  • Emergency room
  • Drive thru coffee shop (no, just me?)

And then you start digging into the real quality of life stuff like access to:

  • Gyms & Fitness Centers
  • Restaurants/Food Scene
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Malls & Shopping
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Sporting venues

Some places like where I am in Tampa, Florida, have it all. And some places don’t. I remember when we lived in Navarre, Florida (Hurlburt Field) things were not as convenient as they are here, but I had the best circle of friends ever and a pretty tightknit albeit quirky community, which is something that I lack in Tampa.

Each place has its perk…our job is to find it and be open to new and exciting experiences.

live like locals

Do What the Locals Do

I think that one of the keys to becoming a local is figuring out what the locals do and then do it!  Here’s a little bit of how I’ve incorporated living like a local  with each of our PCS moves:

RAF Lakenheath (Thetford, England)

  • Lived off base
  • Shopped the local markets rather than relying solely on the Commissary
  • Left my US car at home and bought a UK spec car
  • Made friends with my British neighbors
  • Embraced smaller living and internalized the importance of supporting small business

Hurlburt Field (Fort Walton Beach, FL)

  • Joined a community gym
  • Frequented toddler programs at the local gymnastics club & zoo
  • Bought local honey to fend off allergies
  • Embraced beach life…I even got an annoying “Salt Life” decal for my car

  MacDill AFB (Tampa, FL)

  • Hibernate during the summer heat and make the most of the off-tourist seasons
  • Enjoy local festivals and arts
  • Swap lattes for café con leches
  • Get more comfortable speaking Spanish (I’ve always been a shy speaker)

I love learning new approaches to living and grabbing bits and pieces of local culture as I go!  How have you embraced the local culture with each move?  How do you live like the locals?


  1. lifeisanadventure

    Fantastic attitude! We try and approach it the same way whether we’re in our home country (Australia) or overseas like now. We’ve lived in places that have nothing in terms of facilities but wonderful people and cities (like now) which have so much I’m overwhelmed but in every place we try and find the best aspect and enjoy it. I also find the best way to get involved in the local community and meet people is to volunteer and to join a local interest group.

  2. We do the same thing in each foreign country we go to. We learn much more about the community by living like a local and get to experience more of the culture.


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