7 Ways to Become a Local in a Tourist Town

By s.e. smith, Networx

Visitors to towns that rely heavily on tourism often express a desire to move there, imagining a lifestyle where they get to be on vacation all the time, instead of just for a few precious days or weeks. Some of them realize that goal in retirement or through making a major life shift that allows them to relocate to the place they always dreamed of. What they find often isnít what they experienced on vacation, because living somewhere is different from visiting, and people who have relocated to a community or established second homes there are often going to be viewed as outsiders by locals.

So, how do you live in a tourist community, whether full- or part-time, without antagonizing the locals?

Start by recognizing that your new home is not just a tourist town. Itís also a place where people live and work, and have done so for years. Even if much of the economy is tourist-based, the town still needs sources for supplies ranging from toilet paper to bedding, and locals rely on services like schools, hospitals, electricians and law enforcement just like the residents of any other city or town. If youíre going to be moving in, youíre going to become one of those people. In Mendocino County, CA (where I live) new residents who can offer a skill to the community, like San Francisco roofers who have moved to Mendocino, are able to integrate more easily than people who don’t lend a hand in some way.

So youíd better learn the ropes. Find out where locals shop, and start establishing yourself as a regular customer. Try being friendly with clerks and store personnel, because theyíre the ones whoíll be providing you with valuable advice once youíve become a regular and well-liked customer. A friendly relationship with the guy behind the meat counter, for example, can make the difference between getting the recommendation for the best cut, and being given exactly what you ordered with no additional commentary, even if itís not the best choice.

Learn about the local community, too. Try attending local events like fire department barbecues, town hall meetings, and theatrical performances. The more events you attend, the more youíll get known as a face around the community and someone who is genuinely interested in whatís happening around town. Make sure to introduce yourself to people at those events, and start building up connections. Think of it as networking, because thatís exactly what it is. Get willing to roll up your sleeves and contribute, especially during times of need when members of the community are counting on each other for help.

Know your neighbors, too; while you may be expecting someone to come around with a plate of cookies to welcome you, try flipping the paradigm and going around to introduce yourself around your block. Your neighbors are the ones who will be looking out for you, watching your animals while youíre gone, keeping you up to date on whatís happening around town, and establishing friendships with your family. Make it clear that youíre aware youíre new to the area and have a lot to learn, and that youíre ready to learn from them.

Before you plunge into local politics and debates, from discussions about zoning to elections, be aware that every town has its own history, and you should learn it before you get involved. Locals often resent what they see as intrusion by uninformed outsiders, and if you can be seen but not heard at these meetings while you learn about whatís going on and the history behind it, youíll impress locals with your dedication to getting to know the community before offering your opinion.

Before you advocate for a new coffee franchise, for example, think about the local businesses that might be affected, and the people who might oppose the franchise. Learning about the reasoning behind positions that might seem idiosyncratic or nonsensical to you will help you understand the community ó and ó perhaps propose solutions that meet local needs.

Taxes can also be a sore spot with locals, especially in the case of people with second homes. If youíre only visiting a community periodically, you may not be paying much more than property taxes, even though you expect to use local resources while youíre there. Get a leg up with the locals by shopping locally, using local services, and getting your face known around the community. In exchange for your willingness to contribute financially and socially, youíll build lasting relationships that will come in handy, especially if youíre planning to retire to your second home eventually.

Above all, stay humble. You might think you know a community well, but you donít know it as well as third-generation locals or even people whoíve been living there for thirty years or more. Get ready to face a steep learning curve, and if you stick with it, you might become a local one day yourself.



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Cheryl I.
Past Member 4 years ago

I want to live in that house.

Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad4 years ago

Interesting !

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Very interesting,

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W4 years ago


Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Marie W.
Marie W4 years ago

Realtor is good info source.

Lin M
Lin M4 years ago

I'm happy where my family lives. I do not want to go elsewhere.

a             y m.
g d c4 years ago


Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson4 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

Good advice. I still live in the town I was born in. It used to be a small with a downtown area that consisted of two or three streets of stores. It has grown into such a large place now and doesn't even resemble the town I grew up in. We had five & dime stores, a couple of pharmacies with soda shops in them, a drive in theater and a local movie theater, small grocery stores with a butcher shop where the meat was always fresh and cut to order, several hamburger places that served you in your car, a swimming pool for the city (closed now), pharmacies where you were known by name etc. Everyone knew everyone else in town. Doors never had to be locked, cars never had to be locked, and you could run into a 7-11 type store and leave your car running without it being stolen. I'd like to live in a town like that again. Wishful thinking for the way things were!