1. Whatever you have heard or read about the place you are going to, leave it at home. There is no worse obstacle to seeing the real beauty of a culture than the stereotypes we grow up with.
2. Read a book written by an author of the country you are travelling through. Whether you like to read history, fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, poetry, or children’s books, there will be a writer that suits you. (In Catalonia I read the novel Nada by Carmen Laforet.)
3. Eat local food. Preferably typical food, but if after trying it you come to the conclusion that you just don’t like it, then whatever your favourite dish is, you’ll find a local restaurant that makes it. There is no culture to see or learn from in a big chain restaurant.
4. Look for cultural events around you, preferably free. Look for notice boards in libraries, cafes, museums, and of course the internet.
5. Stay on the ground. As travel writer Paul Theroux advises: “Stay on the ground, avoid planes. If there is a bus, take it. If is not too far, walk. Travel light but stay on the ground. There’s nothing to learn in an airport.”