León is a very special place.
This city may be small in size, but its vast window of possibilities to make local friends is remarkable. Having a population of a little more than a million people, making friends here is easy. There are many ways to interact with the locals. León is one of the few places that can make you feel like a local in less than 24 hours!
What makes León so special is its feeling of unity. This powerful feeling of unity engulfs you greatly by making you forget that you are a tourist. But, being a tourist no longer exists here, for the city and its people convert you into a local instantly. Additionally, the residences are welcoming and friendly. The city and its people are so welcoming and so united that they completely capture you emotionally. You are overcome with a feeling of happiness and joy. Not only does the city make it easier for you to make friends, but the lovely people finish the job by inviting you into their culture.
To help guide you into the right path of experiencing everything that León has to offer, I have listed ways for you to improve your relationship with the locals.
Go Bike Riding, REALLY, or Take a Peaceful Stroll
Yes! This was one of the biggest ways that truly helped me connect with León and its people. To become a local, take the same transportation as them! It’s listed as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in Mexico. Given that I saw numerous cyclists and bike paths, it doesn’t surprise me that it’s one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Mexico. The local cyclists will be more than welcome to add you to their group and show you around the city. Even if you start cycling alone, you will soon find yourself cycling with groups of locals and it’ll turn into the cycling scene from The Great Muppet Caper. LOL
Furthermore, just trekking through the cobblestone streets will create an opportunity for you to meet the communities that make León the special place that it is. This is one of the best ways to explore León because you aren’t restricted to the bike paths. I found that strolling through the city helped me truly see how beautiful this city is with its small, but luring churches that position themselves at every corner.
León offers different types of experiencing the local environment like Guadalajara. This city has tranquil, open courtyards and lively, narrow streets. It provides you with a more vast way of interacting with them and even a more intimate way. All it takes is a couple of steps to come across families, couples, or individuals that are willing to become your new friend!
Shop or Simply Visit a Small Store
You are going to do this regardless, and that’s taking home a physical reminder of this city. But, what many people disregard is the fact that you are able to connect with the local shopkeepers. Instead of just buying your gift and leaving without an exchanged word, try to delve into a conversation with them. The perfect time to do this is when you ask them for help, or when you are waiting for the cashier to finalize your purchase.
These are a few of the topics that I found useful when trying to chat with the local shopkeepers:
1. Compliment their products and talk about how you love them.
2. Tell them about a personal story that has to do with their product, for example briefly share your experience in some place which led you to buy their snowglobe.
3. Talk about how you love their city and if they have any recommendations of places to visit or restaurants to go eat at.
4. Simply ask them how their day is!
An important tip on visiting stores in León is to admire their quality leather products. This city is well known for their leather industry, and I recommend that you visit a leather shop and grab yourself a jacket or a pair of boots. Furthermore, this holds as a really good topic to bring up when talking to local shopkeepers because the leather industry resonates in the city of León. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their history of the leather industry, for they will gladly inform you!
Delve into the Rich History of León
Learning the history of any place helps understand and connect with the locals on a more personal level. León is a city that is filled with engaging history. Not only does learning their history help with connecting with the locals, but it helps with connecting to the city itself. Knowing León’s past is the key to truly building a bridge to this city. Getting to know its history puts you in a more native position rather than being a common tourist who is only there to gaze at the beautiful attractions.
There are a few ways to truly delve into León’s rich history, and these are some of the methods that truly helped me connect with León and its people while experiencing and learning their authentic culture.
1. Use local guides to take you to the destinations that are known to locals, or ask for recommendations.
2. Visit historical, popular sites and learn more about them. Ask the guides about the history, or even ask the nearby locals for more information. Don’t be hesitant to approach the locals.
3. Politely ask random street goers, or that random couple sitting at the park under the leafy trees, if they would like to help you connect to León better. A bunch of smiles were reciprocated after constantly utilizing this simple question, “I’d love to be a local rather than an ordinary tourist, would you mind helping me?” The result will excite you, for the locals will joyfully show you the true and authentic León.
Incredibly, just trekking around León’s old-looking houses and magnificent churches can you help you interact with the local communities and advance your current state of simply being a tourist to becoming a local faster than you can say “DAMN!” to how beautiful this city is.
This city is so special that even if you aren’t Mexican, or even from León, gosh damn will this city make you feel like a native!