RE: How can you learn about a culture and meet locals without speaking their language?
If there’s zero communication, it’s hard. Charades help. Alcohol makes everything go around. I had a great time with some Ukrainians using sign language and vodka. But I try to use websites like Meet Up or Couchsurfingto meet locals and go out with them. People on those sites usually speak a bit of English, which helps a lot. However, nonverbal communication like hand gestures and a smile goes far. I was at a dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong with a very confused look on my face. Some of the old Chinese guys across from me just started putting food in front of me, smiling, and giving me a thumbs up. We basically communicated through sounds and smiles. Not all interactions need words!