(1) Read books. Anything you can find. Novels, human interest, political, current events, cultural studies, and so forth. Get a sense of the place.
(2) Learn the language. Do what you can before you go. Keep it up once you’re there.
(3) Interview people who’ve lived there. Take them to dinner, listen to stories, and ask questions. Watch for subtleties.
(4) Study the history. Trace the thread of civilization through the place. Culture, commerce, religion, dynasties, high water marks, wars, dominance, and celebrations.
(5) Follow the news. Understand what’s happening and why.
(6) Buy some maps. Know the significance of its borders, cities, topology, regions. As you learn the history and read the news, locate the places.
(7) Cultivate a love for the people. They are your neighbors.