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how to escape the expat bubble

Sprachheld founder Gabriel GelmanThis guest post is from Gabriel Gelman, who grew up bilingual in German and Russian. Gabriel shares ideas about how to feel comfortable when living abroad and how to integrate more into a new country.

 

Moving abroad? How to meet new people and locals

 

I have lived in many countries in my life. Since my teenage years that has been longer periods of time in Australia, France and the US and for shorter periods of time in Spain (I am from Germany).

Moving to a new country is fun. It’s exciting:

  • You get to know new people
  • You can improve your language skills
  • You have new experiences

In short, it’s a great opportunity for personal growth.

I love moving around and going to other countries. In this post, I’ll share with you how you can adapt to this new situation that you are in, when you live in a new country.

Now of course you may say I never have been to any country where the culture significantly differs from Western European culture like Asia or Africa. This is true and I am not trying to generalize for all countries but it describes my experiences.

Meeting new people

The first thing you will want to do in a new country is to surround yourself with people. This is always a very exciting part, since you get to start all over again, while not losing your old friends back home.

This is easier when you are an outgoing person but even if you are shy and reserved it is not as difficult as it seems to be.

Your first place of course will be your university of your work place but you are not limited to that. There are tons of platforms where you can find people to meet.

Here are the most popular ones:

  • Facebook: Everybody is on Facebook. Seriously, everybody. Just type in your new city and you will find a flood of city groups (depends on the size of your city of course). Join the group and have a look when they have their next local meeting. Rinse and repeat for other groups.
  • Couchsurfing: A great platform to find new friends that take interest in cultures and languages. Check out their local meetings. Also search for people on the platform. Have a look whether there are people you would enjoy hanging out with. Make sure to also make a post in the local group and find someone to lead you around your new city.
  • Meetup: Another great platform to find local meetings. Depending on the city there can be many of those. You will find a meeting for pretty much every niche interest. Probably even something about combining gardening and yoga.

Go to the meetings. Go regularly. You will soon find some interesting people you will enjoy hanging out with.

How to find locals

You are abroad now and you only meet international people? You would like to meet locals to find out more about their culture and to learn the language?

What happens abroad very often is that people of certain nationality either surround themselves with other people of that very nationality or with other internationals.

This is certainly fun too. But you don’t get the full “international experience”.

First, you should be fairly fluent in the local language to befriend people. It also possible without being fluent but it makes things much more difficult.

You can always get fluent while being abroad or preparing well in advance. Don’t worry, you don’t have to meet locals the very first day you come to the new country. You can also venture out months into your international experience.

The trick to meeting locals is to hang out where locals are.

This sounds easier than it is. As internationals, we flock automatically to where other internationals are.

We meet one international person, they introduce us to more and just a few moments later, all of our friends are internationals.

What you have to do to find locals is to research where locals hang out and where they are easily approachable.

This is also possible on the internet. When people speak the local language this is a good sign. When I was in Spain, the Facebook groups where the communication language was English, most people also were internationals.

Facebook and Meetup are usually pretty good for finding locals. As long as the official communication language is not English, you are usually good. This is more difficult for English language countries. Check out the discussion feeds to get more of an idea what kind of people go to the meetings.

Here are some more ideas to find locals:

  • Local clubs: book clubs, public speaking clubs, debate clubs
  • Sports clubs: gyms, yoga, rock climbing
  • New in..: there are usually groups for people new in that city, many times lots of nationals in there (not locals though)
  • Religious groups: you have some faint interest in a religion? This is the place to find locals

Usually you will find most of these groups and clubs on Facebook, Meetup or with a simple Google search.

Another tip: check out the official website of the city. There you can find lots of interesting opportunities where locals go.

Find fun people and enjoy your stay even more

Having fun people surround you when you live abroad is one of the most fun parts of the experience.

With the internet, you can easily find people that share similar interests with you.

This will make your stay much more worthwhile.

___

Many thanks to Gabriel Gelman, founder of Sprachheld for contributing this guest post to Yozzi. If you would like to contribute an article or interview, please use the contact form.    Yozzi is a platform where you can write in your target language and receive feedback from others, to help you improve your writing.   Below is a YouTube video of Gabriel and Dimitris talking about how they learned their five common languages: English, French, Spanish, German and Russian. The founder of Yozzi, Dimitris, speaks terrible German and Russian, but enjoys the practice when the opportunity arises.

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