How to turn your adopted city into a home – a guest post on Expat life.

Today’s guest post in the Summer of Guesting series comes from a blogging pair – Olesya and Jasper from the Hmsies blog. The two met as students in Germany but, Olesya now lives in Paris (while Jasper has remained in Germany). However, they still cleverly manage to blog together and have contributed this post on how to make yourself feel more at home in your adopted city. I particularly like this as it is aimed at single people moving somewhere new – which I think can be one of the hardest things to do.  

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Being an expat is a very exciting adventure. After all, you’re in a new place, sometimes new culture and there are endless things to discover, both about the place and yourself. However, because you may be far away from home and from your loved ones, it can also be quite a shock and you may find that loneliness starts creeping up on you. This happens to each and every one of us and it is only really temporary as long as you take some steps towards creating your new life. Because we’ve moved around quite a lot, we have come face to face with loneliness a lot too but there does come a time when you learn to embrace it rather than fight against it. We have tried and tested many methods out there and here are some of the best tips for when you are feeling lost and lonely in your new place.

Learn the language
In Munich, we’ve met so many other internationals who bemoan the fact that the locals are rude, cold, unfriendly and never prepared to approach them to make friends. Yet at the same time, they often can’t speak the local language and wonder why they struggle to make friends. Sure, lots of people speak English, but there’s also a lot of people who don’t, and those who can speak English usually prefer to speak their own language if given the opportunity. Not only will knowing the language help you get better acquaintances but also, you will notice many of your daily life struggles will improve when you feel more confident in your language abilities.

It has never been easier to brush up on your language skills, even if you dreaded the thought of French class at school. There are so many (free!) resources out there that can help you out so don’t put it off.

Tip: For beginners, build up your vocab. The grammar is also important but it will click into place once you’ve been more exposed to the language. For now, just learn useful phrases and words and practice them whenever you get the chance.
For intermediate/advanced: find a Tandem language partner with whom not only you can practice the language with but also find out more about the city/culture etc.

Get to know the locals and don’t limit friendship circles to just other internationals
Although many of you will want to find people from your home country or who speak your language to be able to share your expat experiences with, try and hold this off for a bit and focus on getting to know the locals.

If anything, it’s probably better to do this than look just for other international friends. After all, expats come and expats go, and you’re constantly trying to make new friends. Locals on the other hand tend to stick around, and by meeting them, you get to meet their friends and their friends and so on. And not only that, but you get to discover and experience some of the things that really make that place special – things that you most likely won’t find if you just stick with other internationals. You get to make your adopted city a home rather than just some place where you happen to be living.

Tip: Speak to your neighbours. Speak to the shop assistants. Invite your colleagues out for a drink. There are many opportunities just right at your door so make the most of this.

Use online platforms
Whilst we have recommended making friends more with locals, we are members of quite a few international groups online and have made other friends this way too. These groups can actually be quite good when you’re first moving into the area and want to make sure you’re aware of everything you need to do when you arrive. From forums to local events, it gives you a chance to discover all this with a few clicks and of course meet many like-minded people.

However we also have witnessed the bizarre in these kinds of group – there was once the unfortunate, yet pretty funny, story of a girl who gave away hundreds of euros to a Kenyan who portrayed himself as a CIA operative and wondered why she couldn’t get any money back from him, as well as a load of guys who are constantly looking for girlfriends and sending inappropriate messages via the private message service.

Tip: Join Meetup.com, Internations.org and local expat groups on Facebook.

Stay in touch
Whilst you are far from home and trying to settle in to your new life, you may, or should we say, will feel rather lonely at times. This is exactly why you should not lose touch with close ones from back home because they can always lift your spirits and you can de-stress rather well by sharing some funny stories that have happened or just general catching up. Me and Jasper have stayed in constant contact as well as chatting regularly with our family and friends and when you feel you can no longer do any superficial interactions and constantly meeting new people, this is the perfect way to unwind and to help you realise that wherever you may be, you are never more than a phone call away from someone who really knows you.

Tip: Use your smartphone. There are some fantastic apps out there that help you stay in touch for free. Also, plan those Skype dates! A glass of wine and a good internet connection is all you need.

Projects
Last but not least, when you are alone and you feel you have more free time than you know what to do with, it’s the perfect chance for you to get to know yourself and do something you have always wanted to do. Sure, going out and having lots of friends and acquaintances is fun but it’s definitely not the be all and end all. From taking up an online course in the evenings, to maybe even starting a blog or just trying out new recipes, there are many things you can learn and discover. After all, when you are happy and settled somewhere, you tend not to focus so much on other activities but loneliness can actually be a useful thing here and help you discover something new and interesting about yourself and the world.

Tip: Don’t just focus on your day job. Spend 2-3 nights a week doing something totally different. For example, Jasper has been learning Russian at home, Olesya does Freelance work. This time when you are lonely can be ever so productive.

And remember, one of our favourite quotes is “If you do not like where you are, change it. You are not a tree.”

Remember, only you are in charge of your life and your happiness, no-one else can do this for you (unfortunately!).If you feel something is really not working out, then try a different approach. Sometimes, people can’t change where they live, but they can most certainly change their perception of things. Yes, it requires effort and motivation but it is absolutely worth it in the end!

Thanks Olesya and Jasper for some great tips. Have you been an expat alone in a city? What have you done to meet people, and make yourself feel more at home?

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