The easiest thing to do when you move to a foreign country is to surround yourself with familiar things, like people who also come from your home country.
This is especially true when the culture is completely disparate to your own.However, the soul of a country is often carried in the heart of its people, so to have a truly enriching experience abroad you should fully immerse yourself in local life.
Although meeting local residents is easier said than done, the effort is certainly worth the payoff as your teaching abroad experience will be enhanced by exposure to truly authentic culture. Making friends with the locals will also introduce you to the best parts of a city or town to see, the very best of the local food and also may even improve your chances of picking up the local language. Here are some great ways to get closer to a country’s natives.
Sharing accommodation with a local is not only a great way to get to know someone, but you will also get an insight into the domestic side of life in a new country, showing you local etiquette and possibly even how to make homecooked dishes. Looking online at different apartment shares is a great way to do this. AirBnB also have the option to be housed somewhere while the host is still living there.
Find out about your host country’s local festivals and events. With everyone’s mood lifted by music, food and celebrations, you will find it easier to socialise. A great way to find out about what is going on in your local area is to look on Meetup.com. With over 22.77 million members in 180 countries organising 210,240 groups and events, you are sure to find something to do with locals. Not only will you interact with your host country’s community, but you will be introduced to people who have the same interests as you too!
Offer to teach your native language to a local in exchange for theirs. This is a great way to try out some cool cafés while you study together, and you will also learn a language while making a friend! Picking up a country’s language while you live there is an essential part of being able to feel like a part of the community. You will also be able to connect with locals on a deeper level, as Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart"
Language isn’t the only thing about your host country that you can learn about. Why not enrol in cooking, dance or other cultural enrichment classes. The more you learn about a culture, the more you will understand it. Spending time in classes with others will also help you make friends around fun activities you all enjoy.
Exploring your local neighbourhood, especially by foot, is a fantastic way to go off the beaten path and not feel like a tourist. If you do end up getting lost, it is the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation with a local to help you find your way again!
Locals will always introduce you to the best parts of their country, so why not go on a tour with them? There are lots of companies, or even independent tour guides, that can help you with this. You’ll find out all the secret local hotspots and the best places to eat that won’t be in any guidebook. Seeing a country through the eyes of a local will help you feel more at home in your new host country.