More often than not, foreigners overseas find themselves stuck in an expat bubble — a situation where foreigners mix exclusively with other expats and rarely interact with local people or culture.
As an expat, it’s easier for you to stick to familiar routines and situations. However, this prevents you from truly understanding and immersing yourself in the local culture.
With that in mind, here are some easy tips on what you can do to avoid living in the expat bubble:
1. Learn The Local Language
There’s no better way to escape the expat bubble than by learning the local language. The ability to speak the local tongue will make life easier for you; you’ll be able to speak to the locals, navigate the area with ease, and make friends more easily.
If you’re struggling to pick up the language on your own, try signing up for a language school. You should also try to speak in the language when you are out and about to improve your proficiency.
While it may feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, speaking in the local language will soon become second nature to you.
Plus, speaking the local language also shows that you’re making an effort to understand the local culture, which makes the natives more willing to form a relationship with you.
2. Explore The Area
When experiencing culture shock in a foreign land, it can be tempting to take the easy way out by retreating into familiar routines; all you want to do is to avoid feeling uncomfortable when faced with a new culture that you can’t seem to appreciate yet.
However, it’s always going to be better if you step out of your comfort zone to push yourself to understand better the culture of the place you’re living in. You can do this by attending local events, joining local clubs, visiting the local market, or going on tours. If you aren’t sure where to go or what to see, why not take a walk around your neighbourhood?
Sometimes, the best way to find your new favourite place is to walk around and explore a neighbourhood. The more you learn more about the area, the more it’ll start to feel like home for you!
3. Visit Local Shops
Visiting large chain stores for your shopping can seem a lot more attractive than shopping at your local store. However, a big part of breaking out of the expat bubble is choosing local shops whenever you can.
Not only does this help to support the local community, but it also helps you to discover new local products and brands you might have otherwise missed.
4. Mingle With Locals
It’s no surprise that mingling with locals is one of the best ways to break out of the expat bubble.
Speaking to the local folks allows you to pick up their lingo, discover under-the-radar food joints, and find out where the best deals in town are at. This is insider information that no tourist guidebook will ever talk about!
As a foreigner, we understand how hard it can be to make non-expat friends. Here are some ideas to help you make friends while living overseas:
Join a sports club
Signing up for a sports club is a fantastic way to form connections with locals while staying fit.
Be active online
Joining online communities like Reddit is a great way to network with locals. You can choose to join these communities based on your interests, hobbies, or anything under the sun.
If you’re passionate about a cause and thinks about giving back to the local community, consider volunteering.
Not only is volunteering personally rewarding, but it also provides you with the chance to:
Make new local friends,
Offer a meaningful contribution to the community,
Pick up new skills, and
Increase your language competency.
The best way to start volunteering is to look out for opportunities to help out at local charities or social enterprises. Alternatively, try speaking to locals or searching online for such opportunities.
6. Take Public Transport
Taking public transport is a great way to immerse yourself in local culture. You get to observe how the residents go about their daily lives while enjoying the city’s sights.
Additionally, making an effort to take public transport isn’t just easier on your wallet. It’s also definitely more interesting than sitting in the backseat of a taxi.
Are you feeling apprehensive about taking public transport because you’re still unfamiliar with the local transportation system?
Here are some tips to help make taking public transport in your host country a breeze:
Travel with someone
Plan your route
Familiarise yourself with the name of the subway stations or bus stops
Know-how and where to get help if you’re lost
7. Enroll Your Child In A Local School
If you’re living abroad with your child, a sure-fire way to help him/her avoid the expat bubble is to enroll him/her in a local school.
Getting your child to attend a local school is beneficial for both him/her and you. Being in a local school gives him/her the chance to make friends with local children, allowing him/her to understand the customs and culture of the host country quickly — something important if you decide to stay in a country for the long term.
It also allows you to interact with other parents to find out more about local parenting practices.
Preparing For Your Move Overseas
Before you relocate, it’s important that you consider the tips above for greater assimilation to local culture and better cope with culture shock.
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