Expats and Local Culture

Have you ever wondered what your expats do for fun in their spare time?  Part of getting out of the expat bubble is enjoying the local culture.  Since moving to a foreign country is hard, after arrival many expats stick to what is familiar.  After all the paperwork, logistics, and getting used to a new office and home, becoming a compatriot is probably the hardest part of all.

Here are some ways expats and families can enjoy their free time abroad:

Clubs and organizations:  Perhaps the fastest way to meet others in a new destination is to join a local club or organization whose focus is similar to one at home.  This gives an expat some degree of comfort while still expanding their social horizons and meeting non-expats. It is also a great way to understand the new culture, network with other professionals, and get the lay of the land.  Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center (IRC) has extensive lists of clubs and organizations available in many host countries.

Local cuisine:  One of the best ways to enjoy a new destination is to literally dig into the local cuisine.  Find a restaurant by asking colleagues at work or neighbors at home who are locals or long-term expats.  Also, employees should get to know the locals.  These conversations can lead to inside tips, great food and a good glass of wine.  There are many sites that can help, too, like Michelin, Four Square and Time Out that can be accessed from the IRC.

Entertainment:  While your expat is there to do a job, attending local entertainment can help them understand the culture.  Even if your expats don’t speak the language used at an event or a venue, body language and gestures can go a long way toward understanding.  Expats can attend sporting events or consult the local press or one of the many weekly magazines with comprehensive entertainment sections for lists of cultural and leisure events in the area. Entertainment resources are available in the IRC.

Kid fun:  Expats can check out the local parks, museums, expatriate clubs, and activities at school:  arts, crafts, drama and sports. One of the best ways to find something fun for the kids is to ask at the local school.  Often schools offer chess, computer classes, dance classes, language instruction, music lessons, and martial arts. For budding thespians there are often a number of drama options.  Sports are also a great way for kids to feel comfortable in a new home.  While language proficiency may be an issue, depending on the players’ age and level, some sports can be learned via a coach’s demonstration.  Your expats can find links to local clubs and organizations, museums, and much more in the IRC.

Language:  Learning the local language or at least some words and phrases can go a long way in connecting with the locals, ordering food and even day-to-day shopping.  While fluency takes some time, learning some of the language shows respect and adds a level of comfort when getting around in your new home.  Living Abroad offers some quick phrases in many languages to get your expats started.

While Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center delivers great information on topics like day-to-day living, social and business customs, housing, schools, there are also extensive resources for expats and their families on what to do in their spare time.  Getting into the culture will make them happier and more productive employees.