Living abroad for any length of time could easily be the greatest, scariest, most wonderfully thrilling adventure of your life, so it’s understandable that your initial instincts might lead you to seek out the people you’re used to, the people you’re comfortable with. It’s okay to give yourself a moment to settle in with that support system, but then it’s kind of important to remember why you decided to leave these people behind and hop the pond in the first place. Here are seven of the many reasons why it’s more important to befriend the locals than the other expats while living abroad.
Photo via Flickr/Loyola University
1. Improve your language skills.
You know how they say practice makes perfect? Well one expat practicing with another expat makes two expats getting really used to pronouncing everything completely wrong. If the only people who can understand you when you try to tackle the local lingo are other expats then something’s up, it’s not supposed to be a secret language for you and your roomie.
2. Break free of your home country cultural bubble.
So what is the point of moving abroad if you are going to live in a mini community of your home country? You couldn’t have just moved over there for the cheese selection… well… that’s a lie… but you probably had some other reasons too, you probably wanted to gain some perspective, change your way of life, and experience something new? Yeah, you can’t accomplish that at the weekly Wednesday McDonald’s brunch with those nice ladies from Florida. Sorry.
3. Avoid expat competition.
There are a number of ways that expats can inevitably find themselves competing against their homeland pals, but there’s two big ones. First is the limited decent jobs available for foreign residents (how much do you want to bet that your abroad bffl is also a blogger / tour guide / English teacher?), and second is who has immersed and become a more legit Brazilian or Bulgarian or where ever you’re staying.
4. Discover the cool non-tourist hang out spots.
When you make local friends chances are you’re more likely to hang where they like to hang, where they’ve always liked to hang, than for them to be down to join you are your hostel’s bar or at that museum that you read about. Not only will this give you a more authentic experience of your host country, but it’ll undoubtedly open the door to even more local friends.
5. Learn about authentic cooking.
While you may have initially bonded with your expat buddies over how much you miss your country’s version of bacon (there is only one version of bacon… I think you know…) eventually you’re going to want to learn some new recipes so you can embrace your host culture in full. Plus, sometimes it’s tough to be so far away from home, from Nana, so lucky for you it’s not uncommon for your new local amici to bring you to their Nonna’s house for a delicious home cooked meal.
6. Gain new perspective on your own culture.
After you make local friends abroad you will never see your own country and culture the same again. The two of you will likely make friendly comparisons as you learn about each other, you’ll start to consider the aspects of your host country that you like more than your home country and vice versa, and you’ll find that when trying to explain something about your country to your new foreign friend you might, without even meaning to, embellish some details and cover up others… what a way to find out exactly what you’re really proud of and what you want to change.
7. Those accents though.