Start a conversation.
Experience a new culture through new people.
Avoid "expat bubbles."
"Spend as much time as you can with nationals. Although part of the appeal of being in an international community is the fantastic variety of people you meet, the danger is that you can end up in an 'expat bubble.'
"Set yourself challenges for interacting with locals, especially when you are trying to practice the native language. These challenges can be as simple as using a greengrocer rather than using a more impersonal supermarket. Small conversations like this can help greatly in integrating with the way things are done in a country. Activities such as going to the cinema, visiting museums, and reading the newspaper are all excellent ways to absorb both a country’s language and culture. However, I would highly recommend language exchanges, as they give you an instant friend in the country. And if you find someone keen, they can include you in things they do and have a local friend who can be a gateway to their culture."
—Charlotte H., lived in Italy and Colombia
Ask and acknowledge local customs.
Make an effort to speak the local language.
"Always arrive knowing at least a few basic phrases if you're coming from another country. I've seen people over and over get treated with different degrees of kindness when visiting France, all depending on how hard they attempt the language at first, out of respect."
—Alix M., lived in France for 13 years
Spend your free time off the beaten track.
Bond with new people over a shared interest.
"When I moved to Paris, I didn't know a single person nor was I fluent in French at that point. I befriended staff in a Scottish bar who were fountains of knowledge about the Parisian social scene, and then when my French picked up I joined a book club. The first way felt like cheating, but it's daunting to be so young and in a new city, so, for me, finding a place to begin where you feel safe is helpful. The second way never fails me. Bonding over books is universal. The key for me was immersing myself in the things I enjoyed like art as it led to me slowly forming a small group of friends who are still stuck with me nine years later."
—Amna S., lived in Paris for one year
Don't just taste new dishes, learn to make them!
Plan ahead to seek out unique local events.
"If you've decided you want to visit a specific place but you're flexible on dates, look to see when they have a festival going on. When I say 'festival,' I do not mean a huge, globally recognized event but something chill like 'food truck week' or 'carnival' or 'the annual 10K.' I've found these smaller events give you a good idea of what the regular populace is like, and they're more fun than just going to some bar or touring a museum. You can even seek out unique events that only happen in certain places if you're willing to research (e.g., visiting Scotland during the Highland Games)."
—James L., currently living in London