Monday, 2 April 2012

Going local

Source: Creative Commons/ Fukecha Nabil

HSBC Expat is supporting the new FT View from series on the Financial Times website, which looks at expat experiences in some of the most pulsating cities around the globe. In this week’s issue, the FT explores Hong Kong, the vibrant gateway to the East.

In one of the articles, “A life less ordinary: Is emigration alluring or alienating? - columnist, Edwin Heathcote helps to dispel some of the myths of expat life, saying:

“The expat experience combines a cocktail of the thrill of the new and the ennui of global alienation, of displacement and dislocation. At its best, though, it can open up not only new places and peoples but also new ways of seeing.”

One of the key issues that come up time and again when discussing life abroad is the balance between integrating into the local community and creating a network of expat friends. The article highlights the difference between living in a city with a large expat population, such as Doha, and living somewhere that is much less tried and tested by expats.

Many people expect expats to live, work and socialise in close-knit, expat-only groups. Of course, being friends with other expats is a great way to feel supported and know that other people are in the same boat as you, however, expats who break away from the expat bubble benefit from being able to fully experience and immerse themselves within the local culture and surroundings.

To truly immerse yourself into a new culture for all its differences and interesting quirks and qualities, the locals hold the key, having lived and breathed the country all their lives. Being part of the culture means living life as part of the community, rather than seeing yourself (or anyone else) as different, which can fuel feelings of isolation.

1. Learn the language
2. Get comfortable with being awkward
3. Accept your limitations
4. Join in with the expat community, but don´t hide there
5. If you are here surrounded by your spouse’s family you are lucky to have that connection

Do you have any pointers on avoiding expat isolation that you would like to share with the community? 

Is your support network mostly expat, local, or a mixture?

Leave a comment in the box below, or tweet us @ExpatExplorer.


  1. Thanks Katy for this interesting post.
    I totally agree with you and I would say that being able to integrate to your new community will really depend on the kind of life experience you are looking for and the kind of person you are, but any change of environment involves a compromise, and learning the language will probably be the biggest compromise you will have to make.
    During your expatriation, we will be confronted to situations in which the language barrier, the distance with your family and the cultural differences may seem insurmountable and in these instances, your level of integration in your new society will make a difference.

    I recently wrote an ebook on expatriation where I talked about this and shared my 10 Golden Rules to successfully live and work overseas. Get your free copy here.

    1. Hi Sabine, thanks for your message! Your e-book looks great. I hope you continue to enjoy our content! Thanks!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the advice to not hide in the expat community, but would like to expand on that a bit and say don't hide from them either! Sometimes the only people who can really help are those who are on the ground with you feeling equally as dislocated. This is the stuff of life long friendships! My other advice is to ensure that you have excellent social media networks so that you can tap into your home support systems whenever you are able. I found when I first moved to the Uk that I was often most lonely when I was the only one I new in this timezone. Facebook was helpful, but recent improvements in Fb chat and the addition of Twitter means that friends and family are there at the click of a button wherever in the world I am! Vix x

  3. One tip that I would offer to anyone who plans on expatriating to a location for an extended period of time would be to find spots you like and frequent them. Just today, after visiting the same bakery in Paris for nearly a year, the baker acknowledged that I am a "regular" and was giving me the freshest of my favorite products and giving me helpful information about closures for the holiday weekend. Once the locals get to know you and see you as one of "them," it can go a long way in making you feel comfortable in a new country, even if you aren't fluent in the language.


Have your say here



Related Posts with Thumbnails