Friday, 25 May 2012

Expat Excellence featuring Emily Wachelka

This week’s guest post is special one for Expat Explorer readers, and very timely for the weekend. We have Emily Wachelka at Wayfarers Handbook with a series of mini sessions to inspire you to get out, interact with locals and use your language skills.

Expat Challenger

Hi there! My name is Emily and I am so pleased to be guest posting over here at Expat Explorer today. I have been living abroad in Munich, Germany since 2005, and feel very comfortable in my home away from home. It took me a long time to feel like that, though, and I'm here today to talk about how I went from feeling like a foreigner to considering myself practically a local.  

In my experience, the only way to start feeling l really comfortable in your home away from home is to get over your fears and get out of the house. Easier said than done, right? Over at The Wayfarer's Handbook, I post bi-weekly "mini missions" that are meant to inspire you to get out and experience your new home, interact with locals, and use your language skills. Some of the missions are simple, like buying bread or watching a local TV show - others take a little more courage and time commitment, like becoming a regular and saying no to English

The mini missions are more than just ideas for mini adventures - they are meant to build your confidence and make you realise that, hey, that wasn't so hard after all! And really, there is no more empowering feeling, right? 
Today I have a special edition mini mission cooked up for Expat Explorer! Here we go...

Mini Mission - Give Directions

Do you panic when someone asks you for directions? I do! Especially in a new city, in a foreign language. But there is something so satisfying about knowing the way that makes you feel like a true local, and if you can communicate those directions in a foreign language, then even better. 

For this mission, you need to head out into the city (to an area you are familiar with!) and actively seek someone to give directions to. Of course, confused tourists with giant maps and baffled expressions are excellent targets, but you can also just look for bewildered locals. The key is to look for telltale signs of being lost - studying street signs, constantly referencing guidebooks, desperately glancing at passersby… 

Approach your chosen person or group and offer your help - and start in the local language unless it is glaringly obvious that you won't be understood. Remember, pointing and gesturing can go a LONG way. If you refresh your vocabulary for words like left, right and straight before you head out, you should be all set. If you repeat this mission often, you'll be ready to field any and all directions questions like a pro.
So how did it go? Did you find someone to help out? Did you feel like a true local?

Mini Mission # 2 - Buy some Flowers

Making a purchase from a local in a foreign country can be quite intimidating. It's one thing to cruise through a grocery store, gathering items in your cart and then wordlessly pay for them at checkout, but it's quite another to have to communicate what you would like to buy. Much like buying bread, choosing and paying for flowers at a shop might be scary, but the payoff is worth it, and it will undeniably make you feel like a local.

For this mission, locate your neighborhood flower shop and look up a few choice words for flowers that you like (but remember - point and nod works well too!). It also helps to be up to date on your numbers. That's all you need! Head to the flower shop, don't get flustered if the owner babbles on at you and you don't understand, just point to what you'd like and pay for your bouquet. If you're really daring, order more than one kind of flower! Before you know it you will be heading home with a beautiful bunch of blooms that will make your home abroad feel even more inviting. Who knows, maybe you'll even become a regular!

Mini Mission # 3 - Find a Local Band

Music might be as close to being a universal language as it gets. Even if you're not a huge music fan, getting to know a part of the local music scene opens up a whole new world: concerts, CDs, and feeling like you're in on a little local secret. You'll certainly impress at cocktail parties! 
For this mission, find a local music group, and become a fan. Pick a genre you enjoy - you can choose anything, from classical to jazz, to heavy metal. And remember, the genre you choose does not necessarily have to match the country you are living in. There are some excellent Bavarian jazz bands for example! Attend a concert, download a song, or buy a CD. If your first choice isn't a hit, keep trying. Before you know it you'll have an instant answer to "what on earth should we do this Friday night?" 

About the author
Emily Wachelka is an expat resident abroad in Munich, new mom, language junkie, lover of cozy caf├ęs, and local festivals. Follow her @wayfarershb and her blog here.

Expat Explorer returns for another year – bigger and better than before! If you want to have a say in what it’s really like to live abroad and share your expat experiences with others, then click here to fill in the Expat Explorer survey for 2012.

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