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Four Things Your Local Friends Can Teach You

As an old Irish Proverb reads “a good friend is like a four-leaf clover; hard to find and lucky to have.” As an expat, finding local friends while you are living abroad can sometimes be a little tricky, especially if you have a difficult time stepping outside of the expat bubble. But connecting with local friends is truly invaluable — not only because when it comes to friends, you can never have enough. Here are four things your local friends can teach you.

The Local Language

It might seem obvious — having local friends gives you the chance to learn the local language. Whether you’re a complete beginner or almost fluent, practicing the language with your friends is a great way to improve your speaking ability. Who needs an intensive language course and endless grammar exercises, when you have local friends, who can help you master their mother tongue over a cup of coffee or glass of wine? Getting to know one another and laughing together is the best environment to learn a language.

Of course, you have to make sure you put the effort into speaking the local language, as an English native speaker I have been guilty of language laziness: I rely too much on the fact that many people speak English very well, and so I make less effort to speak the local language. The key is to be brave and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Your friends are there to help you and they will not tear you down for trying — although there may be the odd giggle when you mix a couple of words up and end up uttering a few profanities instead (hey, we’ve all been there).

Where to Find the Local Treasures

As an expat, it can be hard to escape the tourist traps when you move to a new country. Sometimes it’s difficult to really settle into life abroad when you have yet to really experience your new city through the eyes of a local. Having local friends means you have your very own tour guide, someone who knows their city like the back of their hand: they know where to find the best restaurants with the tastiest food, the local secrets, hidden away from the crowds of tourists. From that rooftop bar you would never have found by yourself to the secluded beach, or secret hangout, let your local friends take the lead and they will show you their city to its full potential. You’ll find that you become so much closer with your friends and learn so much more about them after seeing their favorite places and hearing stories of life in their city.

How to Act Like a Local

The beauty of having local friends is that it means you get the chance to experience and better understand local customs, as well as culture. Whether it's local celebrations, festivals, or supporting the local football team, you learn more about your host city and country by surrounding yourself with local friends. From knowing the correct number of kisses to give when you are greeting someone in France to understanding that you should never clink your beer glasses together in Hungary, your local friends can help you to avoid any social or cultural faux pas while you’re living abroad. Let them teach you how to act and think like a local, and you’ll start to feel at home in no time at all.

Sharing experiences with local friends means that you get to broaden your cultural and social horizons: connecting with people from all over the world allows us to embrace the things that make us different, but ultimately makes us realize that we have more in common with each other than we than we at first might think.

Who You Are

Perhaps the most important thing you can learn from your local friends, as with any kind of friend, is who you are as an individual. Friends give you the confidence to be yourself, and by sharing your life, with all the ups and downs of living abroad, with them, you’ll find that you have a fantastic support network. With the help of your local friends, as well as your expat friends, you’ll start to realize just what you are capable of: from the small things to the big things, you’ll soon realize what your strengths are. Friends are there to build you up, just be sure to return the favor!

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