For expats, New Year’s resolutions are often more about memorizing foreign vocabulary and ticking local landmarks off their list; rather than losing weight or quitting smoking – both good goals, nonetheless.
As cliché as it may sound, entering a new year inevitably prompts many of us to consider what we would like to accomplish in the months ahead. Depending on how long you have lived in your host country, you may have already achieved a few of your goals. But if you haven’t, don’t fret; now you have 365 days to do it. To inspire you, here are some common expat resolutions that often make the list.
Learn the local language
For some expats, learning how to speak like a local might seem like an impossible task. While reaching a level of fluency may seem insurmountable, developing your vocabulary and conversational skills will help you integrate into the local culture. At least that way, you won’t sound – and feel – like a babbling toddler whenever you engage with your neighbors. Luckily, there are plenty of popular language learning apps that can help you acquire the skills in your own time. Duolingo, Mindsnacks, and Babbel all offer a variety of courses in multiple languages. These apps work on the principle that you can learn a language by studying it for 15 minutes a day; so what better way to spend your daily commute? Another tried-and-tested technique is sticking post-it notes with various words around your home. And before you know it, you’ll be saying them in your sleep.
Make some new friends (while finding a hobby)
You can never have too many friends, right? New Year’s resolutions are the perfect way to boost your social life. Of course, it takes time and effort to do this; it sometimes involves stepping out of your comfort zone to make it happen. However, making a few small changes can have a big impact on your social life. With so many social networking apps and websites, there’s really no excuse not to get out there. Meetup, for instance, provides ways to connect people with similar interests. Whether you want to practice salsa dancing or play football, you’ll find a group to join. This can also help reduce culture shock and any feelings of isolation in your new home. And if you happen to make friends with a local, you’ll learn more about where you live. Just think, your new BFF could be only one click away!
Try that unusual local dish you’ve been putting off
You’ve seen the local kids gobble it down, so surely it deserves a try, right? One of the best ways to truly integrate into the local culture is to eat like a local – or at least try it once. No matter how bizarre national dishes might seem to your taste buds, they are part of a country’s DNA – so open wide! Whether you’re munching on a fried tarantula in China, some maggot cheese in Sardinia, or UFOs (unidentifiable fried objects) in the Netherlands, you’ll be proud you did it. Of course, we all have our limits when it comes to food. But as they say, travel broadens the mind – so why not your palate? You never know, you might actually like it, too.
Get adventurous in the kitchen
Speaking of food, one of the best ways to save money – a popular New Year’s resolution for many – is to cook more at home. It’s surprisingly easy to whip up an impressive spread when you have a bunch of tantalizing local recipes and ingredients to explore. Better still, you could use your newfound talents in the kitchen as the perfect excuse to invite your friends over for a delicious dinner party. You could even treat them to your own country’s national dish – and no, that doesn’t mean ordering in pizza and palming it off as rustic Italian. Check out these Spanish, French, and Swiss recipes for inspiration.
Brave the crowds and go to a local festival
There’s no better time to experience local culture than during the burst of a colorful festival. You get to witness first-hand the local quirks of your host country, all the while lapping up the buzzing atmosphere around you. Depending on where you live, you could end up throwing tomatoes in Spain, going ‘orange crazy‘ in the Netherlands, or eating kilos of white asparagus in Germany. Sure, whichever festival you go to will likely be heaving with locals and tourists. If you’re willing to brave the crowds for just one day, you could end up with some unforgettable memories that last a lifetime.
Go sightseeing and visit local landmarks
Don’t be that expat who lives in Paris and has never visited the Eiffel Tower. ‘I live there and can visit any time’ is an unreliable mantra. Remember that friend who had to relocate suddenly? They regret not seeing it, too. It’s easy to take for granted the famous landmarks that lay on our doorstep and simply cast them aside as shameless tourist traps. But it can be surprisingly enjoyable to stroll around the Colosseum, climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or take a tour of the Sistine Chapel. After all, these epic landmarks helped put your host country on the map, so they deserve at least one visit, surely. Having friends and family come to visit gives you the perfect opportunity to experience these cultural gems like a tourist; perhaps you’ll even see them in a whole new light.
Visit more countries
As an expat, it’s generally not a matter of ‘if’ you will travel, but rather how many trips you can squeeze in this year. If you’re lucky enough to live in a country with a generous holiday allowance, you can plan your fair share of vacations without having to take too much time off work. This requires forward planning, of course. But booking in advance can also save you a lot of money; plus the disappointment of fully-booked flights or over-priced accommodation. What’s more, using travel comparison websites like Skyscanner and Agoda can save you money on flights and accommodation. And, of course, Airbnb offers some great places to stay if you have a tight budget. Need some inspiration for your next adventure? Check out the most beautiful places in Europe.
Make more time for friends and family
Perhaps the most important resolution of all is making more effort to stay in touch with loved ones. This is particularly true of friends and family who we have left back at home. Sure, we’re all busy with our jobs, social events, and exciting expat lives; that shouldn’t stop us from investing time in maintaining important relationships. With so many messaging apps, there’s no excuse not to stay connected. Whether you schedule a weekly Skype chat with your mum, call your best friend across the world on WhatsApp, or share fun videos with your little sister on Facebook, modern technology can make the world feel a lot smaller. So why not use it to your advantage – or better still, invite them to visit you and ditch the screen completely.