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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 6th, 2009, 01:13 pm
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Default Integration Overseas. ..

Hey, all!

I'm new to the forum (I'll be posting an introduction, soon) but I wanted to ask about something that's really eating at me:

How do you go about integrating into your 'host cultures.'

I've lived in Germany for three years--I'm married to a wonderful German--and I speak the language fluently enough (I have an accent) but I don't feel integrated. Except for some families that I lived with when I was an exchange student. . . and some Germans that I lived with when I was a regular student here (2005) I don't have German friends.

It seems as though Germans have friends from school, university, and work. And everyone else is an 'acquaintance.' And, well. . . I always thought of myself as a bit of a loner, but I'd like to have a few friends here and I think it'd be stupid to have a circle of American friends in Germany. . . but that's all I have now!

What do you do? Anybody else have a similar problem?
-Toby
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 8th, 2009, 09:10 am
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Default Re: Integration Overseas. ..

I get the same feeling here in Spain Toby. To be honest I think most people do. I think that it depends on the culture you are in a little. In Spain it is hard to make "real friends" because people either know each other from when they were kids or from School and basically already have enough friends.

I am still in the process of integrating. This is what I am doing.

#1 best thing? GOING TO THE GYM.

I have joined two classes and it is a wonderful feeling to walk in and say hello and people know who I am. At first it was hard cause my Spanish was pretty bad but I got over it and now that my Spanish is getting better I have made a couple friends. (Friends in the sense that I can call them up to go out of a coffee or drink). It is still a bit superficial but it is growing.

#2 Talk to people. In Spain it is not weird to just start talking to strangers in stores about the cost of something or getting opinions. Just ask or start talking. It is a great way to become more social and meet people. (Careful though...don't go stalking people).

#3 Learn more about the culture and history. I have a hard time with a few things because it is so culturally different. I don't understand why people are always in the street and not visiting in each others homes (in Canada you go over for dinner or watch a movie etc). In Spain you go out for a drink or a walk in the street.

Basically...I think the key it to get connected and talk with people. Take a class; join the gym, volunteer, and get to know where you are living.

It can be hard and lonely at times but it is best to make the most of it.

I love living in Spain and I want to get the most out of life. Sure I have days where I want to cry or feel like a total outsider, but then those days are few and far between.

Cheers,
Diana
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 8th, 2009, 09:48 am
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Default Re: Integration Overseas. ..

Yeah.

I have the problem now that I talk to my students--the higher level ones, anyway--like friends, but then they vanish after six months or a year and for them I was a 'friendly teacher' but I don't really have the "call up for a coffee" friendships. The gym is an idea, but it costs money. (My mother wants me to find a church.)

Have you heard of Couch Surfing? I do some things through them, and I imagine they're organized where you are. I also recently started going to an English club that meets every two weeks here in town. I feel like I'm compromising--I know that I'm most 'useful' to them because I know English and can explain why "I have eaten breakfast yesterday" is wrong--but it's nice just to talk to people.

Every so often I feel like I should join a club--Germans join clubs--but I wouldn't know what for! Maybe there's an adult-piano-learners club here.

Anyone else have other ideas?
-Toby
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 8th, 2009, 10:00 am
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Default Re: Integration Overseas. ..

I think you're Ok with a circle of American friends. We're not that bad

I'm in Japan and I have made some friends by joining the volunteer fire fighter group here. I'm sure if I was more social, we might be closer, but if I called a few people up, i'm sure I could find someone to go out with.

I also have a movie buddy (a student's father.) He and I go out and watch action movies at the theater every now and then. I invite him and his family over every now and then for dinner as well. Not much from their end, but if I call them, they come over ...

You might just need to be more aggressive and invite some people out. hopefully, that doesn't mean you have to pay for everyone
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 11th, 2009, 04:02 pm
Sue
 
Join Date: Oct 8th, 2006
Location: Milan
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Default Re: Integration Overseas. ..

I spent years in Italy meeting only people who wanted to practise their English until, despite the fact that I really didn't speak Italian, I joined a riding club and started going regularly. The point being that there I found people who couldn't have cared less what nationality I was, who didn't speak English (or didn't see me as their opportunity to do so) but who had the same interest. I learnt Italian in about 6 months and made friends who, 20 years on, I still have.

The point being ... if you want to integrate, forget about your nationality and go do something with other people who'll forget yours. If like me you have a hobby you can get involved in, that's ideal. If not, I think the idea of volunteering is great - if that appeals to you. It's the common interest/objectives that breaks down the barriers. if you do something "just" to meet people, I don't think it will work.
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