Founder’s Diary: Bonn

InterNations Founder and Co-CEO Malte Zeeck tells us of his visit to the InterNations Bonn Community, a city of great personal importance to him.

A Trip down Memory Lane

Former capital city of West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, birthplace of the famous composer Beethoven, and also home to my former high school: Bonn really is a beautiful city with a rich history. In July, I had the opportunity to return to Bonn to attend my 20-year high school reunion at the Aloisiuskolleg in Bad Godesberg.

Bonn_Pic 6As well as taking a trip down memory lane, I decided that, while I was there, it would be nice to catch up with the members of the InterNations Bonn Community. Given its international past, it is not surprising that Bonn still attracts large numbers of expats who work, for example, for the United Nations, Deutsche Post, and Telekom. Currently, the Bonn Community consists of about 4,000 members and has a dozen different groups for activities from multilingual meet-ups to Sunday brunches to outdoor activities.

Global Minds Make Great Company

Although the weather was rather cloudy on the morning of the event, just as I was heading to the Strandbar — a stunning venue situated on the Rhine, directly next to Kameha Grand Hotel — the sun started shining, right on cue. The event was organized by two of our three Bonn Ambassadors, Zrinka and Birgit. All of the Bonn Ambassadors are perfect examples of what it really means to be a global mind.

Founder's Diary Bonn Pic 1Zrinka was born in Croatia and has been travelling abroad from a young age. All of the travelling with her parents had a big impact on Zrinka, and she has been studying and working abroad for the majority of her life. Birgit is a local from Germany and is currently living in Bonn with her family. She has a lot of experience in an international business environment, having spent 15 years working for big multinationals.

The third InterNations Ambassador, Alexandra, unfortunately could not attend the event, though I’d have loved to get to know her as well. Originally from Russia, she speaks five languages and has also spent 14 years of her life working for international companies. All these women perfectly capture the InterNations spirit, and it was a pleasure to meet and spend time with them.

Not Just for the Locals

Not only did I get to meet many of the members, InterNations Consuls and Ambassadors of the Bonn Community, but the event also gave me the chance to meet members from several other InterNations Communities in nearby cities, including Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen, and Dortmund.

Founder's Diary Bonn_Pic 3One of our much-loved Cologne ambassadors, Kate, also made the trip to Bonn to attend the event, and InterNations Dortmund Ambassador, Vanessa, travelled the whole way from Dortmund to join us for the wonderful evening. The fact that they all took the time to come here really shows the community spirit of InterNations, and it was also a great excuse for a long-overdue catch up!

There were a number of journalists at the event as well and, sitting comfortably in one of the beach loungers, I gave a few interviews — it was an amazing opportunity to spread the word on InterNations and get more people involved.

A Great Success All Around

As the evening progressed, more and more members arrived and enjoyed a refreshing welcome drink. Birgit introduced me to many of the guests: It was a genuine pleasure getting to know them and hearing how InterNations had helped to make their transition abroad that little bit easier. I also got the chance to listen to feedback from some of the InterNations Consuls and members, as well as talk through some of their concerns.

Founder's Diary Bonn Pic 2Getting the opportunity to discuss these issues face to face with people who have first-hand experience of living and working abroad is always a very eye-opening experience. I also had the chance to say a much-deserved special thank you to our volunteers, who really are an essential part of every InterNations Community, and to encourage others to get more actively involved in our community by starting new groups or even just taking part in our activities.

The evening went on well until midnight before the bar served us our final drinks and I headed for bed at my hotel, which was conveniently located next door. It really was a thoroughly enjoyable evening in a city I will always have a soft spot for!

(Image credit: Sunset over the Rhine and the Seven Mountains by Wikimedia Commons user Hans Weingartz 2)-4) Malte Zeeck/InterNations)

InterNations Insider Tips: The Best of Bonn — A Local’s Favorite Five

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck shares his top five recommendations for a trip to Bonn, his childhood home.

In July, I made a trip to the city of Bonn, where I grew up, in order to attend the 20th anniversary of my high school reunion. Aside from finally seeing some of my old classmates again and having the chance to visit the local InterNations Community, it was a perfect occasion to rediscover some of my favorite sights in and around this city so close to my heart.

Get Up Close and Personal with a Musical Genius

Da-da-da-DUM! In December 1770, the child prodigy Beethoven was born in a house in the center of Bonn. Today this building has become a symbol of the city. If you are a classical music enthusiast (or a local high school student dragged there by their music teacher), Beethoven’s birthplace is a must-see. Now home to memorabilia such as historical instruments and original manuscripts, it holds the most extensive Beethoven collection in the world and offers a brilliant insight into the composer’s life.

InterNations Expat Blog_Insider Tips Bonn_Pic 1Beethoven himself gave his seal of approval for the city after he had moved to Vienna: “I will always remember my time in Bonn as one of the happiest periods of my life.” And the city, in return, shows him the respect he and his legacy deserve. Around the city, you will spot various things marking his presence from monuments, to the Beethoven Orchestra — and even Beethoven wine.

In fact, Bonn’s citizens even donated money for the construction of the Beethovenhalle, inaugurated in 1959. The city also hosts the yearly Beethovenfest. In some form, this festival in honor of the composer has taken place on and off since 1845, the year of Beethoven’s 75th birthday. It is now regularly scheduled for September with a variety of performances throughout the month. If you are planning to visit the city next month, you should try to make it to at least one of the concerts, with top artists coming from around the world.

Ascend the Stairway to History

The Old Town Hall, completed in 1780, has stood witness to a large swathe of Bonn’s local history. Located in the Marktplatz (the town’s market square), the building is adorned with a rococo façade and is currently home to the Lord Mayor’s office and representation rooms.

InterNations Expat Blog_Insider Tips Bonn_Pic 2When Bonn was the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, between 1949 and 1990, the Old Town Hall hosted a variety of politically important guests, who all signed their named in the Golden Book of the City’s Guests of Honor upon arrival. Just some of these guests, and some of the figures to give speeches on the Freitreppe — the so-called steps of history — were John F. Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II. Take the time to walk in their footsteps, take a photo before those gilded steps and feel a part of history.

Explore the Place Where Nature and Knowledge Meet

It may sound odd to recommend a university campus as a site worth seeing on your trip to Bonn, but this particular university is steeped in history. The University of Bonn (its full name’s quite a mouthful: Rhenian Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Bonn) has been considered one of Germany’s most important academic institutions since the 19th century.

InterNations Expat Blog_Insider Tips Bonn_Pic 3Its main building has an interesting history of its own. The Electoral Palace is a Baroque-style residence which originally housed the Archbishop of Cologne, then becoming the home of the Faculty of Arts as early as 1818. Here, you won’t only able to take in the magnificent campus building, but also get to see the place that both Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche graduated from.

But if you prefer plants to philosophy, just visit the Poppelsdorf Palace (another residence turned university building) and the nearby Botanical Garden instead. If you like being surrounded by nature, you will surely enjoy exploring the gardens as well as the palace courtyard, which offers impressive views of the Seven Mountains southeast of the city.

Climb the Seven Mountains

After living in St Gallen, Switzerland and moving to Munich, I must admit that the so-called “Seven Mountains” near Bonn are more like a range of hills. However, even if they aren’t quite as majestic as the Alps, the Seven Mountains are still a popular destination for daytrips from the former capital, for hikers, families, and nature enthusiasts alike. I fondly remember numerous family outings as a kid. InterNations Expat Blog_Insider Tips Bonn_Pic 5

It’s a very idyllic area, and on a sunny day, the scenery looks like an illustration from an old-time fairy tale or a vintage postcard collection with pictures of “romantic Germany”. Hikers with lots of free time could theoretically follow all 350 km of the Rheinsteig along the river, from Bonn to Wiesbaden, and cross the Seven Mountains along the way. Realistically speaking, just take the afternoon off to see Schloss Drachenburg (Dragonstone Castle) — not an actual castle, but a fake one built as a gothic mansion for a 19th-century financier, but lots of fun to explore nonetheless. Children will love it!

Or, if you like your travels to be really relaxed, take one of the riverboats on the Rhine and admire the hills and castles (both fake and authentic ones) from below while sipping a cup of hot chocolate or a pint of cool beeronboard.

Follow the “Path of Democracy”

Back in Bonn, a trip to the former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany — affectionately nicknamed Bundesdorf (federal village) for its slightly provincial character — is hardly complete without a trip to the Federal Quarter (Bundesviertel) and the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland — or Haus der Geschichte for short.

This museum — one of the most popular in Germany and another perennial favorites among school teachers organizing local field trips — is dedicated to contemporary German history, with a permanent exhibit detailing the history of Germany from the end of the Second World War right up to the present day. It also houses a wide range of temporary exhibitions focusing on selected aspects of recent German history.InterNations Expat Blog_Insider Tips Bonn_Pic 4

After soaking up all you need to know about Germany’s history in the 20th and 21st centuries, you can follow the “Path of Democracy” through the Federal Quarter, beginning right at the museum. This walk, which lasts approximately 90 minutes to two hours, is made up of signs along the way, which provide information about the past and present functions of the relevant spots in the Federal District. Along the way, you will see are the former Bundestag (parliamentary building), which has now been turned into the UN Campus, and the former office building of the Members of Parliament.

And after so much serious history and politics, Bonn should offer enough cafés for a traditional German Kaffee and Kuchen (a cup of coffee and a piece of cake) or winehouses for the famous local vintages from the Rhine Valley. Prost!

(Image credit: 1) BEETHON by Wikimedia Commons user Leit 2) University of Bonn by Wikimedia Commons user Jean Housen 3) Old Town Hall by Wikimedia Commons user Guido Radig 4) Schloss Drachenburg by Wikimedia Commons user Tohma 5) Haus der Geschichte by Wikimedia Commons user Jpetersen)

What’s a day like in your life? — The Top Three Photos of Our #MyGlobalLocalLife Contest

Last month, we asked you to express your creative side and show us what expat life is like in your city. Be it your favorite spot to hang out with your friends, a night out at an InterNations event or you and your friends doing an activity together and just having a great time: we wanted to see it all on Instagram. The main condition of this contest was that you had to be in the picture to win.

NL20160818_InstagramMyGlobalLocalLife

Under the hashtag #MyGlobalLocalLife, we received over 700 contributions from all around the world; a quite overwhelming number. It was great to get an impression of your favorite spots in your city, or your favorite activity.

Now, we are happy to present the winning pictures of #MyGlobalLocalLife!

3rd Place: Las Dunas de Banî, Republica Dominica

MyGlobalLocalLife3_altOur third place winner @fioresflorentino shared her impression of a great day at the beach. Together with the Dominican Republic Outdoor, Mountain, Beach, River Group, she visited Las Dunas de Banî and just had a blast. The little desert in the Dominican Republic was the group’s third destination in total. “Each trip has been a great experience to learn from each other and to enjoy this beautiful country, great memorable days.“
Next time, they will head to Santiago de Los Caballeros and surely have an equally great time.

2nd Place: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

MyGlobalLocalLife2_alt

@rkresi20 shared a tranquil moment at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris with us. The museum is located between the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower and has a collection of over 10,000 art works. It is one of the biggest museums of modern and contemporary art in the country. The room which shows this iconic work of art is thus only one of the many pieces on display.

1st Place: Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

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The winning picture of this contest was submitted by @ruthkharen and shows her crossing a river on Mount Pinatubo with some of her InterNations friends. This volcano in the Philippines last erupted in 1991 and roads to its peak are closed during the rainy season. @ruthkharen explains: “We were headed to the Peak (Crater Lake), but before we could get there and hike up the volcano, we had to take this 4×4 ride across 21 kilometers of mud, sand, rocks, puddles, cliffs of ashes, and rivers that formed in the former lavascape that had been cleared out.“

Despite the difficult car ride and hike through treacherous terrain, this great picture and the view from the top made it worth the struggle: “The tough ride and slippery hike up through rivers and ashes were all worth it once we got to the top. It was beautiful everywhere and so much fun!”

Thank you to everyone who contributed a picture and allowed us to catch a glimpse of their global-local life and congratulations to the winners of this contest!

Let’s Go Outside — Summer Vacation with InterNations

For many expats, August is the time for vacation. Some escape the blistering heat or the freezing cold in their host country to travel to more balmy regions, while others visit neighboring cities or countries, or simply use the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Of course, there is still no need to pass up on spending time with your favorite InterNations crowd. We have put together some great events to complete your August vacation and show you what some of our communities have been up to this month.

The Olympic Summer Games

The Olympic Summer Games are taking place in Rio at this very moment, and our communities can simply not pass up the opportunity to celebrate this unique athletic event. With this occasion in mind, our community in Houston hosted an Olympic Games Party on Thursday, 11 August. Guests were encouraged to wear the colors of their country to create an international atmosphere worthy of the games.

Houston1

The community in Bogota used their Mid-August Mixer on Saturday, 13 August, for an unofficial Olympic party. Aside from great music, cool drinks, and the opportunity to dance all night, members were asked to come dressed in their national colors, the colors of their favorite country or in traditional attire.

Bogota1

Members of the Rio de Janeiro Exploring the City Group, who are lucky enough to be at the center of the Olympic fever, took a break from watching athletes from all over the world compete to explore the ninth Carioquíssima, a creative market set between Santos Dumont Airport and the Imperial Palace. On Saturday, 13 August, group members headed there to browse, enjoy local food and live shows.

Rio1

In the spirit of the Olympic Games, the Gaborone Outdoor & Sports Group will participate in the Botswana Color Run on Saturday, 27 August. Runners will start in a white shirt and are showered in color powder at stations. Why don’t you join us on the run?

A BBQ Down by the River

As far as summer vacation spirit goes, InterNations Miami has certainly taken the well-established route with a Miami Pool Party. On Saturday, 6 August, our members met at a venue inspired by the Greek island Santorini to relax at the pool, enjoy great food, mingle with other global minds and dance to mellow summer tunes.

Miami2

Our community in Geneva relaxed by the lake instead and enjoyed their sundowner drinks on a beautiful lakeside terrace on Wednesday, 10 August. With beautiful weather and a view of the lake, it was the perfect way to spend the evening.

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InterNations members in Paris were also drawn to the water on Wednesday, 10 August. They spent the evening aboard the Péniche “Cap Pont Marie” on the Seine, where they enjoyed afterwork drinks and the view of Ile Saint Louis. What better way is there to mingle with other global minds?

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There is no need to worry if you have missed these events, of course, since some of the best are still to come.

The Cologne Riviera Sunset Event offers the perfect opportunity to watch the sunset over the Rhine. On Friday, 19 August, you can enjoy a relaxed evening mingling with other expats and global minds on the terrace of the Germania Tennis Club at the Poller meadows.

Don’t miss your chance to celebrate summer with InterNations Freiburg on Tuesday, 23 August. Members will meet at Waldsee by a small lake to enjoy the last sunshine of the day.

What would a summer vacation be without a proper BBQ? Our Berlin Community will meet on Friday, 19 August for an Extra Summer Event. We will meet at the bar for a preliminary welcome drink first before heading to the terrace. The dress code is dress to impress and think pink.

On Saturday, 20 August, the community in Minneapolis is getting together for their Annual Summer Barbecue which has become a Twin Cities tradition by now. Members will meet at St. Louis Park near the sand volleyball court. There will be separate grills for various eating options and non-alcoholic drinks provided by the Ambassadors. Please bring your own meat to grill!

Parties and Concerts

If your August vacation is already rife with laid-back evenings at the shore or pool, or if you are simply bored by relaxed after-work drinks, summer parties are the best solution to get out of the rut.

Munich5

On Thursday, 4 August, members of InterNations Munich met at the Caribbean Embassy for a Caribbean style buffet and a joyful dance party. Later in the evening, the venue turned into a giant dance floor and all attendees used the opportunity to dance the night away.

Rotterdam2

The community in Rotterdam hosted a Summer Nights event, combining the fun of a party with the benefits of a networking event. On Friday, 5 August, InterNations members enjoyed the stars, summer cocktails and the excellent company of the evening.

InterNations Lugano welcomed all members to a Hawaiian Themed Networking Party on Friday, 5 August. Everyone was asked to dress in their favorite Hawaiian shirts and flower garlands (the best outfit won a prize), to enjoy their welcome drink and the delicious BBQ in style.

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For those who haven’t had their August party fix yet, we still have some tricks up our sleeves. On Friday, 19 August, our community in Lille is celebrating Best Cocktails & Summer Time, with (hopefully) great weather, food and drinks. The venue offers a selection of 15 classic cocktails, not to mention delicious salads.

Are you rather in the mood for a mellow open air concert? Our Zurich English Conversation Group is visiting the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen on Sunday, 21 August. Join the group as they will attend a concert of the British blues band Heymoonshakers and enjoy some drinks at the bar together.

 

Whether you’re sipping cool drinks by the pool or dancing all night at the hottest clubs in town, we want to know how you are spending your August vacation. Tell us more in the comments!

 

Image credits: 1)-6) InterNations, 7) Sergej DAGDA, 8) Hanike.nl, 9) InterNations

Those Quizzical Expats! An Offbeat Way of Settling In in Cairo

The Pub Club in Maadi: A Multinational Oasis

Maadi, a locally famous neighborhood south of Cairo, is one of the few places in the desert city where you can find a cornucopia of international bars and restaurants. Nestled among the rare leafy greenery, you will also find the British Community Association, a popular port-of-call especially for Cairo’s English-speaking expat community.View of Cairo from roof of Amir al-Maridani mosque

A group of guests is waiting impatiently at their dark wooden table: finally, they will find out the results of the latest pub quiz league. Has this team managed to lift this year’s trophy?

Right from entering the league, an annual competition rolled out by the BCA, they gained the lead among 20 competing teams. From football shirts to foreign affairs, from Disney songs to historical trivia, they seem to have an answer to (nearly) all the questions the moderator throws at them. Not even having to guess Hollywood movies from stills of Johnny Depp can faze them.

“We don’t have a specialist subject — that’s why we usually succeed,” says Chris. The team’s initiator and one of its core members, the owner of an ad agency and writer has been living in Cairo with his Chilean wife for two years. “But we are quite good at hits from the 1970s and 1980s — we’re getting old,” he laughs.

Blur or Defocus image of Coffee Shop The tight-knit group eagerly anticipating the final score is part of the InterNations Cairo Pub Club. Their diverse activities, by no means limited to several multinational teams running in the very British pub quiz competition, have become a fixture in the social calendar of Cairo’s expat circles: once, they threw a big birthday bash — complete with a live rock’n’roll band — for a single expat woman who’d left her support network of family and friends behind in the UK.

Forming such ties far from home has brought them all together in this ten-million-strong mega-city. Cairo, which has gone through a revolution and considerable political upheavals, still suffers from ever-present, albeit less visible security issues. What it also suffers from is the media coverage that tends to overemphasize the negative aspects of life in the Egyptian capital.

Outside the Expat Bubble: Blurring Boundaries with the Locals

The InterNations Cairo Pub Club and its quiz teams unite expats of different ages, from a variety of countries, and with a wide range of professional fields and interests: from Austrians to Australians, from movie buffs to musicians.

And then there’s Neil, co-host of the Pub Club Group. He came to Egypt two years ago to work on the Cairo Airport Development Project TB2, the complete modernization of the old and overcrowded airport terminal. Working together with 500 Turkish and 3,000 Egyptian employees, he considered this task one of the biggest challenges in his life. Construction

“My manager gave me a great piece of advice on day one. Smile and be friendly, and you’ll get on,” Neil says. “Well, this still holds true, but with the issues involved in completing a major project, putting on a smiling face has sometimes been rather difficult. What has saved my time in Cairo is the social life I have created for myself.”

For Neil, the important thing about the Pub Club is ensuring that all members feel welcome and get involved. Over time, an increasing number of people have attended their events, hitting a record high of up to 80 — among them expats new to Cairo as well as Egyptian guests who had never participated in a pub quiz before. Each and every one took an active part in the game.

“They surprised themselves with what they knew — from Mr Men characters to the number of colors in the South African Flag to where the Nile starts!” Neil remembers.”Plenty came back again as the first night was such fun.”

View on CairoNot only because of neighborhoods such as Maadi, where many foreign residents live in an expat bubble of clubs and compounds, integrating in a city like Cairo can be a challenge of its own. Attending events together with local guests is one way of overcoming the boundaries that are impossible to deny. Meeting some of the Egyptian InterNations volunteers who bring the community together is another way of better understanding their home — volunteers like Dahlia, who runs the Cairo Lunch & Munch Group.

Born in Cairo, the well-traveled businesswoman goes on frequent business trips to Europe for her own consultancy. She was introduced to InterNations on the go, in an international airport lounge, and had benefitted from the network by making new connections in several countries, long before she joined the Cairo Community.

“Sometimes, I feel more like an expat than some expats in Egypt. I am always travelling abroad, while it is the first foreign assignment for some who are new to Cairo”, Dahlia warns about labelling people too quickly. But she does her best to support the new arrivals and answer their questions.

And she learns a lot from the foreign community, too, even about her own city: “They know more about places I have never been to; for example, they see downtown Cairo with fresh eyes and try out venues I know from twenty years ago and that just used to be no-go places back then. It’s an exciting back-and-forth exchange of information.” Felucca Nile cruise

What’s her favorite spot? When she is not praising Alexandria, its cultural heritage, Mediterranean waterfront, and fresh seafood, she keeps returning to Egypt’s main artery from times immemorial: “Anything on the Nile! I live by the airport, so I’m far away. Whenever I can go there and take my group along, I do that. It’s a very romantic place.”

“You have a chit-chat with the lunch group, and then the conversation goes into the direction of what is happening in the country,” Dahlia explains. “But the main questions I always get are about cultural sensitivities. What can you say versus not say?” Expats are curious about understanding and respecting the host culture, which becomes even more pronounced during Ramadan.

Reasonable Concerns or Unnecessary Worries? The Security Situation

What about security? Dahlia describes her city as very chaotic, still. But, she adds, many expats live in the above-mentioned bubble and will not feel this.

“Everything is rolled out for them. Only if you are part of a community like InterNations will you touch base with what’s going on here”, says Dahlia. Horsepower “There are other types of expats coming in now: many new arrivals seem to be afraid of working in Egypt, because of what the news tells you. Compared to five years ago, it’s safe now. The media is painting a picture that’s not really correct. This image can even be a burden when we set up events and activities for our community.”

After settling in in Cairo, Chris has also adapted to local life, even when it comes to concerns about safety: “I guess we are so used to it that we get less worried about things. You realize that the problems are probably not going to hit Cairo; they are pretty much outside of the city.”

Indeed, there is a fine line between taking reasonable precautions and overreacting, one of the many challenges the InterNations members in Cairo face.

The Final Countdown: The Last Round before Summer

So, did Chris’s team meet their personal challenge in the final pub quiz round? It was unfortunately not them who prevailed on that hot summer night, though, ironically, their victorious rivals were another competing InterNations team.

Nonetheless, after scoring so many points in previous matches, they were not to be beaten: although they only placed fourth in the finals, the trophy was still theirs in the end. InterNations Expat Blog_My InterNations Cairo_August 2016_Pic 6Cue: celebratory yelling, spontaneous hugging, and swigging one last round of drinks. The actual prize — vouchers to a local restaurant — mattered far less than those shared moments of joy.

On this high note, the Cairo Pub Club left for the summer break — a traditional time for farewells in the expat community, when assignees often move on to a new posting and teachers take a well-deserved vacation. In September, they will start welcoming newcomers once again, ready to see an ancient city all anew.

(Image credits: 1)-6) iStockphoto 7) Carol El Hawary)

The Truth about Expat Friendships

When you first think about leaving your home country and traveling the world, one of the top things you’ll consider is meeting new people. Yes, this is true; you will indeed meet plenty of people from all walks of life.

I have been living in Shanghai for almost two years and would have never guessed the number of nations that reside in the Big Red. I have met people from all over the globe. Friends looking at smart phone while sitting in cafe It’s truly a rewarding experience. You learn so much about yourself and others, and about different ways of living.

But after the first six to eight months, the glitter usually starts to lose its glare. Reality will begin to kick in, and you will reconsider the friendships that you’ve developed.

Before you book that one-way ticket and pass through customs, I recommend the following list to help you manage your expectations:

1. Everyone is leaving. — Every month or even every few weeks you will get an invite or be added to a group chat, and it’ll be for a going-away party.

railway lineAt first these parties will be bittersweet. Sweet because you’ve been invited to a party overseas and didn’t know you were cool enough to merit an invite. Bitter because after the third or fourth party, you won’t care. I have been overseas going on two years and about 80% of the people I’ve met or befriended have moved on.

2. People are still people. — You know that feeling when you have left your home country and think that you have also left behind its social norms, standards, banter, gossip, and so forth. Colleagues gossiping behind a sad businessman Guess what? It’s abroad too.

You will develop some genuine friendships and meet some life-changing folks. For example, I met my girlfriend here and love her to death. But I’ve also met some real jerks. Gossip will rear its ugly head even in a foreign country, and toxic people exist everywhere. Don’t get me wrong: I love living overseas and wouldn’t change it for anything, but I would definitely change some of the people.

3. Remember when I said, “You’ll meet some life-changing folks?” (If not, just read the previous paragraph again.) And remember when I said that people are always leaving? There are some pluses to this.Holiday suitcase

Once people move away, whether back home or somewhere new, you will have new friends around the globe and a couch to crash on. My one buddy moved from Shanghai to Spain, and I plan on visiting him next season. I would have never thought of going to Spain if it wasn’t for his move.

4. The friendships that you gain aren’t temporary or permanent, they represent something more. — Unlike friends that you grow up with or meeting people in your country of origin, these people are a part of your tribe. The tribe of expat.

Very few people will be able to discuss hostel recommendations hostels in Hong Kong or non-touristy spots in Taiwan. Or talk about the troubles of renewing your passport or missing your connecting flight because you have flown China Eastern. Diverse People Group Party Celebration Concept This tribe will be a part of you as well as you are a part of it. This experience will be with you for the rest of your life.

Now if you’re still considering moving abroad or longtime traveling, I do recommend it. I know it can be hard to meet people and make new friends in a foreign land, but it’s possible. Trust me, making friends is a learning experience for both sides, as some friendships won’t make it past the end of this sentence and others will last forever.

Deshawn Peterson is from the US but currently lives in Shanghai, going on year two in mainland China. His favorite place to visit is Hong Kong, and he is also studying Mandarin at a local school. He loves discussing tech, global economics, and life as a digital nomad over a good bowl of beef noodles. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

How to Become a Humanitarian 101

As expatriates, we travel the world, find ourselves in the most amazing places, and make new international friends. But what happens when you start longing to blend in more with the local population and would like to give back to the community you are now a part of? InterNations offers a potential solution.

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Get Connected With Your Community

In 34 cities across the globe, InterNations Volunteer Groups enable you to connect you with your local community. With at least one activity taking place each month, there is always something you can do to give that extra bit of support to people in need.

Next month, on August 19, we celebrate World Humanitarian Day. The InterNations Volunteer Program joins the UN in honoring those who bring relief to others while calling as many as possible to action. Let August 19 be the first day for you to make an impact; for example, you could start by joining your local Volunteer Group.

Get Inspired for World Humanitarian Day 2016

In honor of World Humanitarian Day 2016, we would like to introduce you to four great examples from our members who have already taken action for a good cause and who might inspire you.

Joining Social Impact Night, Munich

The Consuls of the Munich Volunteer Group are organizing a monthly event called “SIN”. Participating should give you the opposite of a guilty conscience, though.

InterNations Expat Blog_Volunteer Program_World Humanitarian Day 2016_Pic 3 SIN is short for Social Impact Night: this special event is always dedicated to a specific topic and consists of an inspiring speech by a keynote speaker. In March, for the International Day of Happiness, Elitsa Dincheva, the PR representative for the international NPO SOS Children’s Villages, shared her moving story about how she experienced the earthquake and disaster relief in Nepal that hit the country in 2015.

Eating for a Good Cause, Paris

InterNations Consul Ricardo Coronel Lemus from the Paris Volunteer Group organized a clownish dinner for a serious reason.InterNations Expat Blog_Volunteer Program_World Humanitarian Day 2016_Pic 1

While the attendees enjoyed authentic Colombian and Mexican food, a part of the bill went to the non-profit organization Le Rire médecin. This French organization sends specially-trained clowns to entertain children during their stay at the hospital.

Handing Out Cold Water, Dubai

In the Dubai Volunteer Group, Consul Rachel Truong felt inspired to join a campaign of the Sameness project: Water for Workers. InterNations Expat Blog_Volunteer Program_World Humanitarian Day 2016_Pic 4

The members of the InterNations Volunteer Group decided to hand out cold water to hard-working laborers, who even have to go to their job in the 45°C summer heat. However, it wasn’t only cold water that was handed out: a “thank you”, a handshake, and a friendly conversation created this moment of “sameness” what the project is all about.

Helping the Elderly, Santiago de Chile

InterNations member Angel Grimalt of the Santiago de Chile Volunteer Group regularly invites the members of the Group to visit a local retirement home. InterNations Expat Blog_Volunteer Program_World Humanitarian Day 2016_Pic 2During the visit, the members usually prepare an afternoon tea, where they get to bond with the elderly over savory sandwiches and sugar-free cookies.

Get Started with Your Talents

If you have a fantastic idea for your local community, just check out if there’s a Volunteer Group in your InterNations Community and get in touch with the Consul to find out what you can do. Each of us is unique and has different passions, and that is exactly what makes your contribution to a humanitarian cause invaluable.

If you’d like to get involved in activities for a good cause, please check if there is a Volunteer Group in your InterNations Community. Every InterNations member can join the group and take part in the activities!

Find out more about the InterNations Volunteer Program on our About Page or write to volunteerprogram@internations.org.

(Image credit: InterNations

The Most Peaceful Places on Earth

Now that the UEFA European Football Championship has been over for several weeks, have you already forgotten about everyone’s favorite underdog? Iceland took part in a European football championship for the first time ever. Despite their lack of experience, as well as the fact that their manager was a part-time dentist from the tiny Westman Islands, they made it to the quarter finals — and promptly lost against Portugal.

However, the island nation is a true champion in another ranking. According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world. Ever since the global think tank Institute for Economics and Peace began to publish the annual index in 2007, Iceland has been the uncontested #1 each and every year (with a brief exception in 2010).

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA The Global Peace Index 2016 looks at 163 larger nations (excluding most so-called “microstates” like Monaco or Tuvalu) and evaluates their respective level of peacefulness. The analysis includes an array of 22 impact factors that affect three overarching issues: safety and security (e.g. homicide rates), domestic and external conflicts (e.g. the number of such conflicts fought), and the degree of militarization (e.g. weapons imports and exports).

The following five countries have thus been named the most peaceful around the globe.

1) Iceland

Peace_Iceland Old Icelandic sagas — which abound with outlaws and bloody vendettas — and contemporary “Nordic noir” crime novels may give a different impression, but the descendants of the grim Vikings are a very peaceable people. The small and remote country, with merely 333,000 inhabitants, has allegedly got the third-lowest murder rate across the globe. Its police officers rarely carry firearms, and so far, only one person has ever been killed in an altercation with the Icelandic police.

Even the international peacekeeping unit that is part of the Icelandic military is only allowed to go armed in certain circumstances and mainly serves as an aid squad. No wonder: Iceland’s military budget amounts to 0.26% of its GDP. In comparison, the nation with the highest military expenditures worldwide spends over twenty-one times as much, proportionately speaking.

The one thing Icelanders have to be afraid of is another one of their 30 active volcanoes erupting.

2) Denmark

Fittingly enough, the next nation on this year’s Global Peace Index is another country populated by domesticated ex-Vikings: Iceland’s former “motherland”, Denmark. Unlike Iceland, however, it does not only maintain a standing army, but it is also involved more heavily in NATO operations worldwide. (On a less serious note, Denmark is also entangled in a non-violent, albeit long-standing dispute over who can lay claim to the North Pole.)

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Although the Copenhagen shootings made the international headlines in February 2015, Denmark’s overall scores in the index indicate that such shocking events are fortunately statistical outliers. But if you want to play it really safe, you might want to move to the Danish island of Chistiansø, located near Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The close-knit community of 100 residents noted exactly one reported crime in all of 2015. The local police probably fear perishing from sheer boredom.

3) Austria

Everyone knows that Switzerland is famous for its oft-mentioned neutrality in military matters. But did you know that neighboring Austria considers permanent neutrality an essential part of its identity, too?

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The 1955 Declaration of Neutrality was largely a consequence of the political situation in the Cold War. Though strict neutrality has been watered down somewhat since Austria became a member of the EU in 1995, its constitution still forbids it from joining any military alliances.

Perhaps this is one potential explanation as to why Austria ranks relatively low on the militarization scale of the Global Peace Index, with a score of 1.4 out of 5. Moreover, though Austria does have a defense industry with a yearly turnover of 2.5 billion EUR, it also has relatively strict regulations for weapons exports.

So, keep enjoying your Sacher cake with a safe conscience.

4) New Zealand

As cozy as the Shire, the hobbits’ idyllic home in The Lord of the Rings, New Zealand earns a respectable fourth place in the ranking of global peacefulness. Maybe the Kiwis have got a thing or two in common with those fictional hobbits, pacifist homebodies that they are.

Peace_New Zealand

The country is particularly well known for its policy of nuclear disarmament. Like Frodo decides to rid himself of the One Ring, the ultimate weapon, New Zealand decided to get rid of its very real 20th-century equivalent: it is the only country that has officially enshrined an anti-nuclear stance in national law. On the Global Peace Index, New Zealand scores a perfect 1 out of 5 in the heavy weapons category.

Still, the country faces a problem similar to Iceland: it has a comparatively larger number of active volcanoes. Beware of Mt Doom exploding…

5) Portugal

Last but certainly not least, Portugal has made a big jump in the latest edition of the Global Peace Index. While it ranked 18th in both 2013 and 2014 and barely missed the top ten last year, it has now improved its score significantly.

Peace_Portugal

The Global Peace Report 2016 emphasizes that Portugal is the European nation to have gained the most in comparison to the last few years. It especially draws attention to the country’s increased political stability after Portugal’s suffering from the fallout of the Eurozone crisis.

That’s at least as good a reason to rejoice as the well-deserved UEFA Euro trophy!

 

Image credit: 1) iStockphoto, 2) Pexels, 3) iStockphoto, 4) StockUp, 5) + 6) Pexels

Seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Your Next Vacation

It’s that time of year again; the time when many people jet off abroad to warmer climates in the search of relaxation and discovery. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently released an updated list of World Heritage sites, highlighted for their cultural and natural significance.

Here are seven, new and long-standing, world heritage sites to consider visiting on your next adventure abroad.

Hubei Shennongjia, China

One of the newest World Heritage sites, introduced in July 2016, this area in central-eastern China is well worth a visit if you’re on the hunt for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Not yet widely known among international visitors, this mountainous area has been popular among Chinese tourists for a while. Shennongjia Forest Zone It will offer you the chance to glimpse a variety of local flora as well as many rare animals, for example the clouded leopard, the golden monkey, and the Chinese giant salamander.

Given that you may also see bears around here, this forest is definitely for the more adventurous, but it will be a truly enriching experience. The region is one of three areas of biodiversity in China and also features noticeably in botanical research.

Prague, Czech Republic

Currently a hotspot for tourists, Prague is a must-see when you are touring the European continent. Described by UNESCO as “one of the most beautiful cities in Europe”, this city has roots dating back to the 11th century. In fact, it has not changed dramatically from its origins in the Early Middle Ages. The gradual additions and lack of demolitions have turned Prague’s architecture into a mixture of Gothic, High Baroque, and 20th-century modernism.prague charles bridge

Not only does the city have architecture worthy of a thousand photos, it also has a history to marvel at. Prague is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1348, and due to its political and intellectual significance across the ages, it has been linked to names such as Kafka, Mozart, and even Einstein. Indeed, the city is known as the intellectual and cultural center of Central and Eastern Europe — the ideal destination for any culture buff.

Olympia, Greece

If you know your Pandora from your Medusa, and your discus from your javelin, Olympia might be the perfect place for your next summer holiday. Set in the so-called Valley of the Gods in the western Peloponnese, Olympia is not only the ancient site of the worship of Zeus, but also the original location for the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Ancient site of Olympia, Greece A “natural setting of beauty and serenity”, as UNESCO describes it, Olympia is also culturally significant due to the architectural standards set here.

Easy to reach from other cities in Greece such as Patras or Athens, there is much to see here other than just the ruins. In the museum, you will find the sculpted decoration of the temple of Zeus — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There is even a spa and beach just 18 km away for when you need a break from ancient history.

Medina of Marrakesh, Morocco

Founded in 1070, the Moroccan city of Marrakesh is important culturally and economically. The long-standing original elements of this medina (i.e. Old Town) — which have earned Marrakesh its place on the UNESCO World Heritage list — make it feel like living history as you explore.Souk (bazaar) in the Moroccan old town - Medina

While there, be sure to visit the Koutoubiya Mosque, the symbol of the city and an important monument for Muslim architecture. The Place Jamaa El Fna is also well worth a visit. The main square of Marrakesh houses a market by day, but transforms into an open-air theater at night with performers of all kinds wowing the crowds. This is also where you should head for delicious, traditional Moroccan food.

Gaudí’s Oeuvre, Barcelona, Spain

If Mediterranean culture has taken your fancy for your upcoming summer getaway, then Barcelona should be top of your list. This host of the World Heritage-listed architecture by Antoni Gaudí has much more on offer than just his seven impressive properties, which represent a crossover between modern and traditional Catalan design. Wander through the streets and watch as history passes in front of your eyes — from the Gothic quarter to the ancient city walls, to Catalan modernisme and Park Güell, architecture in this city spans the ages.Colorful mosaic benches at the Gaudi-designed Park Guell

Catalonia’s capital has something for every type of tourist. Take you time to discover the works of Dali and Picasso in the city’s museums and to enjoy the stunning landscape, with the beach on one side and the forest-covered hills behind the city. If art and architecture are not your thing, you can be sure to enjoy relaxing on the beach, before heading to a tapas bar followed by a night out among the locals. Barcelona has a varied and vibrant nightlife, offering any type of music in its countless bars and clubs.

Rocky Mountain Parks, Canada

For those who would rather prefer to be surrounded by nature than a cityscape, the Rocky Mountains in Canada are an excellent option. Whether you are a geology enthusiast or simply enjoy a good hike, you will find that the Canadian Rockies are the perfect place to spend a summer vacation. Just make sure to take your time to really discover everything from mountain ranges and limestone caves to lakes and waterfalls down below. But take care you don’t get eaten by a grizzly or black bear!Morning rays at Rocky Mountains

You will also find the Burgess Shale fossil site here, one of the most significant in the world, containing well-preserved fossils of marine animals. Here you can witness the evolution of many animal groups that still exist today. Of course, you may not want to spend too long looking at fossilsized cephalopods and bristle worms, but rather conquer one of many peaks and take outstanding photos of the surrounding vistas, before enjoying a well-deserved night cap at the end of the day.

Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia

A walk through the streets of Split is definitely a journey through time. Recognized as a World Heritage site in the late 1970s, the Historical Complex of Split is a must-see. Built in the early fourth century, the ruins of the famous Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace are scattered throughout the historical complex and stand among buildings from the Middle Ages, such as the Cathedral of St Domnius (the town’s patron saint, who was actually martyred under Diocletian’s reign), as well as 15th-century Renaissance style buildings. Split bay aerial view through stone window

The city has also hosted the film crews of the popular Game of Thrones TV series. If you are a fan, a novel way to discover the sites of Split would be to take a guided tour with a local, focusing on places used as settings. One such set was Diocletian’s palace itself — what better way to explore the city’s eventful history than to also visit Daenerys’ throne room at the same time (dragons unfortunately not included)! And there’s certainly no lack of bars and restaurants for you to while away the evening after a long day of sightseeing.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Red, White, Blue & a Big BBQ — Celebrate Your Community

There are many ways to celebrate your new home abroad: you can join in national holiday celebrations and traditions or you can knock it out of the park with something unique and different. In any case, local and national holidays are the perfect opportunity to get to know your community, meet other expats and locals, and learn a thing or two about their traditions. On the other hand, this is also your chance to celebrate your favorite holiday abroad and share your own traditions with your community.

The Fourth of July

The most “iconic” (and thanks to pop culture the best-known) national holiday is Independence Day or Fourth of July. On this day, people in the USA get together to celebrate with large barbecues, parades, and, of course, fireworks.FourthofJuly

However, Fourth of July was also celebrated by our members in other countries. On Saturday, 2 July, our community in Goiania hosted an American Independence Day party on a ranch just outside the city. The typical American BBQ was just as much of a highlight as the great company.

Goiania1

The community in Houston, on the other hand, met on Monday, 11 July, for a post 4th of July party. At a local steakhouse, they mixed and mingled, and enjoyed great wine and delicious American food.

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If you have missed this year’s Fourth of July party, don’t worry, the fun isn’t over yet. The community in Orange County has declared July “Independence Month.” On Friday, 29 July, the motto is “red, white, and blue” as our members and their friends put on their dancing shoes and get ready to hit the dance floor for a belated Independence Day party.

Bastille Day

The French, as you may already know, celebrate their own version of Independence Day. On 14 July, they commemorate the storming of the bastille during the French Revolution. The Fête Nationale (or Bastille Day as it is called in English-speaking countries) is celebrated all throughout France.

BastilleDay2

As many expats use that extra day off to leave town and travel, the community in Lille hosted a pre-holiday mingle on Wednesday, 13 July. Members got together for a few drinks and a relaxed evening before everyone went off to enjoy the extended weekend.

Lille1

Our community in Bordeaux, on the other hand, met on Thursday, 14 July, at Palais de la Truffe. Expats and global minds enjoyed wine and tapas, taking the opportunity to chat before heading outside to enjoy the fireworks together.

We are very saddened by the recent events in Nice and would like to express our sincere condolences to everybody affected by the attack.

Christmas in July

While many expats in the northern hemisphere enjoy the long days, things look a little different down under. In an attempt to make the best of the winter months and to give a traditional December holiday a wintery feel, some of our Australian communities are celebrating Christmas in July.

ChristmasinJuly

On Wednesday, 13 July, our community in Sydney met at the Bear Bar for a kitschy, cozy winter night, complete with Christmas trees, Glühwein, and even snow. Our members were happy to get out of the cold and spend a nice evening in great company celebrating a very early Christmas.

Sydney1

For InterNations members in Brisbane, the Christmas in July celebrations have yet to take place. On Tuesday, 26 July, we will head to a classy, stylish lounge with a 19th century Eastern European ambiance. Aside from great company, there will be live jazz music throughout the evening. So throw on your favorite Christmas outfit and celebrate Christmas in July with us!

Celebrate Your Community… the Quirky Way

Of course, there are lots of great, fun, and quirky ways to celebrate national holidays, explore your community and get to know the place where you live.

The Vienna Burgers & More Group, for instance, met on Friday, 15 July, to watch the new Independence Day movie and enjoy American barbecue and burgers, for a perfect, belated Fourth of July celebration.

Vienna3

On Friday, 22 July, the community in Heidelberg is hosting “Rock am River”, a unique summer party right at the Neckar. This is the perfect opportunity to let your hair down and kick back with a cocktail in hand. Feel free to bring your colleagues and friends.

InterNations Miami is celebrating National Tequila Day on Saturday, 23 July, at an antiques-filled spot inspired by Incan culture. We will participate in a mezcal vs. tequila showdown to find out which of the beverages is the favorite. To add to the fun, you should come wearing your funniest hat!

Are you celebrating a national holiday with a traditional barbecue or are you setting up a Christmas tree in July? Tell us how you celebrate your community this month!

 

Image credit: 1) Pexels, 2 + 3) InterNations, 4) iStockphoto, 5) InterNations, 6) StockUp, 7 + 8) InterNations.