My InterNations: Off the Map

Moving abroad is often a hassle. Now imagine you’re settling in a city you have barely heard of or an unstable country. Sept Off the Map BlogPerhaps you’ve chosen a place with a tiny expat community and few people to ask for advice. How do you cope?

We have talked to InterNations members who’ve relocated to unusual destinations and are now building a community there by organizing events or activities. What would they tell other expats?

Zagreb — the Green Place

Though Croatia’s capital is its most populous city, it’s not particularly international. Most foreign residents come from other ex-Yugoslavian states or Germany. Zagreb cathedral panoramic aerial view It’s not necessarily where you’d except to run into an Egyptian film-maker from Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Theresa — the InterNations Consul of our Zagreb Cooking Group — got her first taste of expat life spending eight years in Saudi Arabia as a child. After discovering film-making in her thirties, she embarked on a joint Master’s degree for documentary film-makers in Europe.

It wasn’t this new passion, though, that brought her to Croatia, a country she vaguely associated with the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was love. She’s now been married to a Croatian for a year.

She finds life in Zagreb very peaceful, a green and quiet place; her biggest complaints concern unpaved bike lanes and the difficulties of buying okra.InterNations Expat Blog_My InterNations_Off the Map_Pic 6

However, settling down is hard once you hit the language barrier. She’s been studying Croatian as English isn’t always useful: “The older generation frequently speaks Russian or German. Maybe Zagreb will become more international now, with Croatia joining the EU.”

Theresa has made a virtue of necessity: she runs an English website to keep expats informed about events, for which only Croatian info was available.

Libreville — the Francophone Tropics

Where the River Komo joins the Gulf of Guinea, Libreville, the Gabonese capital, sits on the estuary, south of vast mangrove forests. The cosmopolitan port forms a stark contrast to the sparsely populated hinterland.

InterNations Expat Blog_My InterNations_Off the Map_Pic 1Kira — Group Consul for Dinner Nations Libreville — has spent the past two years here. A self-described “stereotypical third-culture kid” born in Flanders, she grew up in Botswana and Kenya.

“I’m no longer connected to one country,” Kira says. “My nationality couldn’t define me any less.”

It’s hardly surprising that, after obtaining an education degree in Belgium, she was longing to move to another African country — and found a teaching job in Gabon.

“I knew very little about Libreville,” she admits, “just about where it was. There wasn’t even an English guidebook!” Fortunately, her employer sorted out practical aspects like visas and housing.

Gabon seems an easy place to live at first: comparatively affluent, safe, politically stable. “You have all the basics,” Kira adds, “clean water, reliable electricity, and Internet access.”

InterNations Expat Blog_My InterNations_Off the Map_Pic 2Issues such as unpredictable banking fees or bribe-hungry police officers are minor irritations. It’s the lack of fluent French and the make-up of Libreville’s expat circles which make life difficult for Kira.

“It isn’t easy to meet people outside work. Especially for singles.” Most long-term expats are couples and families, and culture and entertainment activities are limited: “Apart from eating and drinking, dancing and the beach, there’s nothing to do,” she says.

But Kira waxes enthusiastic about Gabon’s natural beauty: “There’s more untouched rainforest here than you can imagine — it’s amazing!”

Erbil — the Frontier Experience

From equatorial rainforests to rugged mountains: Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is a far cry from Waltham Abbey, the English town where Dean — the InterNations Erbil Ambassador — grew up. His career in insurance “frontier markets” has taken him to Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Dean now works in Erbil as the country director for a French insurance broker.

“It has its challenges. Memorable experiences tend to be on the negative side,” he says with wry understatement. “Last year saw the advance of IS: quite a tense time.” Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq: main square, Shar Park

Dean temporarily left the country for the Costa Blanca, where his Kyrgyz wife and their two children live. They never considered joining him. The lack of international schools and the restrictions for women put a lot of pressure on family. He isn’t the only one to work on a rotational schedule and travel home frequently.

Those who do come have obvious reasons. “Oil,” Dean emphasizes, “makes up over 90% of the Iraqi economy.” Nowadays, employees in the oil industry are often placed on short-term assignments and confined to production sites. “They only come to town on the way in and out.”

It’s mostly by organizing events that Dean brings the international community together and gets to know those working in education, NGOs, or the Foreign Service.

However, the image some people may have of Erbil isn’t true: “It’s not some awful place with only rocks and sand.” Indeed, the city is situated in a fertile region and, due to its rich history, recently became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Salvador — Surprisingly “Tranquilo”

Nicole made the move from Germany to San Salvador because she loves a good challenge. When her job in the sportswear industry took her to Central America, she admits she first had to google the country.

“If you search for El Salvador, the worst things ever pop up.” Central America’s smallest state sees a fair bit of violent crime: extortion, mugging, highway assault, and gang activity. Even public shootouts aren’t uncommon.san salvador

“I moved there with no expectations,” Nicole says. “I thought I needed to see it for myself. So I went and haven’t regretted it.”

Nicole loves El Salvador’s mountains and beaches, and she’s adapted to a more “tranquilo” pace of life compared to Germany. What about the security situation? “You do need to be careful where to go and with whom. But honestly, you need to do that everywhere. After six years, the country has become my home.”

Any Advice?

What would these four like to pass on from their own experience?

In his specific circumstances, Dean is the sober voice of reason: “Be realistic about what it’s like. Life here revolves around work, and the social scene isn’t that packed. Get out on occasion and stay sane.”

Theresa and Kira agree on the essentials — reach out to others and be proactive. “With my website,” Theresa says, “I just made what I needed myself.” As Kira points out: “Bring your own hobby, find your own friends, and make your own fun.”

“Don´t believe everything you read online,” Nicole stresses, “just be careful and gain some experience for yourself. Don’t come as a foreigner and think you can change the country — go with the flow.”

Would you move to a smaller city or unusual destination? Why (not)?

(Image credit: 1) InterNations 2), 5), 6), 7), iStockphoto 3) Theresa Khalil 4) Kira van Otten)

InterNations Insider Tips: 5 Essentials to Explore in Dublin

Malte Zeeck, InterNations Founder & Co-CEO, talks about the things to see and do that you shouldn’t miss out on your next trip to Dublin.

This was actually the first time ever I’d travelled to Dublin, though the Irish capital is less than two hours by plane from Germany. I’d always had a very positive image of Ireland and the Irish, though, associating them with the hospitality of Irish pubs and an easy-going, friendly attitude. In that respect, I certainly wasn’t disappointed during my brief stint in Dublin.

The Water of Life

Ireland and whiskey is a somewhat stereotypical pair that goes together as well as Ireland and Guinness. In spite of the touristy touch, a guided tour of either the Old Jameson Distillery or the Guinness Storehouse is a must for all visitors to Dublin — even for teetotalers.

Cheers! with whisky glassesI opted for the distillery since I didn’t want to betray my attachment to the breweries in Munich, my adopted home. Though the building in Bow Street is a visitors center rather than an operating distillery (today, Jameson Irish Whiskey is produced in County Cork — and owned by French-based conglomerate Pernot Ricard), I got some interesting glimpses into whiskey-making and its importance for the Irish economy.

During the final tasting round, we were served an Irish whiskey, a Scottish whisky (the one without the ‘e’) and an American brand. I now have an “Irish Whiskey Taster” certificate to hang above my desk. Sláinte!

The Head of Brass

The time for a glass of Guinness came a little later: when in Ireland, do as the Irish do! This means that a visit to the nearest pub is mandatory. Thus, I grabbed a bite (and a pint) at the Brazen Head in Lower Bridge Street, about halfway from both medieval Christ Church Cathedral and the quays of the River Liffey.

Irish Stew and a Glass of StoutThe Brazen Head claims to be Ireland’s oldest pub and is therefore a major tourist attraction. It serves a nice traditional Irish stew, as I discovered, and they offer a folksy live music session each night as well.

For the more literary-minded amongst you — it is briefly mentioned in chapter 16 of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The book probably starts making more sense, too, after a few pints.

The Book of Kells

Lest you start thinking that Dublin is all about the drinking: if there is one cultural landmark you shouldn’t miss out on, it’s Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland and one of the oldest in the British Isles. The main college grounds cover an extensive area in the city center, and they have the same quaint and peaceful atmosphere as the Oxbridge colleges upon which they were modelled.

The Long Room at Trinity College, DublinAfter looking at the list of alumni, you get the impression that nearly every Irish person of distinction attended Trinity College, including Oscar Wilde, Chris de Burgh, and the CEO of Ryanair. My personal favorite is Bishop James Ussher, though – a 17th-century clergyman and scholar who went down in history for trying to establish the date of the Creation. In case you’re wondering: it all happened on the 22rd of October in 4004 BC, at around 9 pm.

Of course, a guided tour of Trinity College doesn’t only include anecdotes about their colorful alumni: the highlight is the famous Trinity College Library. Its venerable Long Room, an imposing hall full of wood paneling and marble busts, houses thousands of old tomes in oak cases — but the Treasury is even more impressive.

Trinity’s treasury displays the Book of Kells, one of the world’s most beautiful medieval manuscripts and Ireland’s most important national treasure. It’s so famous it even has its own iTunes app for bibliophiles!

The Harbor of Howth

Even Ireland is known to enjoy grand summer weather on occasion. Hey, the average temperature in August is a scorching 19°C! On a clear and dry day, just hop onto the next DART north and don’t get off the train before the terminal in Howth.

Once a fishing village on the shores of Dublin Bay, Howth is now a bustling suburb and a popular destination for cyclists, runners, hikers, and anglers. The peninsula is the perfect place for a stroll along the pier, and there’s a local market, as well as a lighthouse, close to the train station.

Howth Cloudy SunriseUnsurprisingly, there’s quite a few seafood restaurants in the area, especially near Claremont Beach and the West Pier. Howth Harbour still features an active fishing industry rather than only recreational beaches.

Speaking of beaches: if you’re really, really brave, you could take a swim. From what I heard, there’s even an annual race from the tiny island called Ireland’s Eye back to Howth Harbour.

I must admit that I didn’t dare dip my toes into the water: even the Baltic Sea, where I was born and which isn’t exactly known for being a tropical paradise, is warmer by an average three degrees than the Irish Sea. As the inhabitants of Howth are said to be descended from Celts and Vikings, they’re probably tough as nails, though.

The Sports of Ireland

You also have to be tough as nails if you want to become a rugby player, I suppose — especially for rugby league, the hardest contact sport in the world. Actually, it took me a while to figure out that there’s two kinds of rugby in Ireland, rubgy league and rugby union, and that most folks simply talk about “league” and “union” instead.

Please excuse my ignorance — neither sort of rugby is anything but a minor sport in Germany, where football (the “soccer” variety, not American football, of course) is the general favorite. To add to my confusion, when you hear “football” in Ireland, it might refer to, well, what I define as football, or to Gaelic football, which is actually more popular in Ireland than football-football. Rugby match.Perfectly obvious, to be sure.

Anyway, the brand-new Aviva Stadium is one of Dublin’s more recent sights. It serves as home base for both the national team of the Irish Rugby Union and the Football Association of Ireland.

If there’s no match on — neither of the rugby nor the football variety — you can just take a guided tour of the stadium instead. Unfortunately, there were two important matches when I was in town, so I didn’t have the chance to visit it myself. But every pub in Dublin broadcast the games, so I caught at least a glimpse of the arena.

The stadium also used as a concert arena for 50,000 spectators. So, if you prefer Rihanna or AC/DC to the Shamrock or the Boys in Green, see if there’s an international star on tour.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Dublin

From the Baltic to the Irish Sea – after recent visits to Helsinki and Stockholm, InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte dropped in at the InterNations Official Event in Dublin.

My recent trip to Dublin wasn’t just the first time I visited Ireland: it was also the first time the InterNations Dublin Community tried a new event location, which turned out to be quite a success. The event I attended took place at The Mint Bar, the city’s self-proclaimed best hotel bar, part of the historic (and rather fancy) Westin Dublin Hotel, directly opposite Trinity College. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary Dublin 2015_Pic 1

It was also the first time that over 200 people from more than 60 countries signed up for a local InterNations Official Event. Breaking their own record was a particular point of pride for Verena, one of our three InterNations Ambassadors for the Dublin Community, as this was also her official farewell.

Verena, a German expat from Cologne, had been living in Dublin for the past three years, working for the Europe & Middle East head office of Twitter. Her career in a global social networking company would take her to the Bay Area in a few weeks’ time, so I was there to wish her all the best for her upcoming move across the Pond. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary Dublin 2015_Pic 4

Unfortunately, her fellow InterNations Ambassador Gabriela, a Romanian expat and lecturer in finance and accounting at Dublin Business School, was also stepping down from her position, as her private and professional life had simply become too busy for her to continue in the role.

Thus I found myself saying goodbye to two Dublin Ambassadors at once, seizing the occasion to thank them both for their great commitment in a brief speech. However, the InterNations members in Dublin needn’t be afraid: our community is in safe hands and our regular events will, of course, go on.InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary Dublin 2015_Pic 3

Emil, an expat from Athens who’s now an architect in Drogheda, will be staying as the third member of the InterNations Dublin Ambassador team, though he’s still looking for a new fellow Ambassador to host the events with. That night, his wife Arzu — another expatriate, albeit from Turkey — was supporting him with welcoming the guests and taking pictures.

The crowd at the Mint Bar was a truly international bunch: I talked to people from Germany, Italy, and the US, from Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Cameroon, as well as quite a few Irish folks, too, and I also ran into an Austrian expat, Ivan, who’s one of the Group Consuls running the popular activities for DinnerNations Dublin. If you ever want to know what Dublin’s culinary scene has to offer — apart from shellfish and Irish stew — they are the right guys to ask!

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary Dublin 2015_Pic 5The evening was a great mixture of networking and socializing, followed by a live band. “Velvet Lounge” played a repertoire of classic swing hits rather than the obligatory Irish folk, and they soon managed to get everyone up and moving.

When the event drew to a close around 23:00, I wasn’t the only one who thought we were just getting started. Therefore I joined several InterNations members for a pint at a traditional Irish pub before we explored the vast premises of a combined restaurant, bar, and nightclub nearby: simply called “House” with considerable understatement, as it occupies two Georgian mansions in central Dublin.

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary Dublin 2015_Pic 6The following day, Verena, Emil, and Arzu invited me for a short trip to the Howth peninsula, about a 25-minute ride from the city center, where we took a walk along the rugged coastline, spotted seals frolicking in the waves, and watched the sailing boats (as well as a few showers of rain) come and go. Over a hearty lunch at one of Howth’s many seafood restaurants, we discussed the recent development of the InterNations Dublin Community, the highlights and challenges.

On the way back, we also passed by at Malahide, an affluent suburb with a large marina and a well-maintained 12-th century castle. Back in the city, Verena kindly offered to show me more of Dublin’s nightlife — I am sure that she will love San Francisco and get to know our InterNations Community in the Bay Area soon.

(Image credit: Emil Marcossian/InterNations)

InterNations Volunteer Groups — A Summer of Making a Difference

The InterNations Volunteer Program offers great opportunities for helping others and giving something back to the community you live in.

Our Volunteer Groups — 32 around the globe — have been very active this summer, with almost 100 activities in August and September and 1,500 people taking part so far.

Already, more than 20,400 InterNations members are part of a Volunteer Group and help support children in need, elderly citizens, refugees, homeless people, or low-income families. In August and September, group members made a difference for more than 400 people. The following activities are just a few examples of all the ways InterNations members made a difference this summer.

Kuala Lumpur — A Hike with Refugee Children

1. Kuala Lumpur - Going on a hike with Refugee Children

Members of the InterNations Volunteer Group in Kuala Lumpur went on an excursion with refugee children from Pandawas Academy. This school provides mostly children from Pakistan and Afghanistan with free classes and education.

Santiago de Chile — Celebrating the Day of the Child

Santiago Children´s Day celebration at Casa Esperanza

Our Santiago Volunteer Group celebrated the “Day of the Child” with kids at the “House of Hope”. Members decorated everything with balloons and offered face painting and soccer games. This activity not only made the children smile but InterNations members as well.

Munich — Refugee Support

Munich - Social Impact Night, International Day of Peace

Munich has welcomed thousands of newly arrived refugees in the last few weeks. Members of the Munich Volunteer Group collected hundreds of suitcases, clothing items and hygiene products during the Social Impact Night in September. Some of them also help by sorting and distributing donations every Saturday at the refugee camp Bayernkaserne.

Rio de Janeiro — Creating a Garden for Children from the Favelas

4. Rio De Janeiro - Building a garden for a kindergarden for children from the favelas
Members of our Volunteer Group in Rio de Janeiro also tried to make a difference by helping to create a community garden for a kindergarten in one of the city’s favelas. The activity was a great success.


Doha — Walking Rescue Dogs

5. Doha - Walking the Rescue Dogs
Every week, members of our Doha Volunteer Group meet up to walk the dogs from a local animal shelter / rescue home. This is important for the animals and — as there are not enough caretakers — a way to show them some extra love.


Singapore — Cycling for Hope

6. Singapore - Cycling for Hope











To raise funds and help the victims of the flood in Myanmar, members of the Singapore Volunteer Group went “Cycling for Hope” and embarked on a 20-kilometer bike ride.

Sao Paulo — Barbecue and a Cause

7. Sao Paulo - Barbecue and a Cause










The São Paulo Volunteer Group hosted a barbecue to raise funds for their next cultural activity in October. The money will be donated to CPM, a non-profit organization helping people of the local community learn English.

Madrid — Collection of School Materials for Underprivileged Children

8. Madrid - Collection of school materials for underprivileged children











In cooperation with the Red Cross, the Madrid Volunteer Group collected pencils, pens, rulers, notebooks and other school materials to support low-income families in Madrid.

8 Facts You May Not Know about InterNations

In September 2007, InterNations first went online, and September is therefore our official “birthday month”. So, in honor of our eighth birthday, we would like to share eight essential or unusual facts about InterNations with you.InterNations Expat Blog_InterNations Birthday 2015_Pic 8

1) From CEOs to interns, we know what it’s like to be an expat.

Our founders, Malte and Philipp, met long before InterNations. In 1997, they became friends during an MBA course in Switzerland. After sharing the experience of living in an international environment, both went on to work abroad after graduation: the one as a television reporter, the other as a consultant.

Meeting again, a decade after their freshman days, they realized they now had the experience of expat life in common — exciting, but nerve-racking too. Thus the idea of a place for all expats to turn to was born.

The international background is something most of our team members share: expatriates, exchange students, interns, globetrotters, or overseas volunteers — we’ve all been there.

2) We are based in Germany’s most international city.

If you think “Germany + start-up + cosmopolitan city”, it is probably Berlin that comes to mind. MunichThe InterNations office, however, is situated 500 km further to the south.

Munich isn’t only an important business location for the German ICT sector, but it also has the country’s most international population. Which makes it perfect for both our head office and our local InterNations Community.

The Munich Community hosted one of the first InterNations Official Events ever, in early 2008; by now, it unites 43,000 members from virtually every country.

The famous beer gardens are just the icing on the cake.

3) Our expat communities span the whole globe.

Taking a look at our world map of InterNations Communities, we’ve noticed how wide our geographical reach has become. Among 390 communities worldwide, the northernmost is located in Reykjavik, Iceland, right below the Arctic Circle, while the southernmost in Christchurch, New Zealand, is almost at the ends of the earth.

With regards to community size, the differences are just as stark: our biggest community is based in bustling expat hotspot Dubai and includes over 60,000 members. In comparison, the smallest active InterNations Community in the beautiful Bahamas looks tiny, with about 300 people enjoying the beaches of the Caribbean.

4) Our iconic bird is a globetrotter too.

InterNations Expat Blog_InterNations Birthday 2015_Pic 2 The symbolic animal in our company logo isn’t just any bird — it’s an albatross. Albatrosses are famous for traveling longer distances than any other species. Their life is one long journey, and by its end, they have often traveled millions of kilometers.

We hope that our members like the symbolism of the albatross just as much as we do: our office mascot is Al, a plush albatross in a gilded cage. Each month, team members can nominate their colleagues for the “Golden Albatross Award” to thank them for a job well done. The winner gets to share their desk with Al for the next four weeks.

(Just don’t tell anyone that poor Al is actually a seagull since we couldn’t find a toyshop selling cuddly albatrosses…!)

5) The InterNations team is (almost) as diverse as our member base.

I still remember the early days of InterNations when we were a small start-up with ten employees. Today, the team consists of around 100 staff members who represent 30 nationalities and are fluent in as many languages.

For obvious reasons, English and German are our two most widely used team languages, with French, Italian, and Spanish as popular runners-up. But if you need to find someone to converse with in Albanian or Arabic, Catalán or Danish, Hebrew or Russian, our office is the place to be! World financial capitals directions signs post over blue sky

Language learning is a favorite activity among team members and InterNations members alike. Our Munich Community alone features a dozen InterNations Groups dedicated to specific languages, while in-house German language classes are a popular benefit for our international staff.

6) And so are our interests.

Once a week, our largest conference room turns into a yoga studio: if you take a peek, you can spot twenty team members perfecting the Downward Dog or the Sun Salutation.

Working together, day by day, we realized how many hobbies we could share with each other — and have promptly started to do so, be it Star Wars movie nights, rafting, building a blog or learning to keep your poker face. InterNations Expat Blog_InterNations Birthday 2015_Pic 9 We’re still sad that our unofficial ukulele guru will be moving back to Australia soon.

Looking at the InterNations Groups for our members worldwide, we have noticed an equally broad range of interests. Our Group Consuls offer activities for mushroom hunters, dragonboat racers, creative writers, budding poets, and disco bowling fans. (I’m not sure, though, if this involves dancing in a bowling alley or bowling in a discotheque.)

7) We keep tabs on expat life.

Unlike InterNations, the annual Expat Insider survey is only celebrating its second birthday.Top Expat Destinations
But our “baby” has come a long way since we conceived the idea for an international overview of expatriate life in 2014.

No matter if you want to know the best destination for families with kids (Austria) or where the locals are friendliest (Myanmar), which place attracts high-income expatriates (Hong Kong) or where the happiest couples live (Ecuador) — Expat Insider has the answer.

8) We try to make a difference.

In addition to the regular InterNations Groups, we offer Volunteer Groups in 32 cities across the globe. Over 20,000 InterNations members now provide regular support for non-profit organizations.

ÍnterNations Expat Blog_InterNations Birthday 2015_Pic 7What have we recently done to be proud of? We’ve started to help create a garden for a community crèche in one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas; we have organized a Singapore-based fundraiser for Cambodia’s first women’s hospital, and we have collected 1,200 hygiene products for refugees in Munich.

Global change always starts in your local community.

(Image credit: 1) InterNations 2)-4) iStockphoto; 5)+6) InterNations 7) Ayako Yamamoto/InterNations)

When Expats Get Ready to Cut the Birthday Cake

September is always a very special month for InterNations. Around the Munich headquarters, the colors of the leaves are slowly turning, temperatures are dropping, and Oktoberfest tents are set up. But September is also the birthday month of InterNations.

Birthday_Abu Dhabi2 In the past eight years, our network has grown from a humble start-up to the largest expat network in the world. We now have 1.8 million members and around 100 employees. So, we decided to celebrate this milestone in style with our members, Ambassadors, and Consuls.

All throughout September, we are hosting birthday events all over the world. Our members in Abu Dhabi met at one of the best night clubs the city has to offer, ready to cut the birthday cake. The Ambassadors of our Munich Community also secured a big cake for everybody before meeting for the birthday event at Crowns Club.

Members in Bangkok raised their glasses to eight years of connecting global minds at The Flow House, a venue with a wave surfing machine as its center piece. They enjoyed the evening over delicious food, as well as drinks at happy hour prices, and took the chance to win raffle tickets for free flow rides.Birthday_Munich

Smaller InterNations Communities, such as Algiers, Auckland, and Naples, celebrated as well. Montpellier used the 8-year anniversary as an excuse for a great party. And members in Reykjavik also partied in style, with welcome drinks, birthday cake, and jazz music.

Are you afraid that you have missed out on a great party? Don’t worry! We’re not quite through with the birthday celebrations yet, and countless InterNations Communities still have their birthday event coming up.

On Thursday, 24 September, Gothenburg invites members to a restaurant which impresses not just with its unique design but also with its delicious French-inspired food. There will also be a fun game to break the ice. The winner will receive a small prize.

The Los Angeles Community will celebrate at one of the best Italian restaurants in Beverly Hills. Expats in LA are invited to dress up in their favorite red attire and join the crowd.


InterNations members in Malta and their friends will meet on a beautiful rooftop terrace on Tuesday, 22 September. The view is breathtaking up there, but it is nothing compared to the relaxed ambience and great company. How else would you celebrate a birthday!?

Has your community not hosted one of our famous birthday parties yet? Keep checking our events calendar. An opportunity to celebrate eight years of connecting global minds might be just around the corner.


We want to thank all of our members, Ambassadors, and Consuls who have been with us all these years and are committed to making InterNations the wonderful community that it is.

InterNations Insider Tips: 5 Scandinavian Things to Do in Stockholm

Malte Zeeck, our founder and co-CEO, shares his five favorite sightseeing tips for beautiful Stockholm with our members.

A while after my trip to neighboring Helsinki, I arrived in Stockholm as the 2015 triathlon was in full swing. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Things to Do in Stockholm_Pic 3The competition even had its own Olympic category: as much as I was impressed by international athletes swimming, running, and cycling up to 40 kilometers, I preferred to opt for a Stockholm sightseeing marathon instead.

The ABBA Museum: Thank You for the Music…

… and for a museum full of kitsch and camp. While being an ABBA fan more or less marked you as “uncool” back in the 1970s and early 1980s (the cool kids listened to Pink Floyd), the Swedish quartet is without a doubt one of the most successful bands in the history of pop music.

Even today, over thirty years after their break-up in 1982, an estimated three million CDs, DVDs, etc. with ABBA’s hits are sold every year. The “Mamma Mia!” musical and its movie adaptation have also led to a mini-revival.

InterNations Expat Blog_5 Things to Do in Stockholm_Pic 7 As of 2013, you can admire all sorts of ABBA-related memorabilia — such as instruments, gold records, and, of course, their outrageous stage outfits — in a museum that’s part of the Swedish Music Hall of Fame. You can even strut your stuff and dance along to their greatest hits on an integrated dancefloor. (No, I won’t tell you if I did.)

If you still treasure your Pink Floyd record collection and your cool reputation, I’m sure you can also visit the museum “ironically”.

The Vasa Museum: The King Has Lost His Crown

… or maybe just his flagship. History geeks can get a good look at Sweden’s 17th-century Titanic at the Vasa Museum. It houses the restored wreckage of the warship, one of the most powerfully armed and lavishly decorated vessels of its time.

InterNations Expat Blog_Five Things to Do in Stockholm_Pic 4 Unfortunately, the Vasa’s maiden voyage lasted for less than 1.5 kilometers — the pride of the Swedish fleet, at the height of the nation’s power in the Baltic, didn’t make it out of Stockholm’s harbor. Ooops. Talk about royal embarrassment.

Gustav II Adolf’s loss was our gain. Maritime archeologists salvaged the wreck 333 years after its sinking, and it’s now one of Stockholm’s major tourist attractions — in all of Scandinavia, actually, with over one million annual visitors.

I was very happy to join their ranks and explore the museum. I’d expected it to “just” showcase the ship itself, but it features a wide range of exhibitions on related topics, from conservation techniques to world history in the 17th century.

Unsurprisingly, it also seems to be a favorite among families with children. Kids apparently love a bloody sea-battle, the little rascals.

Skansen: Tiger

… is an animal you won’t actually find on Djurgården. The island in central Stockholm, where both the Vasa Museum and the ABBA Museum are located, is home to plenty more monuments, listed buildings, gardens, and amusement parks. If you ever get to visit the Swedish capital, but are on a tight schedule, Djurgården is where it’s at.

Skansen, a mere ten-minute walk from the Vasa Museum, is also a very family-friendly place, as I noticed from a brief glance at the other visitors. It’s less potentially gory than the history of maritime warfare in the 1600s, though. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Things to Do in Stockholm_Pic 6

The open-air museum shows off a cute miniature version of life in Sweden from the 1700s to the early 20th century, from southern farms to the northern culture of the Sami. You can see how the common folks of each region and era might have lived.

If your kids (or you) don’t have quite the patience to watch a weaver or potter at work, there’s always the zoo. The brown bears are extremely popular, though Skansen didn’t get any new-born cubs in 2015. The present youngsters have gone from “cuddly teddy” to “boisterous teens that probably outweigh you”.

On a sunny day, Skansen is the perfect destination for a relaxing walk, a fresh waffle or cinnamon roll in hand.

Gamla Stan: Dancing Queen

On Gamla stan, the island housing the old town, you’ll find another slate of visitor attractions, this time mainly of the historical, official, and educational variety. First, you need to cross from one island to the other. Fortunately, I’d purchased a ticket for a “hop on – hop off” boat tour, which allows you to explore the isles and waterways at your own pace.

It’s two ferry stops and two different canals that separate the Vasa Museum from Stockholm’s medieval center. Among its cobbled streets and scenic squares, you’ll find the Royal Palace, as well as the Nobel Museum.

InterNations Expat Blog_Five Things to Do in Stockholm_Pic 7I was a bit disappointed to hear that King Carl Gustav and Queen Silvia don’t actually live at the palace: not only did the queen, a fellow German, met her royal husband during her work at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich — the hostess-in-charge working with the future monarch was actually my mother.

But it’s probably not that easy to just the ring the doorbell and get invited to fika — the Swedish equivalent to the German Kaffeeklatsch — with your mom’s former colleague if said colleague is now the Queen of Sweden, is it?

The official residence is a large and splendid building in the northern Baroque style, and several parts are open to the public for sightseeing, including the chapel and the treasury with the Swedish crown jewels.

And it’s a short way from aristocracy to meritocracy: within just a few minutes, you’ll reach the Nobel Museum, situated in the beautiful 18th-century stock exchange building, where the Swedish Academy also holds its meetings to choose the laureate for the Nobel Prize of Literature.

The museum itself hosts varying exhibitions dedicated to the history of the Nobel Prize, its laureates and their legacy, scientific research and social change. After so much education, though, it was definitely time for a break!

Mosebacke: Summer Night City

The search for a nice spot to enjoy a glass of local lättöl (light ale) led me to Södermalm, a densely populated district and, yes, another island connected to Gamla Stan by various walkways and bridges.

The terrace on Mosebacke Square is a favorite among tourists and locals alike: InterNations Expat Blog_Five Things to Do in Stockholm_Pic 2 from here, as well as from the neighboring bar’s balcony, you have a magnificent view of Stockholm’s old town and can catch a glimpse of the westering sun during the long Scandinavian summer nights.

The terrace, the restaurant it belongs to, and five further bars, are all part of the Söder Teatern complex. The venue hosts plenty of live concerts and performances, too, but the latter are unfortunately all in Swedish. Nonetheless, you can still enjoy the sunset, the relaxed atmosphere, and the mouth-watering food.

(Image credit: 1), 3), 5), 6): Malte Zeeck / InterNations 2) Holger Ellgaard via Wikimedia Commons 4) iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Stockholm

The tour of Europe’s Nordic capitals continues – InterNations founder and co-CEO Malte looks back at his recent trip to visit the InterNations Community in Stockholm:

Just like Helsinki several weeks before, Stockholm welcomed me with perfect summer weather: as I stepped off the plane after an uneventful two-hour flight from Munich, the sun was shining from cloudless skies, and the Baltic Sea was such a bright blue that it almost looked like an exaggerated Photoshop touch-up to create the perfect holiday picture.

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Stockholm Event_Pic 1Apparently, I had chosen just the right moment for my visit to the InterNations Stockholm Community — all of Scandinavia, from Copenhagen to southern Sweden to Norwegian coastal towns above the Polar Circle, enjoyed a couple of surprisingly warm and dry weeks in late summer.

The event took place at a favorite venue among our local members: Sheraton 360°, a popular restaurant and bar in the heart of the capital, is not far from the waterfront and Stockholm’s many islands.

That night’s hosts included three of our InterNations Stockholm Ambassadors. Unfortunately, Jing, a business analyst from China and the fourth member of the local Ambassador Team, couldn’t make it to this gathering.

So her fellow Ambassadors Irina, Natalia, and Shaun were my “welcome committee”, so to speak. As always, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know our Ambassadors in person and find out who represents InterNations among the roughly 12,000 members of our Stockholm Community.

Irina is also an expat from China, who has lived in Singapore, Malta, and Germany before and who currently works as a product manager for an international Swedish IT company. She’s passionate about the start-up scene and about sustainability issues — as well as coffee and dancing. As an InterNations Group Consul, Irina is involved in the Stockholm Coffee Break Group and the Stockholm Dancing Group.InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Stockholm Event_Pic 2

Her fellow Ambassador Natalia came to Stockholm from her native Russia about four years ago to work for the Swedish headquarters of a multinational consumer goods manufacturer. Just like Irina, the polyglot Natalia is an InterNations Group Consul, too: she’s one of the two ladies heading our After Work Group for Swedish and international professionals.

Last but not least, Shaun is the only guy — and only “Aussie” — in the Stockholm Ambassador team. After previous stays abroad in Kenya and the UK, he’s now been working as a financial adviser in Sweden for nearly three years. In addition to his position as an InterNations Ambassador, he’s also part of a Group Consul team in Stockholm: together with two other committed InterNations members, Shaun is responsible for the Professional Networking Group.

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Stockholm Event_Pic 3The three Ambassadors organized another successful event for about 100 guests from three dozen countries. Judging from the members I talked to in the course of the event, a wide range of nationalities was represented at the gathering: I remember having a chat with InterNations members from other EU member states like Finland and Germany, from African nations such as Eritrea and South Africa, as well as the US and Australia.

Plenty of guests had something other than their expat status in common — they all approached me to ask how they could get active in the Stockholm Community. I can only recommend having a look at our local InterNations Groups. While they already cater to such popular interests as football or international cuisine, there’s always room for more! And I’m sure that our Volunteer Program Lead would be delighted to open a new Volunteer Group in Sweden.

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Stockholm Event_Pic 4These enquiries weren’t the only sign of a generally enthusiastic mood, though. After the official ending around 23:00, quite a few guests weren’t ready to go home yet — after all, it was Friday night, and nobody had to show up at work in the following morning. So I joined several members who decided to move on to Riche, a legendary wine bar and 100-year-old Stockholm institution in Östermalm. Skål!

(Image credit: Malte Zeeck/InterNations)

Common “Fails” Abroad — and How to Deal with Them

While traveling, you may end up in a tricky situation that’s more or less straightforward to handle back home, but can turn out to be rather complicated abroad.

Although some lucky folks never have any close encounters of the awkward and messy kind, even if they travel a lot, some of us can hardly go on a single trip without committing one of these typical “fails”.

Losing a Credit Card

The ominous feeling you get while fruitlessly searching your wallet, pockets, and bag for your plastic money is anything but pleasant — especially when it happens with a one-kilometer queue of impatient customers breathing down your neck. Such incidents are particularly annoying abroad, where you cannot simply walk into the closest branch office of your bank to get a new card.

After the initial shock has worn off, you basically have two options: you can try to recall where you might have lost your card and (hopefully) retrieve it, or you should call your card provider and cancel the card to prevent credit card fraud. Unfortunately the latter option is usually better — unless you are absolutely sure that you’ve just forgotten the card in the checkout section of the last shop.

Getting a new card from home by mail takes ages, so after cancelling the credit card you obviously need some alternative sources to make ends meet. If you are traveling with friends or relatives, they should be willing to help you out: just transfer money to them online from your account back home so they can withdraw it for you from a local ATM.

If you are on your own, however, you’ll need to look for the nearest money transfer service, such as Western Union. Your family or friends back home will be able to send you some small sums online, and you can pick them up at the closest branch office.

All you need is a valid ID, but the paperwork required can sometimes be a nightmare: at least, that’s what I found out in China, where I took me about two hours to fill out all the forms!

Missing a Flight

Getting stuck in a traffic jam on your way to the airport, uncomfortably aware that your flight leaves in exactly one hour is not particularly amusing. It’s even less so when you eventually arrive only to discover that the plane didn’t bother waiting for you.

Fortunately, this seems to happen more often when you return home rather than upon leaving. Once again, however, the initial feeling of desperation might at first limit your ability to act rationally.

There is probably someone waiting for you at home: the first thing to do is to let them know that your trip will take longer than anticipated. If you are supposed to be at work or school tomorrow, try to come up with a creative excuse as to why you missed your flight; anyway, letting your boss or professor know as soon as possible is a must.

Next find the customer service counter of your airline. Some airlines have a policy of re-routing you to the next possible flight (for a not-so-small fee, alas). Since most, however, don’t, you might have to book a new flight altogether. This can be surprisingly expensive, as flights booked for the same day will max out your credit card much faster than one reserved well in advance.

However, your travel insurance company usually compensates you for some of the expenses. It’s advised to contact them before purchasing a super-expensive flight, though.

If you have a domestic or short-distance flight, alternative means of transport might turn out to be cheaper than flying. If you are traveling in mainland Europe, for example, an overnight train could take you to your destination by the following morning, allowing you to avoid messing up your entire schedule.

Getting Sick

While having to see a doctor is not a fail in itself, some sort of fail did probably take place beforehand: Perhaps you’ve eaten some dodgy street food or ignored the recommended vaccinations for your destination.

In less than urgent situations you’ll have to locate a clinic by yourself — calling an ambulance because of diarrhea is both expensive and embarrassing. (Emergencies are quite another matter, of course.)

In some countries a doctor who speaks English or, alternatively, your mother tongue won’t just be around the next corner, so finding one is the first challenge. Assuming you are staying at a hotel, the receptionist should be able to recommend you the nearest international clinic.

If the hotel staff is unable to advise you, Google is your only friend. In some cases consulting your embassy or consulate is another valid option.

Getting treatment abroad is one of the major reasons you should have a travel insurance policy. Your insurance company might cooperate with selected local clinics, so make sure to go to one of these if available.

If you don’t have international insurance, you may have to pay at the clinic. Don’t forget to take all bills and receipts with you, as the insurance company will be asking for those when you request compensation. Unfortunately, some red tape will definitely be involved.

Abroad, you might not go and see a doctor as easily as you would back home since the effort and expenses are often higher. Remember, though, that some harmless-seeming symptoms might turn into a more serious disease.

Becoming Better at Failing

Since failing is unavoidable for some of us, being mentally prepared to cope with unexpected incidents is the key. Of course, losing your passport just before crossing a border while backpacking or getting into trouble with the local authorities after accidentally camping in someone’s backyard can be nerve-wrecking.

However, after weathering a crisis successfully, you’ll be richer by one experience and (hopefully) learn how to avoid committing the same faux-pas again!

Maunu Suni is an international student from Finland, who has just spent a very sunny summer in Munich trying to get a good tan. His interests are far too many to list, but they include football, running, art, and traveling. He used to live in the UK for one year and also spent an exchange semester in Shanghai recently. The latter is how he found out about losing one’s plastic money in China, by the way.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

InterNations Insider Tips: Five 101 Things to Do in Helsinki

Malte Zeeck, our founder and co-CEO and a former expat himself, shares his five favorite travel tips for the Finnish capital.

During the summer months, with their long “white nights”, the northernmost capital city in the European Union is always well worth a visit: I’d been to Helsinki before, but I was very happy to hear that my friends from my student days at the University of St. Gallen had chosen it as the destination for our annual reunion trip in 2015.

A Visit to Suomenlinna Fortress

A 15-minute ferry ride took me to Suomenlinna Fortress — or Sveaborg, as it is called in Swedish — an 18th-century island fortress built back in the day when Finland belonged to Sweden. In spite of being a major tourist destination, the fortress is also a popular hangout among local families and students.InterNations Expat Blog_Five Tips_Helsinki_Pic 1

The fortress offers an insight into the eventful history of the city, along with splendid views of the Baltic Sea and Helsinki’s city center. The island is a favorite location among paragliders as well, and if the weather is good, you’ll probably spot them flying around like oversized seagulls.

A Night Out at Teatteri Bar

Although Helsinki is not really known for its nightlife, my trip also gave me the chance to attend Teatteri Bar & Club, located in a beautiful spot in the corner of Esplanadi Park. As one of the oldest clubs in the town, Teatteri attracts a more stylish and mature crowd rather than clubbing teenagers. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Tips_Helsinki_Pic 4 However, there is no strict dress code — a common feature in Finnish clubs.

The venue includes a deli restaurant (its salad is considered a classic by the regulars) and an even more exclusive VIP lounge. Prices are somewhat high, even by Finnish standards, but this doesn’t stop the place from getting crowded on the weekend.

A Dinner at the Helsinki Yacht Club

I hopped on a ferry at the Olympia Terminal, and after a short ride I arrived on a tiny island, home to the Helsinki Yacht Club. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Tips_Helsinki_Pic 3

The club’s restaurant is a truly atmospheric late 19th-century villa with picturesque vistas of the city’s market square and harbor. The menu consists largely of Nordic seafood. Ask for the “commodore’s table” and you’ll feel like an old-school captain!

A Cup of Coffee at a Local Café

Since Finnish people love their coffee, Helsinki is unsurprisingly full of quality cafés. Those located by the seaside are arguably the nicest ones, and paying a visit to at least one of them is totally a must for anyone staying in the city. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Tips_Helsinki_Pic 5

Café Ursula seems to be an especially popular location, as it was pretty crowded on the night I was there. This seaside hangout is located in Kaivopuisto, a park in the southern part of Helsinki (also home to many foreign embassies).

In the late summer, a 150-meter bungee-jumping crane is erected right next to the café, attracting crowds of lively (and sometimes pretty noisy and drunk) party-goers rather than the typical clientele.

A Sightseeing Tour around the City

Since many of Helsinki’s sights are scattered around the city, a bus tour is a convenient way get the most out of a short stay. I took a hop-on hop-off tour and visited some of the important landmarks:

The Olympic Stadium looked slightly outdated, which isn’t a surprise considering it’s been more than 60 years since Helsinki hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics. Locals told me that it’s going to be thoroughly renovated and updated in 2016.

InterNations Expat Blog_Five Tips_Helsinki_Pic 2The cathedral of Helsinki (Tuomiokirkko) is the city’s most famous landmark and well worth a visit. It’s surrounded by other neoclassicist buildings, which nowadays serve as government offices and university facilities.

The cathedral is a favorite place among locals to get married, although the reservation has to be made years in advance. You’d better hire that wedding planner soon, I guess.

Another noteworthy church is the Church of the Rock (Temppeliaukio Church), which is sort of a secular pilgrimage destination for devotees of modern architecture. The entire church is excavated out of solid rock!

(Image credit: Malte Zeeck/InterNations)