Our Top 3 #GlobalLocalSpots around the World

Last month, we asked InterNations members and Instagram followers to share their favorite global-local spot with us. We wanted to see your favorite place to hang out in your city, be it a park you love to visit when the sun is shining or a cozy café where you spend hours relaxing and reading.

#GlobalLocalSpot Insta promo image

We received a lot of posts under the hashtag #GlobalLocalSpot of people sharing the places in their city that make them feel at home. Many also included stories about what this specific place meant to them.

With all the great contributions we received, it was really tough to choose the best of the best. Two weeks ago, we were finally ready to announce the three top global-local spots around the globe.

Third Place: A Summer Night Concert in Vienna

@slonska shared a beautiful scene with us, captured at a night concert in Vienna. When asked what made this moment so special for her, she ensured us that it was “the perfect combination of nice weather, a beautiful location, lovely company, and, of course, great music.” While it was her first time going to this event, the annual summer night concert and the castle Schönbrunn, where it takes place, are popular among visitors and locals alike, making it the perfect global-local spot.

3rd place - GlobalLocalSpot contest

Second Place: Picturesque Wira Bruk

@orangemarabou chose a charming place in Wira Bruk, Sweden, as her favorite global-local spot. The historic little village, located about an hour to the northeast of Stockholm, will make every visitor feel like they have been dropped smack-dab in the middle of an Astrid Lindgren story. Aside from the calm, idyllic atmosphere, their café is well worth a visit as well.

2nd place - GlobalLocalSpot contest

First Place: A Hidden Gem in Paris

Finally, our winning picture came to us straight from Paris and was a somewhat accidental discovery for @eudesparis: “I had passed by this garden a thousand times without knowing that it exists and one day, I wanted to take a statue’s picture and there it was.”

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Île de la Cité has since become his favorite spot on the Seine, which has brought him many great memories, from a sightseeing boat passing by with its passengers waving, to a private friends-only picnic. The greatest thing about it is that it is calm and peaceful making it perfect for anyone who needs a moment to breathe, meditate or just relax. Or, as @eudeparis puts it, “it’s special because you are in the center of Paris, feeling like you’re not in Paris.”

Congratulations to our three winners and thank you to everyone who shared their favorite global-local spot with us. Visit us on Instagram to see more amazing global-local moments and feel free to share your own favorite spots with us.

Five Signs You’re Homesick for a Place That’s Not Your Home

I’m sure many expats, international students, globetrotters, and nomadic souls will agree with me when I say that you can view several places as your home at the same time. When you move to a new place, whether you live there for months or years, you will inevitably develop an attachment to it and the people you meet there. Sad unhappy woman holding red heart pillow The mere mention of this second home later in life — a picture or a song you listened to whilst living there — will be all it takes to bring memories flooding back and that pang of nostalgia that we all know so well will hit you.

It may sound strange to even talk about homesickness with regard to somewhere that is not our “real” home, but you can indeed feel a true homesickness for this “second” home. In many ways, this emotion is much the same as the homesickness you feel for your original home. However, it might be accompanied by a peculiar feeling when you realize that you are suddenly missing another place in exactly the same way.

Here are five tell-tale signs that you have been hit by homesickness for your “home away from home”.

1) You often consider jumping on the next flight back.

travel bags If you weren’t constrained by your budget, you would probably end up going from one place to the next constantly, and back again, just so you don’t end up missing any of them. Whenever the homesickness for your second, or even third or fourth, home starts to set in, you begin to think about when will be the earliest time you can return. Not only do you want to see all your friends again, but you also want to revisit the old haunts you created so many brilliant memories in.

2) You spend a large amount of time looking at photos and keepsakes.

InterNations Expat Blog_Homesickness_Pic 2 Photos are a great way to remind you of all the brilliant times you have had. If you’re feeling homesick for a place where you have lived for a while, you will probably find yourself looking up old photos or digging up other mementos from there. Whether it’s the stereotypical tourist shot you took when you arrived in your new home, the tacky souvenir you bought in your first few days, or the group photos from an evening with your friends, or the farewell gift you received from your colleagues, you will inevitably look at them often and wish you could go back.

3) You miss the culture and language of your second home.

Everywhere has its own culture and language or dialect. After you leave the place you called home for however long, you will inevitably miss the cultural norms you slowly started taking for granted as you settled in there. You may have begun to learn the local language, too. Now you might be left with nobody to speak it with, making you long for the days when you could just step out the door and hear it on a daily basis. Letterpress alphabet

After leaving this place, you will seek out ways to stay connected with the things you learned to love about it. Maybe it will be a novel in the language so you can remember the culture while practicing your language skills. If films or music are more your thing, you will surely end up watching and listing to media you discovered abroad or perhaps even trying to find new songs or TV shows to make it feel like you are still connected to the place that stole your heart. Perhaps you will even attend expat events in order to meet expatriates from this place and thus to keep in touch with its language and culture.

4) You miss the food you could get only there.

When thinking about culture, we mustn’t forget about food. After a certain amount of time living somewhere, you will almost certainly learn to love its dishes no matter how strange they may have seemed to you when you first arrived. Like your home town, your adopted home will have its own traditional food, which either just isn’t the same elsewhere or is downright impossible to find. Diverse Yard Summer Friends Fun Bonding Concept

If you start to feel the pangs of homesickness for your second home, perhaps you will try to make these delicacies. This could work out really well — or it might leave you feeling disappointed and more homesick than ever. But you should take the risk regardless; it will be a culinary adventure at the very least.

5) You may feel crazy, but it all makes sense.

Whilst you might sound a bit crazy explaining that you are homesick for a place you don’t actually come from to someone who has never lived abroad, there are plenty of others around the world who understand your situation perfectly. I have met people who have lived in too many places to count and are homesick for each one all at the same time. Wax seal and old letters

Once you settle in a place and grow to truly appreciate the local culture, it becomes a part of you and your character in a way that will never go away. Without the little quirks that exist only in that place you will feel a slight emptiness. But you know that you would do it all again in a heartbeat — after all, the amazing experiences you had there have made you who you are today.

Stephanie Crosby is a student at the University of Bath, studying German, Italian, and European Studies. Currently on her year abroad, she has lived in Italy, appreciating the excellent local food and wine for six months, and is now living in Munich trying to learn to love beer and finding the time to travel to as many places as possible. She is currently an intern in the Content and Communications Team at InterNations, before returning to Bath to finish her degree.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

6 Ways to Celebrate Midsummer Like the Locals

Up in the Northern Hemisphere, the sky is blue, the days are getting longer, and we can finally enjoy fresh strawberries from the farmer’s markets. The longest days of the year are happening right now, and particularly in Scandinavia, where the sun barely sets, the summer solstice or midsummer celebrations are a big deal and a perfect occasion for huge family gatherings.

Even though it is a pre-Christian, pagan holiday, summer solstice, as well as the beginning of summer, is celebrated widely throughout countries in the Northern Hemisphere. In some places, old traditions like lighting a bonfire or setting up a maypole prevail, while in others people have found lots of new, unique ways to celebrate the middle of the year.

Raising the Maypole

One of the most popular and best-known summer solstice celebrations is the Swedish midsommar, which isn’t complete without the characteristic midsommarstång (maypole). Each year, midsommar falls on a Saturday between 20 and 26 June, but the preparations already start on Friday, when the maypole is raised and flower garlands are made to adorn the heads of those celebrating this day.
Swedish Midsummer Headgear Traditional on a female head of hair.
In Sweden, midsommar is one of the most beloved holidays of the year (after Christmas) and the Swedes don’t just celebrate it with lots of food (mostly herring, new potatoes, and sour cream with dill) but also by drinking ridiculous amounts of schnapps and beer. The biggest public midsummer festivities take place in Skansen, Stockholm’s outdoor museum, and at Lake Siljan in Dalarna.

The Land of the Midnight Sun… and Three-Day Music Festivals

If you are looking for the full solstice experience, however, you shouldn’t hesitate to head a little further west. Iceland is called the land of the midnight sun for a reason: in summer the sun only barely sets, and summer solstice actually brings a full 24 hours of sunlight. While old pagan traditions are less important nowadays, people have still found a way to put the extra daylight to good use. The Secret Solstice music festival offers three full days of musical performances and artistic highlights. It takes place between 16 and 19 June every year.

Kupala Day — Jumping over the Bonfire

Kupala Day is the summer solstice celebration in Russia, Ukraine, and many other Eastern European countries. Some old folk traditions have prevailed here. For instance, young girls make garlands which they let float down a river. Depending on the movement of the garland, they try to tell their fortune. Another popular tradition is for couples to hold hands and jump over a bonfire. If they let go during the jump, the bond is said to not be strong enough and the couple will separate.
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Up Up in the Mountains

Lighting midsummer bonfires is a big summer solstice tradition in Austria’s Alpine regions as well. Particularly in the Tyrol region, huge bonfires dot the countryside on midsummer night and people celebrate until late. The biggest parties take place in the mountain towns, of course, where you have the best view of the surrounding area. However, cruises on the surrounding lakes, such as Achensee, or on the Danube River are rather popular as well.

Where Modern Druids Gather

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In the UK, Stonehenge is the most famous place to celebrate the summer solstice. When the sun rises right above its Heel Stone, druids, New Agers, modern pagans, and curious onlookers gather to party. Many of the 37,000 annual visitors come only to watch the eclectic crowd while others dance and drum through sunrise.

All Stretched Out in NYC

New Yorkers, on the other hand, have found a completely new way to celebrate the longest day of the year. As 21 June is not just a perfect time for midsummer celebrations but also happens to be World Yoga Day, yogis meet in Times Square for meditation and yoga workouts.
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This is not just a small, free fitness lesson, mind you. It is an all-day yoga event with around 11,000 participants, which starts early in the morning and continues until just before sunset.

Will you be spending your midsummer stretched out on a yoga mat in the City That Never Sleeps or rather dancing around the maypole? Share your favorite summer solstice traditions in the comments!

Image credits: 1, 3, 4) iStockphoto, 2) Pexels

InterNations Volunteers and Their Positive Impact on the Environment

Celebrating our natural environment is what numerous people around the world do on 5 June. On this day, they raise awareness about and call to action for protecting the environment worldwide. InterNations Volunteer Groups have worked hard to set up several activities that are environmentally friendly and support the well-being of our ecosphere — and we are very proud to present them here.

Supporting the Environment by Educating People

Our daily life has a great influence on our environment, simply due to all the little choices we make. The best way to protect our wonderful and precious world is to educate people about their environmental impact so that they can make more conscious choices. Thus, in the Singapore Volunteer Group, Group Consul Prema invited all members to a screening at the Earth Film Festival, as well as an exclusive speech by the festival’s founder, Michael Broadhead.

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At the screening, 29 group members watched the award-winning documentary Trashed, which illuminates the global scale of humanity’s waste production. Later on, several other members joined them for the Social Impact Night, an educational — and exclusive — speech by Earth Film Festival founder Michael Broadhead. Together with the attendees, Michael turned his lecture into an interactive session while he explained what motivated him to set up the Earth Film Festival.

The attendees did not only leave feeling inspired, but they also got to support a non-profit organization as InterNations donated parts of their entrance fee to Zero Waste Singapore. This NGO strives to make Singapore waste-free.

Supporting Local Farmers to Reduce Food Miles

Agro-tourism, bringing visitors to a farm or ranch, is a new sustainable industry that has various benefits, such as improving local economies and decreasing the amount of “food miles” (and thus our carbon footprint). Local farmers in Perucho, Quito, have discovered this alternative source of income, and that’s why Adriana from the Quito Volunteer Group decided to introduce the members of the group to this new initiative.

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The attendees of the Tangerine Tour had the opportunity to meet various farmers in the community and to learn more about local food production: they even went home with bags full of home-grown avocados, mandarins, and, of course, tangerines.

The Washington Volunteer Group Combats Water Pollution

Up to 40% of all American lakes are said to be too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming. The Anacostia Watershed Society tries to diminish this problem, pursuing the mission to clean the waters of the 14-kilometer Anacostia River, to recover its shores, and to honor the river’s heritage.

Therefore, Andrea from the Washington Volunteer Group prepared the members to get muddy and have lots of fun, while they had the opportunity to attend a River Cleanup activity and thus support the Watershed Society.

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More Tips to Celebrate World Environment Day

So many other activities can be done in order to celebrate World Environment Day and to honor its vision. We’d like to share three tips that might inspire you — especially, but not only, on 5 June:

• Plant a tree: its many benefits include filtering out air pollution and providing oxygen. Planting a tree in honor of a loved one makes it even more special!

• Clean up the beach, the park, the woods, etc! Take a walk in the fresh air with your friends and make it a game to see who can gather the biggest bag of litter in 15 minutes.

• Use recycled paper: if you have to work on World Environment Day, you could even propose this idea to the person in charge of your office’s paper supply.

Do you have any other ideas to celebrate World Environment Day? Let us know!

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 on our About Page or write to volunteerprogram@internations.org.

(Image credit: InterNations)

InterNations Insider Tips: The Best of Naples

InterNations Founder and Co-CEO Malte Zeeck shares his top tips for what to see and do in and around the capital of Campania.

Much to See in the Historic Center

I came to Naples at the end of April for the annual reunion with my university friends from St Gallen and to visit the InterNations Naples April Event, which you can read more about here. The historic center of Naples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, influenced by a succession of cultures and dynasties, from the ancient Greeks to the 18th-century Bourbons. I had plenty of time to explore the many winding streets here as I was lucky enough to be staying in the centro storico.

InterNations Insider Tips_Naples_Napoli_Pic 1According to some sources, there are said to be 448 (!) churches located in the center, all with an interesting history and quite a few containing brilliant pieces of artwork, both as a part of the sacral architecture itself and individual masterpieces by well-known sculptors and painters.

One such church is Capella Sansevero, where you can find the Veiled Christ by Sanmartino, a truly impressive marble sculpture — the artist managed to depict the draped shroud so realistically and so gracefully that his superstitious contemporaries assumed that he must have transformed, by some kind of magical alchemy, soft cloth into cold stone.

The Castle with a Peculiar Name

The waterfront is not too far from the historic center and is a lovely place to spend some time eating traditional Neapolitan-style pizza, pasta, or seafood. From here, you can see Mount Vesuvius, which makes for a truly impressive vista to enjoy while you have lunch.

InterNations Insider Tips_Naples_Napoli_Pic 2 Before or after heading to a restaurant, you should also go to the Castello dell’Ovo. Called the Castle of the Egg in English, this fortress is surrounded by the myths of a mysterious sorcerer — well, actually the classical poet Virgil, whom medieval folks believed to have possessed supernatural powers.

Supposedly Virgil buried a magic egg in the foundations of the castle, which if destroyed, would bring about the destruction of the building and chaos in the city. Luckily it would appear this hasn’t happened … at least, not yet.

A Beautiful Lesser-Known Island

During our stay in Naples, we took the 30-minute ferry trip to the island of Ischia just 30km from the mainland. We rented scooters and explored this beautiful isle, making a stop at the Negombo Thermal Gardens. This thermal park with a private beach, set in impressive grounds, is the perfect place to relax at one of the many pools and hot springs sitting alongside the cooler ocean. InterNations Insider Tips_Naples_Napoli_Pic 3

Just like on last year’s visit to Rome, I rather enjoyed going around the island on a scooter, which felt like a true Italian moment, but I should mention that driving here is really not for the faint-hearted, and perhaps it is safer to walk or take the bus.

Follow in the Steps of Gods

A nice day in Naples is the best occasion to go on the so-called “walk of the gods”. This hiking trail stretches from the town of Bomerano to Positano and offers incredible views for those who are willing to make the hard effort.

We first went from Bomerano to Nocelle, where we stopped for lunch at the Santa Croce restaurant. InterNations Insider Tips_Naples_Napoli_Pic 4 This family-run restaurant provided us with a well-earned break and brilliant views across the sea.

After taking a pause, we continued the “walk of the gods” down into Positano, where we enjoyed drinks by the beach watching the sun set. This walk really is worth going on, with splendid views of the Amalfi Coast, but if you can’t make it all the way, there is a bus from Positano to Nocelle to help you out.

Not Complete Without a Visit to Pompeii

Of course, I couldn’t go to Campania without visiting the ruins of Pompeii. This world-renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site has fascinated for me for many years. (Who doesn’t love an exploding volcano — provided the eruption safely happened more than 2,000 years ago…). It was very interesting to walk around the well-preserved ruins and to see the way people lived in Roman times.

I took an audio guide to help me learn more about the large site (which would actually require five days to explore thoroughly) and its various key points such as the basilica, which was the home to the law and the main trading site, and the forum, the center of public life. InterNations Insider Tips_Naples_Napoli_Pic 5 It does take a while to see even the most important ruins in detail, so I would recommend you bring plenty of water and a hat to keep yourself protected from the sun, as there is little shade provided here.

But though the Campanian heat can be brutal, especially later in summer, Pompeii is worth it: from the surprisingly vibrant colors of some surviving wall decorations to obscene Latin graffiti (apparently, human nature hasn’t changed that much in those 2,000 years), it offers a near-magical glimpse into a bygone era.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Naples

InterNations Founder and Co-CEO Malte Zeeck recounts his visit to the InterNations Naples Community.

Arriving in the Ancient City

At the end of April I took the short 90-minute flight from Munich to Naples to attend my yearly reunion with other alumni from the University of St. Gallen, as well as the InterNations Naples April Event. The city welcomed me with lovely weather: 30°C was much preferable to 10°C in Munich.

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Naples_Pic 5 I was lucky enough to be staying right in the historic center of town at the Foria House Bed and Breakfast. It even came with its own private garden to sit in before heading to the event. In the evening, I joined the official event at the Palazzo Petrucci restaurant in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, just a 15-minute walk from my hotel.

The venue is a really cozy pizzeria, and we were lucky enough to be holding the event on their terrace with a wonderful view over the piazza as the warm spring evening passed by. The square itself is a pretty, and quite busy, public space in the center of Naples, and as the evening progressed, we had a good vantage point on the terrace above to watch the comings and goings below.

A Global Mind

When I arrived, I was welcomed by Lomè, the Ambassador for the InterNations Naples Community. Born in Naples, Lomè has lived in many cities around the world — London, Berlin, and Sharm El-Sheikh, to name but a few. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Naples_Pic 1She is a good example of the numerous global minds in the InterNations Community, speaking half a dozen languages and having visited various countries, especially in Europe. She also likes to use the influence of the many places she has lived as inspiration for her personal passions, cooking and clothing.

After returning to her hometown, Lomè now works as a tour guide, spreading her love for Naples and the surrounding area. In her free time, alongside cooking and reading, she enjoys being our Naples Ambassador, welcoming people to her beautiful city with a friendly smile and brilliant events. She says she chose to do this because she wanted people to have the welcome in their new city that she was missing when she moved abroad herself. Thank you, Lomè!

A Brilliant Event

Naples is one of our smaller communities in Italy with around 2,200 members, about 50 of whom signed up for this event. The event began at 20:00 and carried on until late at night. We were also lucky to have good weather for the whole evening; what started off as a cloudy evening turned into perfect weather to relax outdoors. There was a buffet and drinks provided by the restaurant, which we grazed on throughout the night.

I had many interesting conversations with members from a variety of places around the world: Germany, the USA, Malaysia, Austria, and Venezuela are just a few of the countries that were represented. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Naples_Pic 3 Quite a few of the people at the event turned out to work for the local NATO base, while others introduced themselves as university staff.

During the evening, conversation turned to life in Naples. Many of the expats I spoke to hold mixed opinions about living here. They enjoy living in a city with such brilliant weather and the incredible landscape created by the Amalfi Coast, including Pompeii, Capri, and Mount Vesuvius. They also enjoy the standard of the local food, of course. But many of the people I spoke with also mentioned issues like the presence of organized crime, the dirt, and the crazy traffic.

A Big Thank You

I really enjoyed my time at the event in Naples, especially the very relaxed and familial atmosphere. I also had an interesting interview with a TV crew about my visit to Naples, arranged by Francesca. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Naples_Pic 2

I then gave a speech thanking Lomè for all the energy she puts into the InterNations Community, welcoming so many people with a warm and smiley greeting — we even had quite a few new faces being welcomed at this event. I also asked members of the Naples Community to get active in our Groups and to share their hobbies with other expats and global minds. Thank you to everyone who came for making it such an enjoyable evening!

Exploring Naples and the Amalfi Coast

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Naples_Pic 4 Many of the guests I talked to over the course of the evening gave me valuable tips for how I should spend the rest of my time in the region. Over the next few days I was able to go to most of the places they had recommended, as well as some other sightseeing trips organized by my alumni reunion.

We, of course, made a point of going to Pompeii, which was at the very top of the list for most of us. Another highlight of my trip to Naples was our visit to Ischia. This island is somewhat less popular than Capri, but it is the largest one in the bay and well worth a visit. We rented scooters and explored the island, stopping at the thermal gardens with their private beach.

You can read more about what I did during my time in Campania in my Insider Tips blog post. I can whole-heartedly recommend this amazing region to anyone!

(Image credit: Malte Zeeck/InterNations)

InterNations Celebrates the World Day for Cultural Diversity

InterNations is definitely a culturally diverse community, represented in 166 countries around the world, uniting more than two million members from across the globe. That alone is a reason to celebrate!

While we are celebrating cultural diversity every day, the World Day for Cultural Diversity on 21 May gives us the opportunity to put this particular aspect of our community life into the spotlight. InterNations Communities around the world have been organizing various official events and activities that fit this theme perfectly.

Getting to Know Other Cultures’ Traditions

Our members in Budapest headed to Veszprém — one of Hungary’s oldest cities — on 7 May for the name day of Blessed Gisella of Bavaria, Queen of Hungary. It is one of the largest cultural events in town with fun activities for all ages and participants dressing up in period garb and traditional Hungarian costumes.

InterNations Budapest

In the north of Germany, in Hamburg, InterNations members celebrated Cinco de Mayo by preparing authentic Mexican dishes for all attendees, along with a selection of Mexican drinks. Enchiladas, ceviche, guacamole, and carnitas were all on the menu, with the sombreros adding an extra fun touch to the evening.

Members of the InterNations Hong Kong Community put on their hiking boots and headed to Macau for a daytrip on 14 May. After a ferry ride to Macau, the group went on a seven-hour trail walk along Macau’s 25 World Heritage sites, starting at A-Ma Temple, one of the most famous Taoist temples in the region, and ending at Guia Fortress, a 17th-century Portuguese fort, a reminder of Macau’s colonial past.

Macau, China - Jan 8, 2013: Ruins of st.paul's, One of macau's b

In Brussels, the Spanish Language and Cultures Group organized a Peruvian Gastronomic Festival on 15 May, with more than 30 food stalls serving various dishes and drinks. In addition to the culinary highlights, there was also Peruvian dance and live music, taking you on to a trip to the Andes for the evening.

Official Events Celebrating Diversity around the World

Our members in Cincinnati have their own way of celebrating the cultural diversity of their community throughout the year. Every month, they organize an event in honor of a different country or region, from St Patrick’s Day celebrations to Hispanic Heritage month. In May, the Cincinnati Community was celebrating Japan with a themed dinner at a Japanese restaurant: the perfect way to learn a bit more about Japanese culture in the most delicious way.

InterNations Cincinnati Celebrates Japan

InterNations members in New York took it to the next level on 17 May and organized the official monthly event as a rooftop soirée with a scintillating view of the Empire State Building. Around 275 members from a record number of 77 nations were mixing and mingling with fellow expats, enjoying a night out at one of NYC’s hidden gems.

InterNations New York

Going west to California, the Sacramento Community hosted a “show-and-tell” event, where members could show off their souvenirs and photos from their trips abroad. More than two dozen guests had a great time telling stories about their international travels.

Souvenirs from Sicily

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Algiers Community hosted a special event in honor of World Day for Cultural Diversity. Around 75 members joined the get-together in a winter garden, with the most stunning view of the cityscape. Dressed up in traditional clothes and accessories from their home country, they enjoyed the opportunity to deepen their understanding of other people’s customs and values and to broaden their knowledge of diverse cultures.

There’s Still Time to Experience Cultural Diversity

If you haven’t had time to get involved in the World Day for Cultural Diversity, you don’t need to worry: a couple more events will still be taking place over the next few days.

The San Francisco Community is celebrating this occasion with an official event on 21 May. Almost 200 members have signed up to meet at a state-of-the-art lounge bar situated in a beautiful brick basement beneath the hustle-and-bustle of the Bay Area.

Learn French

In Nigeria, the Lagos French Conversation Group is organizing a pool-side event to encourage members who would like to improve or practice their French language skills. If you want to listen to French music, read French literature, or even perform something in French, before enjoying a pool party later on, then just be there on 28 May. Amusez-vous bien!

(Images: 1) Magdolna Hursan, InterNations; 2), 5) & 6) iStockphoto; 3) Michael Beck, InterNations; 4) Roxana Colorado, InterNations)

5 Tips for Thriving in a Culturally Diverse Environment

The InterNations Team Shares Some Insights from Their Daily (Work) Life

Over 2 million members — 101 employees — 32 nationalities — 29 languages — and 5 essential tips for benefiting from a culturally diverse environment: these numbers sum up perfectly what 21 May is all about and what the InterNations Team is living every day.

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In 2002, the United Nations introduced the annual World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, or Cultural Diversity Day, for short. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, this date — 21 May — was a reminder “to reject outright the theory of the inevitable clash of cultures and civilizations” and “to raise awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue”.

It’s easy to think that such lofty goals as helping to promote world peace, or finding the perfect balance between the particularities of various cultures and the universalism of human rights, have little or nothing to do with our everyday lives. But the UN actually lists ten simple things you can do to celebrate this goal, and most of our 2.2 million members around the globe do things like sharing a meal with people from a different culture or watching a movie from another country on a daily basis.

In a way, every single person working here at the InterNations HQ becomes part of a culturally diverse environment simply by showing up at the office. About five years ago, when the InterNations Team used to be a lot less numerous, over 60% of our staff was German. Now that we have hit the magical mark of more than 100 team members, we are a curious mix of nearly three dozen nationalities.

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We have therefore asked several team members across different departments — all of whom are now living as expats in Germany — what they have learned from working in a multinational environment and what sort of advice they’d like to share. Their best tips don’t only apply to an international workplace, but to the international lifestyle in general.

• “Stop taking your own culture and language for granted.”

That’s usually the first thing to happen to you once you leave your cultural comfort zone. It can be something as simple as considering whether or not to address a business contact with their full name and title, or something as complex as learning the local language from scratch.

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It’s not only words that fail you, but your entire way of communicating, from familiar gestures to popular jokes: “Whenever you find yourself in the middle of a conversation where the people around you have a different sense of humor, different social references, and different views about every aspect of life, things can get a bit awkward,” says Phillipe, an International Relations Manager in our Community Management Department.

• “Think before you speak — and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Again, your newly-acquired tendency towards reflection isn’t just due to being at a loss for words. You suddenly realize that “something that is and has always been obvious to you might not make sense to other people”.

This realization can lead to increased insecurity. How can I make myself easily understood? How can I avoid inadvertently offending my new co-workers? Have I interpreted their reaction correctly?

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Just remember: most people are happy to share information about their country, language, and culture, as long as you ask politely and with genuine curiosity. And you might then become an “ambassador” for your own culture in return.

• “See things through a different lens — the good and the bad alike.”

After a while, you’ve made it through the initial confusion. As soon as you understand other cultures better, though, it’s also more tempting to start judging them. That phase can be a challenge in its own right, especially if you are frustrated with your job or are feeling homesick.

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You are now able to walk that figurative mile in other people’s shoes, but you might not be always willing to. “Things can be done in a lot of different ways. You can take that personally and get upset, or you can try to see the good sides along with the downsides.”

• “Remember that you are dealing with individuals.”

To quote those classic British philosophers from the 1970s (i.e. Monty Python), “yes, we are all individuals! Yes, we are all different!”

Woman legs in different shoes Keeping that in mind, you shouldn’t kick off a relationship with someone from another culture by loudly voicing your stereotypes about them: “Although there is often a grain of truth in many stereotypes,” Lenore, a US expat and one of our Content & Communications Managers, points out, “that person probably doesn’t appreciate being characterized by the most obvious cliché that pops into your head.”

Moreover, people everywhere are … people. Not everything they say or do can be explained by their respective culture. Not only is each culture multi-layered and multi-faceted, but some behavior is simply due to personality and circumstance.

• “Try to come up with a compromise.”

The more diverse a group is, the greater the likelihood of a “clash of cultures” en miniature. Something as basic as what exactly punctuality means can wreak havoc with both a carefully planned meeting schedule and everybody’s mood. Then it’s time to sit down and play at international diplomacy in order to smooth ruffled feathers and to avoid a repeat performance.

“It’s all about finding a middle ground, about showing you respect each other’s opinion, whether you disagree or not, and trying to come to an understanding.” On the plus side, “international teams can be more productive and creative. Everybody brings new ideas and perspectives to the table.”

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We all know that dealing with different cultures and adapting to culturally diverse environments isn’t always easy. It can be challenging to the point of frustration; plenty of people are understandably afraid of stepping outside their comfort zone. Nonetheless, everybody we’ve asked would do it again.

“I’ve developed new ways to express myself, as well as more of an ease being in an unfamiliar situation,” Katie, our Groups Manager from Charleston, South Carolina, stresses, and Nadim, our French-Lebanese Content & Communications Intern, agrees:

“You learn resilience and adaptation. The hard part is to leave your family, friends, and home behind. But your reward is that feeling of adventure, the feeling of living your life to the fullest, of opening your mind.”

And which advice on living and working in another culture, or a culturally diverse environment, would you like to share?

(Thanks to Anastasiya, Anthony, Blandine, Katie, Lenore, Nadim, and Phillipe for their American-Brazilian-British-French-Lebanese-Ukrainian view of what working at our not-quite-typically German company feels like, and a special thank you to Katie and Lenore for “modeling” for the first two pictures.)

(Image credit: 1), 2), 4) InterNations 3), 5), 6), 7) iStockphoto)

The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change

You’re going to do it. You’re going to completely change your career.

Whether you’re doing it because of your desire to break free and move abroad no matter what or because all you’ve learned through the experience has made you seek out new horizons, changing your career is a big but brave step. InterNations Expat Blog_The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change_Pic 5 And while the outcome of a more fulfilling and exciting career is great, the road there might be rather bumpy at times.

Let me save you some trouble. There are three mistakes you’re probably making, will make, or haven’t even thought about it. Don’t worry: they happen to the best of us — but you can avoid them.

1. Not Knowing Where You Want to Go

You’ve had it with your job; and here’s where the first mistake crops up to trip you up. You want something different, but do you know exactly what you want? Many expats take a break from their jobs only to find nowhere to go, or worse yet, they make a bad choice in choosing their next career.

Maybe you’re a nurse and have decided nursing doesn’t do it for you anymore, or you cannot practice it abroad; then being a home-care assistant would be the right solution for you, right? Well … maybe.

The reasons why you wanted change to begin with could also have you longing for Fridays at your new job. Not to mention that, if you don’t do enough research on the working environment and culture in your host country, it could be even worse.

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Rather than letting your mind punk you, get your career change right the first time by doing some solid outlining. Jot down what you truly enjoy about your work. Even if you’re looking to change your career, there are still some things that drew you to your former position originally and certain things about you that complement it.

Do you like helping others? Do you like the structure? Great. Now what else do you want from a job? Would you prefer a flexible schedule? How about more time at home? Perfect. Now you can narrow down what kind of jobs would suit these needs without falling into the same inflexible, at-work-too-much hole that drove you away in the first place. Perhaps becoming a counselor would be a better option?

2. Not Having a Roadmap

Mistake number two: let’s say you jump clear over mistake number one and set your sights on a job that was practically built for you. Great!

… now what?

Where do you even begin? If you want to run a company specializing in interior design (hey, why wouldn’t you?) and you have the skills, that’s fantastic, but no one is going to let you take the position without some official qualifications, previous professional experience and a strong network. For that matter, getting the position at your dream company will be impossible if they don’t know who you are.

InterNations Expat Blog_The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change_Pic 4 Fix:

Now it’s time to lay the groundwork and chart out your course. Pull out the pen and paper again, and start reverse-engineering your career change.

You want to run your own shop in interior design, right? Perhaps the first thing is to get in contact with the higher-ups of this sector in your new country. How do you get in contact with them? Through LinkedIn. Do you have a profile? Create one. Will they pay attention to you? No, so build a popular following and more connections before contacting them.

Do you have the qualifications they’re looking for? No, so back to school. Do you have the experience they need? No, so look for a smaller position as a manager in a similar field, or work pro bono, or start writing a blog on this subject.

By having this roadmap in place, you can follow each individual step to take you to your goal — and it’s encouraging to look at what you have already achieved along the way!

3. Not Reaching Out to Others

You might have guessed from the last solution that I’m in favor of networking — and trust me, you have to be. If you have your roadmap and the complete profile of your dream job, you could run into mistake number three like a truck into a brick wall.

If you’re introverted like me, or just extremely busy, it’s easy to isolate yourself and forget to reach out to others. This leaves all your efforts high and dry, because no matter how experienced you are, how can you get that ideal position if no one knows you, recommends you, or introduces you to a new opportunity?

Better yet, reaching out to others may mean sometimes asking for help working out your goals and roadmap from mistakes #1 and #2 above. Meeting new people, talking through your dilemmas, or even seeking professional help are all important elements of your success overseas. InterNations Expat Blog_The Three Biggest Mistakes Expats Make in Career Change_Pic 3

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It can be hard to break out of your comfort zone, but get a crowbar (and some comfort food) and get to work. By taking a few minutes every day to engage on social media with people in your desired field, or just inspirational people in general, you can make connections that will springboard you to greater opportunities. Better yet, these people can offer you a hand up when the going gets tough, offer advice to improve your situation, and make those vital recommendations that will get you your dream position.

Rita Golstein-Galperin is a Career Makeover Strategist® for expat women and the founder of Expat Renaissance. She is an author, entrepreneur, public speaker, as well as a career and business coach for expats. Rita helps expat women rediscover, redefine and reinvent themselves while thriving overseas!

(Image credit: 1) StockSnap 2) iStockphoto 3) & 4) Pexels)

Founder’s Diary: Malta

InterNations Founder and Co-CEO Malte Zeeck shares his impressions of his trip to Malta and the local event that he attended there.

Malte Visits Malta

I was really excited to finally visit Malta for the first time. It took me just a two-hour flight from Munich, and while getting out of the plane, I could already feel the positive change in temperature. I had left a rainy and cold Munich with barely 7°C to be welcomed by a balmy 22°C.

It’s hardly a surprise that Malta received exceptional ratings in our Expat Insider 2015 survey. InterNations Founder's Diary_Malta_Event_Pic 4 Malta was placed third in last year’s global ranking of the world’s best expat destinations, and the lovely weather might have had something to do with that: more than two-thirds of the survey participants absolutely love the Maltese climate, and not a single respondent actually dislikes it.

On my trip to this sunny Mediterranean island, I was accompanied by my comrades from the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 11,000 influential business owners with 157 chapters in 48 countries, including one in Munich. It wasn’t the first time that we traveled together: last year, for example, we went on a retreat to Sarajevo, where I also got to visit the InterNations Community in Bosnia.

A Relaxing Start and an Enthusiastic Ambassador

We stayed in Palazzo Villa Rosa in the heart of St. Julian’s — around nine kilometers from the capital, Valletta — and it was a brilliant choice of accommodation: the beautiful old mansion with spacious rooms and its own swimming pool was overlooking the scenic St. George’s bay, and it was also located within walking distance of the buzzing nightlife district of Paceville.InterNations Founder's Diary_Malta_Event_Pic 2

Before heading off to the event location to meet Maria, our InterNations Ambassador, I had a bit of time to relax at the Intercontinental Beach Club — just a few steps away from the villa — and sip a cold beer in the sun, with a gorgeous view of the beach. Afterwards, I headed off to Tiffany Champagne and Wine Bar in Portomaso, where our event was taking place. It’s an old-school type of bar, whose terrace offers a very nice view of the yachting marina.

Maria, who became our InterNations Malta Ambassador in 2014, has been running our local community ever since. She has reliably organized our monthly InterNations Official Events and hasn’t missed a single one since she assumed the Ambassador role. Before stepping up to that position, she had been an active InterNations member for seven years, practically since the InterNations Community in Malta was set up. So she’s been there from the start!

Maria teaches and researches at the University of Malta in the area of language education, and she enjoys traveling and socializing with people from all over the world, which makes her a perfect fit for our community.

A Fun Event by the Waterfront

In Malta, the dominating sectors seem to be the banking and the online gaming industries. The 425,000-strong population on the island also relies heavily on tourism, including an abundance of language schools for international students, with English being spoken by the majority of the Maltese. All these factors explain why Malta is an attractive destination with a fairly large foreign community for so small an island nation: in 2013, for example, the number of foreign residents grew by over 3,000.

InterNations Founder's Diary_Malta_Event_Pic 1The InterNations Malta Community is flourishing, too: more than 120 members from 34 nations had signed up for the upcoming event and were looking forward to another entertaining evening full of socializing with expats from all over the globe.

At the event, I also met Elaine, an expat from Ireland who used to live in London for 16 years before moving to Malta in 2012. Elaine is not only an avid traveler and an entrepreneur who runs her own business in Malta — she is also an InterNations Group Consul for the Malta Sports & Social Group, as well as the Malta Arts & Culture Group. She was clearly very enthusiastic about the InterNations Community, and we talked about the groups and their activities in Malta. We now have around 20 groups that are very active, such as the ever-popular Malta Dinner Nations Group.

Apart from our Group Consuls, I also had the pleasure of talking to various members from different countries, like Iceland, Ireland, the UK, Australia, Malta, Germany, and Denmark. I was surprised and delighted to run into someone whom I’d previously met at an event in Stockholm last year. It’s a really small world indeed!

InterNations Founder's Diary_Malta_Event_Pic 3I officially opened the event with a short speech, in which I thanked Maria, Elaine, and all the other volunteers who help the InterNations Malta Community to grow by regularly organizing great events and activities, and who give our members the opportunity to meet up and socialize. I was also happy to announce that our InterNations mobile app was soon to be launched, and I encouraged the members to share their feedback.

Later that night, after the event, Maria took me and a few other members to Hugo’s Lounge, a popular Asian dining place and nightclub near the event location as well as my accommodation — a great end to an eventful day.

Travelling Back in Time in Malta’s Streets

The following morning, we met up with Maria for breakfast in Sliema — the town right next to St. Julian’s — in Fortizza Bar and Restaurant by the waterfront. The restaurant is located in a very original venue, a former artillery battery from the 19th century. After enjoying a delicious meal, Maria took us on a tour around Valletta and Mdina, the current capital and the former one, two cities full of history.

Valletta goes back to the times of the Order of the Knights of St. John from the 16th century, and the city and its buildings still retain their Baroque character. Mdina — whose name comes from the Arabic word for “city” — was Malta’s former capital, first fortified around 700 BC. I noticed how peaceful and picturesque the city was — today it houses fewer than 300 inhabitants. InterNations Founder's Diary_Malta_Event_Pic 5

Along the way, we had the chance to talk about the development of the InterNations Community and how it could grow even further, as well as the challenges she faces when she organizes official events.

After our sightseeing tour, we stopped for dinner at La Dolce Vita, a popular seafood restaurant overlooking Spinola Bay back in St. Julian’s. When darkness fell over the sea, we headed over to Floriana to check out the local fireworks festival, which takes place there in April every year. The amazing displays briefly lighting up the night sky were a fitting end to a brief short visit full of highlights.

The following morning I would go back to the airport and return to a cold and unfriendly Munich, but I was resolved to come back to Malta one day. After all, I had only seen a fraction of everything this tiny country has to offer.

(Image credit: Malte Zeeck/InterNations)