From Mountains to Deserts — The Winners of Our #GlobalLocalHolidays Contest

Last month, we asked expats around the world to share their favorite holiday moments with us, using the hashtag #GlobalLocalHolidays. We received over 350 submissions on Instagram showing us everything from biking on the beach to snowy mountain peaks. With all of these great holiday moments being shared, it was not easy for us to choose the top three.

Today, we would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to our winner, as well as our first and second runner-up.

Third Place: The Snow-Covered Swiss Mountains

Mark Blackwell, a British expat living in Jakarta, shared a picture from his vacation in Zermatt, Switzerland. His partner hails from Australia and has never seen snow before, so this vacation was quite a change of scenery for the couple. Zermatt makes a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts but, due to its close proximity to Italy, is also a great place for foodies.

When he visits his family in the UK, Mark likes to take the opportunity to travel around Europe a bit. In his role as InterNations Jakarta Ambassador, he also helps newly-arrived expats settle in and visits other communities’ events whenever he can.

Second Place: Where the Santas Run

The picture that made it to second place was taken by Linda Bernau at the Sydney Santa Fun Run, a 5km charity run to raise money for disabled and disadvantaged children. Despite the heat, all of the runners wore Santa costumes and completed their run to Christmas music playing in the background.

The metropolis itself impressed Linda a lot, with its beaches, its natural harbor with the famous opera, and the lively arts and culture scene. For a German expat, spending Christmas time in Sydney was a unique experience, of course, since the scorching heat is not what one would expect this time of the year. While she misses the Christmas markets and the cold winter days, living in this beautiful city makes up for it.

When Linda moved to the city two years ago, the InterNations Sydney community there helped her to settle in and make new friends. She still enjoys attending the events organized by Sydney’s great Ambassador team.

First Place: Camels in the Dubai Desert

The winning picture of the #GlobalLocalHolidays contest was taken by Lira Ajkova during a trip to Margham with the InterNations Dubai Desert Camping Group. She managed to capture this image of two racing camels during their training in the early morning hours.

The UAE desert impressed her with its clear winter sky. The area around Margham is perfect for camping and venturing into the wilderness and gazing at the stars, says Lira. It is located only two hours from Dubai, making it a great destination for a quick get-away.

Congratulations on winning first prize and we hope you can use your hotel voucher on one of your next trips. Enjoy!

 

Last but not least: A big thank you again to everyone who participated in our contest. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to check out some of the other finalists and for more great #GlobalLocal images!

Welcome 2017 — Making this Year a Great One

The beginning of a new year always has a very special meaning. For most people, it feels like a new chance to work towards their goals, to make some New Year’s resolutions (and definitely keep them this time) and to embark on a new adventure. We have planned a lot of great things for the year ahead, and so have our communities.

Let’s make this year a great one and welcome 2017 together!

New Year’s Eve Parties and Relaxed January Gatherings

Before we introduce you to the great official events and activities that are still lying ahead, let’s look at how our members spent New Year’s Eve and started off the month of January.

Our community in Melbourne celebrated their last event of 2016 on Thursday, 29 December, at the Irish Times Pub. This is where everyone, including newly-arrived and already established expats, gathered for a final goodbye before the end of the year.

InterNations members and global minds in Johannesburg celebrated New Year’s Eve by the pool. Those who remained in the city throughout the holidays enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere, the stunning view of the city, and the burger bar provided by the venue.

InterNations Brussels also celebrated New Year’s Eve in style. The event started with a wonderful dinner and a live jazz band and turned into a party later in the evening. Guests danced their way into the new year or mingled outside on the heated terrace to get some fresh air and make new friends.

On Friday, 6 January, our members in Washington, DC, where the first ones to welcome this new year with us. The relaxed get-together offered the perfect opportunity to grab a drink, talk to some friends, and enjoy a night off to re-charge for the year ahead.

The Houston 2017 Launch Party on Tuesday, 10 January, impressed our members with a great new location, an amazing selection of cocktails and southern comfort food. For newcomers, it was also a great opportunity to meet other members and make new friends.

Our members in Luanda got 2017 started on Wednesday, 11 January. The event took place outside on the terrace of Brisa Café where all guests could enjoy the great company and get to know the new Co-Ambassador of the community.

The Guangzhou January Mixer on Saturday, 14 January, was the perfect opportunity for the community to kick off the new year and beat the post-Christmas blues. Members mingled in the elegant area exclusively reserved for them at the Guangzhou Marriott Hotel Tianhe and enjoyed the delicious food as well as the company of their fellow global minds.

Street Food, Ski Slopes, and the Chinese New Year

If you haven’t had a chance to catch up with your expat friends yet, there are lots of official events and activities coming up to welcome 2017!

The motto of the Casablanca event on Friday, 20 January, is “Eat, Drink & Be Merry Again in 2017”. Expats and global minds will meet for drinks, dinner and dancing to kick off the new year. This is also a great opportunity to meet the new Ambassador of the community.

Dublin welcomes 2017 on Wednesday, 25 January, at the first official event of the new year. With the canapé selection and some great music, there is no reason not to come by to mix and mingle with your favorite expats in town.

The InterNations community in Graz is gathering at Durstküche this month to enjoy the delicious street food the venue is famous for. No matter if you are new in town or an established expat, join us on Wednesday, 25 January, to enjoy the delicious homemade fries and the company of other global minds.

On Friday, 27 January, Dar es Salaam is celebrating the beginning of a new year. It’s time to sit back and relax with a cocktail in hand and a friend by your side. The venue will offer a private area for attendees of this event until 21:00, after which the area will be open to all guests.

InterNations San Francisco is celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, 28 January. Expats will meet at a stylish wine bar to network and taste the wine produced by the venue. If you want to give this occasion a glamorous flair, wear red and gold in honor of the Chinese New Year.

For a more relaxed get-together, you should join DinnerNations Hanoi for their Happy New Year dinner at Koto. The place offers a great selection of local and international dishes, as well as delicious cakes and pastries. Of course, it is also the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Hanoi’s busy streets.

For a more active start into the new year, join the Milan Weekend Social Group for their skiing trip to Bardonecchia. The area offers slopes for every skill level, plus many places to take skiing lessons.

 

Image credits: 1) – 8) InterNations, 9) Pexels, 10) iStockphoto

How to Stay Active Abroad: 5 Tips to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Now that 2017 has arrived, it is time to actually tackle these New Year’s resolutions. You promised yourself to be more active this year, but you’re about to start your adventure abroad? No problem! Moving to another country doesn’t mean you have to give up all the athletic activities you used to enjoy back home.

Sports can make you healthier and happier — and who wouldn’t want to be that? Not only will regular exercise help you keep your New Year’s resolutions: it will also help you feel at home in a new country or city.

These five tips show you some of the endless possibilities to stay active during your time abroad!

Explore Your New Home — By Bike and on Foot

Getting to know your new home is an essential part of expat life. The best thing about discovering your new environment: it enables you to get in a lot of exercise while walking around all day.

When exploring a new sight or neighborhood in your new city of residence, make sure to refuse public transportation for reasonable distances. It is as easy as it sounds: walking everywhere adds up to a couple of kilometers per day.

If you don’t like walking, try out biking. Many cities are even very bike-friendly, offering dedicated bicycle lanes or even a bicycle-sharing-system throughout the city.

What are you waiting for? Grab your walking shoes or your bike and take in the scenery around you!

Become a Member of a Sports Club — and a Community

One in four people living in Switzerland is a member of a sports club, and in Germany, it even is one in three. Sports clubs are very popular in many other countries, too, providing a great way to combine exercising with socializing. Joining a sports club not only helps you to stay active but also gives you the possibility to meet locals and make new friends. Further, it is a great possibility to improve your languages skills since the language of instruction is usually the local one.

Even though many sports club also participate in tournaments, it is not just about winning. Some clubs take a trip together once a year or participate in other social activities apart from their usual training slot. Sports club are about people sharing a hobby, getting together, and being part of a community.

Start Your Own Group or Join an Existing One — It’s More Fun Together!

If you are already an enthusiast of a particular sport and would like to share your passion with others, then starting your own group for exercising and training together is a great opportunity. Working out in a group is always more fun than doing it alone. And most importantly: As a group, you can motivate and help each other to stay on track.

Ask your new colleagues if they are interested and you might find a workout buddy or even a whole team! If you don’t know anybody, then don’t give up just yet. There might already be a group with the same interests and the same athletic goals, such as running or hiking. Just ask around and make your workout more social — and more fun!

Try the Country’s National Sport and Broaden Your Horizon

Have you ever heard of arnis? Or how about bandy? You might not have heard of them, but these activities are the national sport of the Philippines (traditional martial arts) and one of the most popular team sports in Russia (a form of ice hockey). Apart from common sports like soccer, basketball, or volleyball, which are popular in many countries, there are also a great deal of lesser-known sports played around the world.

Some of them might sound a bit odd, like yagli güreş (oil wrestling) in Turkey, tossing the caber (a 175-pound log) in Scotland, or buzkhashi in Afghanistan, which translates into “goat dragging” and pretty much describes the objective of the game. However, there are numerous sports that are probably more interesting than plain old soccer. Dive into the country’s culture by trying out what locals enjoy in their free time and learn more about your new home!

Last but Not Least: The Passive Athlete

If none of the above-mentioned tips are your cup of tea or involve a bit too much physical activity, there is always the passive athlete route: enjoy a good game from the sidelines. Spectator sports like soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and many others are popular all around the world, and television broadcasts of the FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon, or the Ski Jumping World Cup have never been more successful.

Rooting for a local team in a stadium with thousands of other people is exciting, and it will definitely get your adrenaline going. Moreover, cheering a local sports team is guaranteed to provide you with an easy small talk topic for your new co-workers or neighbors.

 

As you can see, there are many different ways to stay active as an expat. Try for yourself and find out what works best for you to achieve your athletic goals in 2017 and settle in abroad!

 

(Image credit:  iStockphoto)

Noodles and Pasta around the World: International Recipes to Discover

For all of you who aren’t planning on cutting carbs in the new year, we have good news! In the US, National Spaghetti Day is celebrated on 4 January:  it’s inspired us to get our chef hats on and find out which stringy, starchy dish is a favorite in various countries.

Japan’s Culinary Revolution

The all-time favorite noodle dish in Japan is ramen. In the town of Fukuoka alone, the largest city on the southernmost main island, there are more than 2,000 ramen shops — roughly one per 775 residents!

This spicy soup uses wheat noodles and is served with meat, or occasionally fish. It is almost always topped with chashu (Chinese-style roasted pork), negi (thinly sliced green onions), and an egg. Different regions in Japan have varying ramen recipes  which are often close-guarded secrets within families and towns. Other ramen recipes, such as gluten-free miso ramen, are loved worldwide.

In contrast to sushi, a more traditional food, Ramen is associated with Japan’s pop culture. Cooking ramen has no rules, and chefs are at liberty to experiment with and adapt recipes. Ramen is very significant in representing the country’s shift in cultural identity to a place of innovation, culinary experimentation, and urban youth culture.

Thailand’s Tastiest Treat

In the 1940s, Pad Thai began its ascension to glory following Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s announcement that Thailand needed a new national dish. Pad Thai was chosen in a war-time bid to encourage the nation to eat more rice noodles and thus increase the country’s rice production.

Today, the dish is not only well liked in Thailand but worldwide, particularly in Western countries, where it is a bestseller in Thai restaurants. The rapid globalization of Thai cuisine in the past few decades is due to its reputation as healthy and non-fattening.

The cheap, crowd-pleasing street food contains egg-fried rice, tofu, fish sauce, shrimp, garlic, and chili, among other various ingredients.

The Queen of Noodles: China

Chow mein takes its name from the Taishanese dialect, with chow meaning “fried” and mein meaning “noodles”. It’s another noodle dish which has come to be appreciated around the world.

The preparation varies by region, with Hong Kong preferring crispy noodles while they are often steamed or cooked in a hot wok in other places. Chinese people often enjoy chow mein with a generous helping of soy sauce.

Chow mein is a particular favorite in the US, the UK, and India. The dish is also adapted by the Chinese diaspora, with parts of the US, for example, serving crispy noodles in a hamburger bun!

A Global Favorite: Vietnamese Pho

An absolute must-try for noodle fans is the Vietnamese dish pho. Following the Vietnam War, the rice noodle broth was spread across the globe by Vietnamese refugees; it has become universally loved for its warm yet refreshing qualities.

Pho is cooked with thin slices of beef or chicken, crunchy bean sprouts, as well as an endless variety of garnishes, including onions, basil, lemon, and chili. Like so many recipes that have become a staple of international cuisine, the dish varies from region to region, and chef to chef. It has been continuously adapted abroad, so it’s well worth giving more than one Vietnamese restaurant a try.

Or how about creating a new version according to your own tastes?

 

Hearty Dishes from Germany

Germans aren’t particularly known for their pasta, but Käsespätzle from the region of Swabia in southwestern Germany is a delicious (though definitely not low-calorie) dish, which is also enjoyed in Austria. Käsespätzle are small egg noodles served with roasted onions, fresh parsley, and most importantly, generous amounts of cream and cheese. Emmental cheese is typically used, however, it can easily be adjusted to use up that last bit of cheddar or gouda in the fridge!

The German word for the cousin of America’s mac’n’cheese also has an adorable meaning: spätzle is the Swabian expression for “little sparrows”, which the stodgy little noodles resemble.

 

Saints and Seafood in Spain

Known more for its tasty rice dishes than pasta recipes, locals in Catalonia enjoy the relatively new yet popular Catalan Cannelloni. The dish, said to be especially tasty with a generous splash of mellow Spanish wine and some nutmeg, is now frequently eaten on Boxing Day (26 December), also known as Saint Stephen’s Day. The cannelloni also contain meat, varying from pork to beef, or even innards such as lamb’s brains and chicken liver!

If that doesn’t take your fancy, perhaps you should give Fideuá a try. The seafood dish originates from the coast of Valencia, but has become popular nationwide — think the pasta version of paella, with short noodles instead of rice.

 

Kingdom of Pasta: Italy

In Italy, pasta is king: it is a staple food for most of the population. The average Italian eats over sixty pounds of pasta per year, and the country exports 1.7 million tons annually.

Some claim that the Venetian merchant Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from China, while others think that modern-day pasta was rather a rediscovery of Roman gastronomy. Perhaps Rome’s National Museum of Pasta Foods has the answer!

Empty cupboard? Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is a classic spicy dish which requires minimal ingredients: pepper, oil, chili, garlic, and — of course — spaghetti. Alternatively, another classic is Pasta Pomodoro — a simple but delicious tomato and basil sauce.

 

Aside from being inspired to try our hand at new delicious dishes in 2017, these recipes show how every country’s culinary traditions can be adapted and appreciated all over the world. As expats, we all bring a little bit of home with us in the way we eat, but can simultaneously fall in love with other cultures abroad. And, as the German saying goes, Liebe geht durch den Magen — “the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach”.

Image credits: 1) Pexels; 2-3) iStockphoto; 4) Pexels; 5-7) iStockphoto 

 

 

The Best Places Worldwide to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

Waiting for the famous Times Square Ball in NYC to drop at 23:59 or for London’s Big Ben to strike the hour is certainly a fun way to start the new year, but there may be other destinations better suited to your personal preferences.

While it’s probably a tad too late to book a spontaneous flight to the South Pacific right now, you might already start making plans for New Year’s Eve in 2017. In that case, enjoy our suggestions for the best places around the globe to welcome the new year!

… if you don’t mind the cold and the dark.

You consider average temperatures from -6.5°C to -1.3°C to be pleasantly fresh and energizing? You can do without sunshine during your New Year’s vacation? You have always dreamed of seeing the northern lights?

Maybe it’s time for a trip to Tromsø, the self-styled “capital of the Arctic”! Situated in Northern Norway, 400km north of the Polar Circle, the former frontier settlement cheerfully defies all stereotypes that might be expected from its smallish size (73,000 residents) and remote location (a two-hour flight from Oslo).

Tromsø is a regional boomtown and a vibrant cultural center, a lively university town and a city of superlatives. The latter usually include the word “northernmost”: northernmost university worldwide, northernmost botanical gardens, northernmost symphony orchestra, northernmost tango club, northernmost roller derby team — just take your pick!

Unsurprisingly, Tromsø’s tourism industry is booming, too. To make the polar night more koselig (cozy), you could go on a Sami-style sleigh ride, attend a concert in the Arctic Cathedral, or book a spa day on a vintage fishing vessel. And if you join a bus tour outside of town, where there’s barely any light pollution, you may suddenly see the skies blaze up in cold flames of purple and green.

… if you enjoy things that sparkle and go boom.

When you were a child, the part you liked best about New Year’s Eve was the fireworks show? Now that you are all grown up, your inner ten-year-old still enjoys a good display of pyrotechnics? Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is the perfect place to greet the new year with a bang!

Every summer, the popular port town hosts the Festival do Atlantico, a series of cultural events, including an international fireworks competition. Its winner obtains the privilege of organizing the lavish pyrotechnical show for New Year’s Eve, Madeira’s most important touristic spectacle. Aficionados hotly debate the best place to watch the fireworks from — the football stadium, a hotel along the marina, or a catamaran in the bay.

The fireworks show is just the highlight of the local holiday celebrations starting in early December and ending on “Twelfth Night” (6 January). You can choose among various concerts and folkloric traditions. Not only do colorful illuminations decorate Funchal’s main streets, but the predominantly Catholic town is also famous for its picturesque nativity scenes.

Soccer fans might rather be interested in a more secular idol: Funchal’s most famous citizen recently received a bronze statue of his own — a 2.40m-tall Cristiano Ronaldo.

… if you prefer your parties posh and traditional.

Your ideal celebration involves champagne and classical music? You like dressing up in your fanciest outfit? You want to glide elegantly into the new year? Brush up your ballroom dancing before setting out for Vienna!

The Austrian capital is widely known for its ball season, which runs from 11 November — the official beginning of Carnival — until Lent. The most famous society event is the Vienna Opera Ball in February.

However, the New Year’s Eve Ball at the Imperial Palace is another prestigious occasion — as might be guessed from glancing at the price list and the dress code: better pack a floor-length evening gown, or a tux or tailcoat, unless you want the bouncer to send you packing very politely.

If you aren’t sure about mastering the waltz in the ballroom or in the streets, opt for the concert hall instead. Johann Strauss II’s operetta Die Fledermaus (‘The Revenge of the Bat’ — sounds like a superhero blockbuster) is as much as a staple of New Year’s Eve in Vienna as the New Year’s Concert on 1 January. If you can’t get a ticket for the latter, watch the live broadcast from the Golden Hall while nursing your hangover to nostalgic tunes.

… if you are interested in exploring another culture’s New Year’s traditions.

You shy away from touristy events and would rather mingle with the locals? You enjoy learning more about other cultures and customs? You aren’t afraid of queues and crowds? Think about spending New Year’s Day in Japan!

In major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka, you will stumble upon the usual public countdown parties. It is much more memorable, though, to join those flocking to the nearest temple: just stand in the semi-darkness, amidst the glow of the lanterns, and listen to the bells chime in the new year.

Don’t forget to eat some toshikoshi soba! Buckwheat noodles symbolize a long life. And if you have the energy to stay up all night or rise early, don’t miss out on hatsuhinode — watching the first sunrise of the year, an auspicious sight.

Afterwards, it’s time for hatsumode — the first visit to a nearby shrine, where you can purchase new lucky charms. If you plan on visiting a popular shrine, though, for example beautiful Fushimi Inari Taisha near Kyoto, be prepared for a throng of worshipers reminiscent of a commuter train at rush hour.

The downside: New Year’s Day being Japan’s most important holiday, most tourist attractions are closed in early January.

… if you want to be among the first to celebrate.

You’d like to be among the first people worldwide to wish one another ‘Happy New Year’? You don’t mind long-distance flights? And your ideal vacation includes white beaches, emerald seas, and a hammock under palm trees? Off to the South Pacific with you!

The Kingdom of Tonga is still relatively unspoilt when it comes to mass tourism. Fua’amotu Airport on Tongatapu, the main island, is only served by three international airlines, via Auckland, Sydney, or Fiji. The capital of Nuku’alofa is small enough to comfortably walk around, and life generally follows its own slow pace.

Tonga is a true tropical paradise for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, or sailing. Due to its location close to the International Date Line, it’s also among the places around the globe that celebrate New Year’s Day first, following right after Kiritimati, Samoa, and the Chatham Islands.

However, this might not be the place for a raucous beach party: most Tongans are pious and conservative people, and even the country’s only cinema shuts down on Sunday. But you won’t just get the opportunity to toast the new year with a glass of local Kava, but also gain unique insights into the Polynesian way of life.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Five Tips for Staying Sane on Christmas: The Expat Special

As beautiful as it is, Christmas is stressful for everyone, and even more so for expats. You have to decide if you can afford to go home this year, or if you even want to, and if you have kids, you need to figure out what’s best for them. If you stay put in your adopted homeland, then you might have to celebrate without the usual rituals that are automatically understood back home.

Some years ago, when I was living in the UK, my partner, a mate, and I decided to spend Christmas in Český Krumlov, one of the most picturesque places in the Czech Republic. For us three Australians, the thought of spending our first “White Christmas” in a medieval winter wonderland was incredibly exciting. We stayed in our own gorgeous little villa attached to a large youth hostel and had been invited to share in the Christmas meal.

Maybe we were a bit too excited because we lost track of the days leading up to Christmas and accidentally got far too drunk the night of 23 December. Unfortunately, we hadn’t realized that in a Czech town, the big dinner would be held on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day, as is customary both in Australia and the UK. I spent a miserable day with my head over the toilet while our temporary family ate until they were stuffed full of Christmas goodness… Not quite the celebrations I’d imagined.

The following year I shared in an “Orphans’ Christmas” in Ireland in a lovely hired house in the countryside. These experiences, as well as many others over the years, have helped me realize that celebrating Christmas abroad is a skill rather than a bewildering mess.

So no matter if you are spending Christmas in a new home for the first or the seventh time, here are five tips to help you enjoy the day and keep your mental health on an even keel.

1) Accept and embrace that things will be different.

Plan something special, but allow it to be different from what you know. Welcome the difference instead of trying to make it all the same. The advantage of having Christmas away from home is that you get to reinvent some of the usual aspects (and erase the less desirable parts).

2) Delegate jobs and involve the whole clan via cultural contributions.

Don’t try and take the whole day on yourself: shouldering the sole responsibility of making it the perfect Christmas is surely a ticket to disaster. Instead, invite everyone who will be celebrating with you to do some research on Christmas in your adopted home. Each person can then make a cultural contribution in the form of local customs and traditions: food, a game, a story, a song, or a ritual.

If you have children, make sure to get them involved, too. Kids tend to be a lot more agreeable if they have genuine ownership and responsibility for what they take part in. You can all talk about what each person is going to do — but try not to make it competitive! No one’s contribution is more meaningful than anyone else’s, please.

3) Honor your own traditions.

Whether you and your guests are all from the same country, or from many different ones, each person can also contribute a tradition from their own home. “Home” might mean their family or the culture they come from, their country of origin, or a specific region.

Can you imagine how wide that range of diverse Christmas traditions will be even if you are all from the same place?

4) Be organized, but not controlling.

For example, do arrange times to Skype with your loved ones back home and wish them a merry Christmas; do figure out which cultural contribution everyone is going to make or how to pose for a great holiday picture; do make sure that you have enough food and drinks and gifts and holiday movies or whatever else is important to you.

But do not lose your mind if something isn’t perfect. Mistakes can sometimes turn into funny anecdotes, fond memories, or even traditions of their own!

5) Allow and express your real emotions.

If you suddenly feel like crying because you really miss your grandma, who passed away, or if you are homesick, then please do cry. Maybe even share your feelings —— with someone in your family or a fellow “orphan” — because I guarantee you will not be the only one who has those moments of overwhelming sadness, even in the middle of a joyful day. Keeping your feelings pent up can actually lead to a disastrous time: you may express that energy as anger or bitterness instead of simply being sad.

Radical empathy means expressing true feelings and also holding space for others when they express their genuine emotions, rather than trying to fix them or give them advice. There’s no greater gift than trusting someone with your vulnerabilities and having them trust you in return. Allowing yourself to shed some tears and telling someone what has made you sad — even to a child — can be a beautiful thing. In fact, if you can’t give anything else this Christmas, the gifts of trust and love and solidarity in action transcend most boundaries and can last a lifetime.

Some final advice: do take some time to reflect, and take care of yourself, your loved ones, and even strangers this holiday season. And don’t forget to reach out to a professional if things should get overwhelming: there’s never any shame in getting help!

Nicole Hind_smallNicole is a professional online counselor with a passion for helping people discover their untold stories. She has particular interest in supporting women to increase self-esteem, heal from trauma, and find their own power. Like many Aussies, Nicole loves travel and enjoys getting creative with mindfulness ideas that can be adapted to any environment.

(Image credit: 1)-6) iStockphoto 7) Nicole Hind)

Looking Back with Pleasure: The InterNations Year 2016

Hard to believe: 2016 is nearly over! Here at InterNations HQ, our team members are searching for the perfect present for the office Secret Santa exchange or preparing to go home for the holidays; others are making plans for a skiing trip to the Bavarian Alps or for their New Year’s Eve party.

In short, we are wrapping up the year: it has been a rather busy, but really successful 365 days for us. Looking back at the past twelve months, we can take great joy and pride in a flourishing community that helps our members to enjoy their international experience to the fullest and to benefit from cultural exchange.

Looking forward to 2017, we are very excited about what is yet to come for our 2.4 million members around the world.

Getting Involved to Create Thriving Communities

Bringing people across the globe together is what InterNations is all about. More than 900 InterNations Ambassadors and 4,800 Consuls have made other expats and global minds feel at home in our 390 communities worldwide — thank you for getting involved, taking the lead, and making an impact!

And what an impact that was! In 2016, our volunteers have scheduled about 5,800 official events and 43,000 activities; with over 1.45 million guests signing up for these events, they have set a new record. Of course, our vibrant community life all over the world is far more than just numbers, no matter how impressive these numbers might be.

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck enjoyed the opportunity to personally meet as many members and volunteers as possible, and to explore a variety of expat destinations in South Africa, the Middle East, and several European cities from Antwerp to Zurich. Our Head of Community Management, Emily Englert, also set out on a trip to Dubai, witnessing firsthand what a thriving community looks like.

Changing the World, One Activity at a Time

Our Volunteer Groups have just received a brand-new look. Since 2012, over 35,000 members have volunteered with InterNations to make their communities a better place, and nearly 150 Group Consuls have organized close to 1,000 opportunities for volunteering this year. They support around 200 non-profit organizations in 45 cities, such as the Red Cross, Special Olympics, or the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

To honor that dedication to changing the world, the world´s largest community outreach program for expats is now called InterNations Changemakers. Everyone has the potential to make a difference — everyone can be a Changemaker!

Sharing Networking Opportunities, Expat Expertise, and Local Snapshots

When it comes to the online side of InterNations, launching our app for Android and iOS has, without a doubt, been the highlight of the year. Next year, we will definitely be coming up with new exciting features — we will keep you updated.! Networking has become even easier for our globally mobile members: on their smartphone, the international experience is always within reach.

We have also successfully conducted the Expat Insider survey for the third year in a row. The results of what is one of the world’s leading expat surveys were picked up by a wide range of international media, from the BBC, Business Insider, and Forbes to Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and Vanity Fair.

Over 14,000 respondents representing about 170 nationalities and 190 countries or territories had their say on what it’s like to move, live, and work abroad. To our overall ranking of 67 destinations around the world — this year headed by Taiwan, rather than the 2014 and 2015 winner Ecuador — we have added a city ranking for the first time.

Thanks again to everybody who took the time to share their view of expat life! We are already looking forward to the 2017 edition.

Speaking of looking forward to 2017: our Social Media Team has already started a countdown to celebrate 1 million followers on Facebook early next year, so stay tuned.

The Social Media Team is also happy to report that our Instagram account — which recently had its very first anniversary — has taken off. So far, we have gained 13,000 followers and hosted three international photo contests for highlighting the best pictures from your #GlobalLocal life. Don’t forget to follow us and discover the most beautiful places on Earth!

If Instagram isn’t your preferred way of staying in touch, there’s still Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Celebrating a Decade of InterNations: The 2017 Anniversary

Time flies: it’s not only the year 2016 that has gone by so fast, but rather an entire decade. In September 2017, we will be celebrating the tenth birthday of InterNations. Next year, we will therefore be focusing on our upcoming anniversary: of course, we may have a special birthday surprise in store for you…

Until then, enjoy the holiday season! Thank you for helping to make expat life a great experience in 2016, and a very Happy New Year 2017 to all of you!


(Image credit: 2), 3, 4), 5) InterNations; 1) Pexels, 6) iStockphoto; video credit: InterNations)

Christmas Markets and Fireworks – Celebrate This Holiday Season with InterNations

For many, December is the month of holiday cheer, cookies and candy, and, of course, cheesy movies on TV. Above all, it is the time we like to spend with our friends and families to contemplate everything that happened the past year.

We here at InterNations HQ are in the holiday mood already. As we get ready for the annual Christmas party, we can’t help but feel grateful for everyone who has spent this past year with us, helping to make InterNations the wonderful, global community that it is.

No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or if you are just happy to take a break, we have lots of great events and activities for you to get you in the holiday mood as well.

Glühwein and Secret Santa

InterNations Istanbul kicked off this month with an early New Year’s party on Saturday, 3 December. Guests could participate in a raffle and a Secret Santa, or simply mix and mingle with other global minds.

On Thursday, 8 December, the Paris Joie de Vivre Group headed to Le Food Market to enjoy some delicious treats. This month, the different stalls offered especially festive food and beverages, including Danish hot wine, hot cider or smoked turkey – the perfect opportunity to get in the mood for that Christmas feast.

The Ghent Party People met for a relaxed get-together on Saturday, 10 December. Members enjoyed their time together over Glühwein and local specialties, before everyone left for their Christmas holidays.

Another End of Year Event took place in Detroit on Saturday, 10 December. InterNations members met at a private venue for a potluck and an all-around good time. Every guest was encouraged to bring a traditional holiday dish from their home country and dress in red, white, or green.

On the same day, our Singapore Explorers Group met up for a stroll and some caroling on Orchard Road, to make it a Christmas to remember. The group headed out for drinks and dinner afterwards.

On Saturday, 10 December, InterNations Guangzhou also hosted their Christmas Mixer, with free drinks, presents, and lots of photo opportunities with a professional photographer. The best thing about this event was the great company, of course.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

With Christmas and Hanukkah less than two weeks away and the end of the year just around the corner, there are still a lot of holiday celebrations coming up until you can finally take a break.

On Friday, 16 December, our community in Beijing is hosting a Christmas party to make the winter easier to bear. There will be great wines and cocktails, cakes and canapés and, of course, some live music.

InterNations members in Barcelona are hosting their Christmas Event on the same day, with Christmas ice breaker games and the opportunity to take fun pictures with the help of a professional photographer. Guests can also participate in a lottery with the chance of winning a bottle of champagne.

The Mulhouse Culture Group is visiting an Authentic Alsatian Christmas Market on Saturday, 17 December. The famous Marché de Noël in the heart of Kaysersberg boasts little wooden stalls of artisans from all walks of life. Of course, it’s not an Alsatian experience without vin chaud and pain d’épices.

The Blantyre Christmas Dinner Party will also take place on Saturday, 17 December. Members of the community will meet at a nice Italian restaurant where a live band will play all the Christmas carols they enjoy. Moreover, it’s the perfect opportunity to take part in the Secret Santa gift swap.

On Monday, 19 December, members of the Amsterdam Art Group will enjoy the Christmas concert of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. While this is the perfect holiday event for culture lovers, tickets sell quickly, so be sure to reserve a seat soon.

Baby, it’s cold outside in Stuttgart! If you are one of those who don’t get to go „home“ for the holidays, then join us at California Lounge on Friday, 23 December. We will have a relaxed evening and simply enjoy each other’s company this holiday season.

Happy New Year!

The party won’t stop with Christmas Eve! There are many opportunities for you to celebrate the end of this year and the beginning of the next one with us, from opulent parties to relaxed get-togethers.

The London Dance the Night Away Group is celebrating the new year at the White Mansion. This will be the best party in the entire city with several dance floors, musicians, and artists, as well as a lounge to relax and chat.

The Helsinki New Years Eve Party is a great opportunity to celebrate with your favorite expats and global minds. The community will gather at the beloved O’Leary’s Bakers and enjoy a delicious buffet, great drinks, and of course the wonderful company of other global minds.

For a slightly more formal event, join other InterNations members in Oslo for the New Year’s Eve Ball. After a private networking session, the club will open up to all guests and you can hit the dance floor and shimmy your way into the new year.

The Strasbourg Art & Culture Group will celebrate New Year’s Eve downtown, with dinner and dancing. The wonderful Salle de la Bourse opens its doors for 400 people that night who are ready to have a fantastic time on that last night of the year.

A big party or a mellow evening by the fireplace: how are you celebrating this holiday season? Tell us all about it in the comments.

We are wishing you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year

 

Image credits: 1-6) InterNations, 7) Barnimages, 8) Pexels, 9) Barnimages

InterNations Interns Make a Difference This Holiday Season

Towards the end of every year, when the holiday season is spreading the spirit of sharing and the time for New Year’s resolutions has come, most people start thinking about how to make a difference to those less fortunate than themselves. This year, the interns here at the InterNations HQ in Munich resolved to create some holiday cheer among disadvantaged children all over the world.

Our Social Media Intern Leah tells us all about their joint effort to learn more about fundraising, wrap dozens of boxes, and make over 40 kids happy on Christmas Day.

When the InterNations Changemakers came along and suggested taking part in the Weihnachten im Schuhkarton (‘Christmas in a Shoebox’) project, we were delighted to get involved. All of us interns — and there’s more than 15 of us — thought it would be a wonderful way to improve the lives of others while working together on an exciting project of our own.

‘Christmas in a Shoebox’ is organized by the charity Geschenke der Hoffnung (‘Presents of Hope’), and is part of a larger, worldwide project called ‘Operation Christmas Child’. The latter started in 1993 and has since helped over 130 million children in over 150 countries to celebrate Christmas. Its aim is to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in need, for example in developing countries, who would usually not receive any gifts during the holiday season.

Fundraising 101

With over 15 people who wanted to take part, this was a great opportunity for us to hone our organizational skills: some serious planning was needed before we could really get the ball rolling.

We decided to set up several donation stations around the InterNations HQ as a first step. This way, our generous team members could make their own boxes, give individual gifts which we could then wrap later, or donate cash for us to buy more gifts (each box costs around 8 EUR to fill). Before we knew it, the pile of shoeboxes in our Team Lodge was growing higher and higher.

Donations from the entire InterNations Team were a fantastic start, but our plans were much more ambitious!

Together with the Changemakers Team, we brainstormed ways in which we could get even more gifts or cash donations, and the Changemakers recommended a tried-and-tested strategy: for the past few years, they have attended InterNations Official Events in Munich, trying to persuade our members to donate cash or gifts to ‘Presents of Hope’.

For us interns, this would be another great way to learn more about InterNations and gain some additional work experience: not only would we increase our donations by fundraising, but we would also meet our members in person and get a feel for our official events. So, off to P1 — a popular venue here in Munich — we went!

Before the event began, we let our local members know about our project and our donation station at the venue, where they could contribute to a good cause. A smaller team of seven interns was in charge of setting up the station at P1.

We got a very warm welcome from the guests at the event: once we had explained what the ‘Christmas in a Shoebox’ project was and how InterNations had contributed in the past few years, our members were more than happy to help. In fact, the first person to give to the cause surprised us with a generous 20 EUR note! All in all, we received around 170 EUR in cash — enough to fill more than 20 additional boxes.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Now it was time to spend all that money kindly donated by InterNations members and the InterNations Team. However, purchasing the gifts to put into our shoeboxes wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds: there are relatively strict rules about what can go into a box.

For example, ‘Presents of Hope’ recommends wrapping such gifts as stationery, warm clothing, food with a long use-by date, and small personal items, such as photos of yourself or your family. Meanwhile, perishable food, liquids, and delicate items (such as presents made from glass) should be avoided. Each box should also be aimed at a specific demographic, and should be labeled as such.

So we had to buy gifts for boys and girls, as well as suitable presents for the various age groups from 2 to 14. Once we had worked out how to best apply the rules, we really enjoyed sorting our little treasures — such as scented shower gel, fluffy socks, colorful pens, tiny toy cars, and of course, chocolate — and wrapping the gifts. This definitely got us into the Christmas spirit!

Finally, we needed to drop off our filled shoeboxes — over 40 of them! — at a local donation point. The one nearest point to our office was Vapiano, an Italian restaurant. So we decided that all of the interns should head over to the restaurant together, hand over the boxes, and celebrate our hard work with a well-deserved pizza or pasta dish.

I think I can speak for all of the interns here at InterNations when I say I certainly had a fabulous time working on this worthwhile project. I found it inspiring in both a personal and a professional sense: not only did it encourage us to continue to work with charities, but we would also like to work on other projects together, as we turned out to be a very well-organized and well-coordinated team.

Last but not least, I hope we’ve inspired you to make a difference this holiday season, too: you can find out more about donating your own shoebox to children in need at Weihnachten im Schuhkarton (German only) or Operation Christmas Child (international version).

Thanks again to all those who contributed to our cause by giving time or money, and happy holidays to everyone!

(Image credit: InterNations)

“Be Ready for the Unknown!” — Advice for Expats with Open Minds

What’s the best advice you could give to other expats and expats-to-be? That’s what we asked our Twitter followers for our #myexpattip contest last month.

First of all, thanks again to everyone who took the time to reply and share some words of wisdom with us. It wasn’t easy for us to choose the best among the over 70 responses that we received. In the end, our Social Media Team had to ask for help, which involved getting the entire team to vote for their favorite tip.

Are You Ready?

The poll ended with such a close result that we eventually decided on a winner and a runner-up. Congratulations to Holly from the beautiful Sunshine Coast and to David from Spain!

We asked David if he could expand on his advice. Here’s what he would like to tell everyone setting out on the adventure that’s living abroad, and what he has to say about himself and his own expat life:

“Keep an open mind, be ready for the unknown, and never give up.”

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is David, and I’m originally from Spain. I’ve been living in Edinburgh for the past two years. I came here to take a Master’s degree in Translation and Interpreting and stayed because working conditions for freelancers are better in Scotland than in Spain. I also run my own business specializing in translating, interpreting, copywriting, editing, and proofreading, and living here allows me to work on my projects full time.

internations-expat-blog_twitter-content_interview-david_pic-1

Before coming to Edinburgh for my Master’s degree, I lived in France for a year, where I worked as a Spanish teacher at the Université Inter-Âges in Caen. It was a great experience, but the UK is where I want to stay for now.

2. Is there a story behind your tip? Why did you send us this specific piece of advice?

During the three years that I’ve been living abroad, I have seen a lot of expats giving up because it was too hard to live in a different country.

Obviously, it’s hard, especially during the first months. You need to find an apartment, make new friends, hunt for a job, and the list goes on and on. But once you’ve gone through all this hustle, things do get better!

You also need to keep an open mind and be ready for the unknown: living in a different country means getting used to a new culture, new customs, new food, and new people; you need to embrace all these new experiences.

Edinburgh city in winter from Calton hill, Scotland, UK

3. Have you ever found it difficult to follow own advice? How so?

It was hard at the very beginning, especially the first time I moved abroad. Sometimes you just think that everything is going to be just like back home, and if you’re not ready for a different experience, it can be quite shocking.

But over time, you start to realize that that’s how things work in your new country. The more you travel and the more you get to know people from all walks of life, the sooner you open your eyes to new experiences and start embracing them, instead of judging them.

4. What’s the best tip you have ever received from another expat?

An expat friend of mine once told me to “do everything that your new country can offer”. And I’ve always followed that advice.

Haggis,neeps and tatties

Sometimes it’s hard to get out of your comfort zone and do things that you’d never do in your life — like trying haggis or wearing a kilt in Scotland! However, you’ll learn more about the culture of your new country if you mingle with locals and get involved in their activities.

5. Have you ever received some advice from another expat that you think might hinder expatriates rather than help them?

There are a lot of people who recommend getting in touch with other people from your country of origin who are living in the same city. This may be the easiest and quickest way to make new friends when you’re a newbie. At the end of the day, you already know what people with the same background as you are like and you know that you will probably get on well.

Waist down view of a group of men in traditional kilts

However, we also need to make an effort to get to know locals and people from different backgrounds to enrich our experience abroad.

6. Are there any other tips you’d like to offer to expats?

When you feel that it’s not worth it and want to give up, just think about everything you’ve learned from living abroad and all the things you’ve seen and experienced that you would never have living in your country. You’ll miss your friends and family, and even your country and culture, but they all will always be waiting for you when you come back.

(Image credit: 1), 3), 4), 5) iStockphoto 2) David M.)