To get the most out of the experience of moving abroad it’s important to try to embrace a little of the local culture, and speak the language. Here’s some handy hints for meeting those elusive natives, we leave the rest to you and your foreign charms. Who knows, you may even meet some Scottish amongst the international crowd of Edinburgh!
1. Show your charitable nature
Maybe your English isn’t that great yet, or you want to settle in before you find a job. Volunteering is a great opportunity to help local organizations, practice your English – and meet local people in the process. Charity shops are very popular in Edinburgh - (look for the shops with the name of a charity and lots of stuff) and they are always keen for help. You’ll get to know a whole new range of people, learn new skills, and get that warm fuzzy feeling inside from all that do-gooding. Check out Charitychoice for a list of charitable organizations in Edinburgh.
If language learning is your top priority make sure to get a tandem partner, either through organized language exchange events (see here) or from finding your own language partners on websites such as Gumtree and Languageexchange. Be on the look out for any locals who try to speak to you in your language – they may want to practice with you more regularly.
3. At work
Stop chatting to your compatriots and start schmoozing with the British during those coffee breaks at work, you might just meet your new best friends. While it is tempting (and comforting) to talk to people from home it probably wasn’t your intention when you left. It’ll get easier as you develop familiarity with your workmates and with the language, and it’s a great opportunity to potentially meet a whole new circle of people. Try to look for a job with more native speakers if possible, and get chatting about those terrible bosses…
4. At home
Equally important is your flat choice. Don’t pick a mini version of your home country, go for the adventurous flat of British/Americans/Australians... Try to ask specific questions regarding the personality of the flat – are they sociable? Do they speak your language? When do they work? Are they already friends or do they hate eachother? If you’re not happy in a boring flat, leave – there’s plenty of others and there’s no time to waste when you could be having fun in Edinburgh!
5. Meet ups
For specific hobbies or interests check out this website where locals and internationals mingle whilst enjoying their favourite pastimes.
6. Community notice boards
Make sure to check out local community notice boards in Post Offices, Doctor’s surgeries and shop windows – local organisations will advertise meetings here and it’s a great way to meet people around the corner from where you live.
7. Part-time courses
It’s essential to learn English in order to speak it. But you’ll probably not meet British people at a language school. Cultivate those other interests of yours by making use of the wide array of Adult Education courses and part time courses offered by the Higher Education Institutions of Edinburgh. UoE has courses in philosophy, film-making and maths, while locally you can find fitness classes, pottery workshops and local history courses. Whatever your interests there’s a course which suits – leading to a mix of new people to meet who share your tastes. Check out also the courses offered by Edinburgh Council (here).
8. Get a lover
So the Brits aren’t renowned for their passion, but don’t be fooled, they can certainly be a charming bunch when they want to be. Either way it’s a worth a shot and getting a lover’s a great way to learn the language impeccably well. Hit those pubs, flutter those exotic eyelashes and seduce with your sumptuous accent. Not an option if you come with a partner, but for the rest of you moving abroad after a bitter break up (you know who you are) make use of your novelty value and start chatting to those lovely Brits. With any luck you’ll meet their friends and get to know all the locals' spots, improving your language and loving skills at the same time.
9. Key points to remember
Everyday is an opportunity. If someone seems nice, talk to them. The British can have a reputation for being cold. They’re not, they’re just shy so get talking first and you’ll probably be fine. If you get on great ask to exchange facebooks, tell them you’re new and would love to get to know the city better. Take courage, don’t take it personally if it doesn’t work out, and find those friends! They’re definitely there somewhere, but persistence is key.
10. Follow your interest
Keep up the life you lived back home. Love electronic music? Go to see the local stuff here, and get chatting. Love painting? Hit the galleries. Chase down your interests and you’ll be sure to encounter likeminded people.
11. Try new things…
As important as maintaining your old interests is expanding your horizons. Accept every invitation, follow every link and embrace every warm smile, you never know who could become a really great friend. Be open-minded, about who your friends might be in Edinburgh, about what you’d like to do, and about what you are capable of. Maybe you wouldn’t speak to strangers at home. But a little effort goes a long way, and you’ll be surprised how open most people are to chatting to someone interesting and from a different culture.
The most important thing is to get out there and make the most of this opportunity. There will never be more chance to meet native speakers than in the country itself, and the challenge of pushing your comfort zone towards chatting to the locals will really add to an amazing experience - of being abroad and living a completely new way of life.
Some interesting vocabulary:
To cosy up to: to make friends with
To schmooze: to make friends with
To mingle: to make friends, talk to lots of people
Handy Hints: useful ideas
To settle in: to feel comfortable
Warm fuzzy feeling: happiness
Do-gooding: kind actions
Be on the look out: look for
Don’t be fooled: don’t believe it
Worth a shot: why not?