Becoming a Local in Five Steps – Wherever You Go

Becoming a Local in Five Steps – Wherever You Go

By Jérémie M. De Serres

Jérémie was born and raised in Québec before moving to Hong Kong.  He shares his experiences abroad, providing insight into what it’s like to be a foreigner from Québec.

Moving to a new city can be an exciting and challenging experience. You get to discover new places and another way of living. You have to adapt your lifestyle to a new environment, a new job, new people, etc.

Since my arrival in Hong Kong a few months ago, I found my own ways to deal with change, while enjoying this vibrant city as much as possible.

Here are five things I recommend to do to anyone who is moving for a prolonged period of time to another country.

1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

When you change location, it is easy to lose good habits, such as doing sports, sleeping well or eating healthy food. However, those are basic things to do to remain fit and have energy. Doing so will also help you manage the jet lag as well as the usual stress associated with the change of environment.

For example, a few weeks after I arrived in HK, I joined a dragon boat team. It allowed me to stay active, make friends and learn more about the tradition surrounding this Chinese sport.

2. Meet new people

Being a stranger can be a good thing in order to meet new people for a few reasons. First, it obliges you to approach people for example because you do not know your way around or just because you want to make new friends. Second, people may be interested in your story as well as the reason why you are there.

There are many events and organizations for expats who wish to network among themselves and with locals. Having a social life will make your travel much more fun and it can help you develop language and interpersonal skills. You may even get lucky and find someone who will become a good reason for you to enjoy the place.

3. Learn the language

Even though this is not easy, learning a new language is one of the best investments you can make. It will help you on a daily basis, and will allow you to connect with people. There are many language schools and universities offering classes to foreigners at affordable prices, and it is an asset that is well perceived on a resume.

English is the most common language used for international exchanges, but still many people do not speak it. The growing influence of China in the world economy is a good reason as to why we should learn Mandarin. It is not the easiest language to master, but I will at least give it a try. I hope that having frequent contacts with Mandarin speaking people will help.

4. Visit touristic attractions

It is surprising how local people sometimes do not take advantage of the best elements of their own city. I realized this when I had friends from outside Quebec City visiting me there and I needed to find activities to do with them. You can go to events, old parts of the city, markets, etc. Visiting tourist attractions can teach you a lot about what makes a city unique, such as its history as well as its culture, and make you appreciate it even more.

5. Keep in touch with home

Being away from loved ones may be the hardest thing about being abroad. Nowadays, it is easy to remain in contact with your friends and family, for example with Skype, a blog, or simply post cards for the more classic ones. Planning a trip back home can also be a good way to avoid homesickness.

Of course, this list of ways to adapt to a new place is not exhaustive, and you can find your own ideas to do so. However, I do not think that you can ever be completely integrated in a new country, since you can always discover new things. I guess it is part of why travelling and living abroad remains so interesting.

w someone foreign to Quebec culture sees him and his manners and habits.

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

Jérémie M. De Serres

Jérémie M. De Serres, LL.B., M.B.A was born and raised in Quebec City, where he attended Champlain St. Lawrence before moving to Sherbrooke to study law and business. He now works as an immigration lawyer based in Hong Kong, and shares his experience as a Quebecer living abroad. His experiences in moving from Sherbrooke to Hong Kong give him particular insight into how it is to be a Quebecer, and how someone foreign to Quebec culture sees him and his manners and habits.

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