Stories

4 challenges of moving abroad

Written by Hossein Rad

1: Language Barrier

One of the most common challenges of moving abroad is living somewhere where English is not the main language. When I moved to Hungary, I barely knew any English so on top of learning an international language, I also had to learn a little bit of Hungarian, one of the hardest languages to learn in the world because communicating with the locals was extremely difficult, since mostly the younger generation of Hungarians understood English only a bit. That being said, this is something that will get better with time and once you reach a certain level of confidence, it can help you feel like you’re part of the new culture. I strongly recommend putting yourself out there, try and talk to the stranger sitting next to you at the bar, or at the bus stop. I learned so much by just befriending my English tutor who was Hungarian and ended up going on day trips around Hungary with him and learned Hungarian history, language, food and so much more..

 

2: Lack of personal support

Leaving behind family, friends, relationships for a better future can put a toll on you. Especially if you come from a family-oriented culture. There are days where you’ll find yourself questioning the decision you’ve made because of hard it can be to leave everything behind, something that I do even after being away from home for 12 years, but the answer is never what I’d think it is when I start weighing out everything. If you are moving abroad, you will need to take the initiative of sharing news, being in touch, and asking your loved ones for mental support through social channels. While it’s not comparable to being physically there with them, it definitely helps. I certainly cannot imagine how this would go without the help of our modern technology. One obvious solution would be frequent visits back home but that can be costly and may not even be possible for some, So face-timing would suffice for now.

 

3: building relationships can be difficult

Living abroad without a partner can be difficult for various reasons, while being single has its own advantages and freedoms, you are bound to feel lonely at some point in time. I personally learned to enjoy my own company and don’t mind being alone, but I don’t think anyone prefers to be lonely. Depending on who you are, we all need someone to share our deepest feelings with, but finding the right person abroad will take time and energy, considering cultural differences, language barriers, and such. However it’s not all so bad, in fact in many cultures, you may have a better chance of finding a partner than a local because of the sense of mystery that one might have due to cultural differences, and in many cases finding a local partner may be more beneficial as to who better to teach you all about their culture, language, and network than a local.

4: financial security

It is no secret that future finances can be a concern to some and may affect your decision to settle in a foreign land but just like any other major decisions in life, planning well in advance is necessary. Keeping yourself secure enough to get to a milestone, whether it’s graduating from school or climbing up the position ladder in a company. Planning will help prepare you and your resources for rainy days and reduce anxiety about future finances. Subscribe to our newsletter and stay tuned for a more in-depth blog on how to manage your finances abroad!

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The Three Best Parts of Catalan Culture

Written by Logan Dikmen

With around 2000 years of history, Barcelona has had time to develop a fascinating and unique culture. While Barcelona is a product of French, Spanish, and Arabic influence, today the city’s residents define themselves most as historically and culturally Catalan. Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, an autonomous region in the northeast of Spain. This city always presents special moments for every visitor because there is a reflection of its incredible culture everywhere that fascinates everyone. 

While I could talk about hundreds of things when it comes to Barcelona and culture, let me focus on the three things that stood out the most when I visited.

Food Culture

The fertile lands of Barcelona as a Mediterranean coastal city have enriched the food culture. It is possible to find many different tastes in Barcelona, where eating is a part of social life and turns into a ceremony with friends and family. You should definitely try the traditional foods in Catalan restaurants, world-class wine and beer in the courtyard-bars, and the delicious street foods. Although paella and tapas are not originally a part of the Catalan culture, they are also available almost everywhere in the city.

Many restaurants open at around 11 am before closing for the mid-day siesta, a 4-hour lunch break. After the siesta, restaurants reopen at around 5 pm and stay open late into the night, but people usually start to eat after 9 pm and eat their meals while chatting for long hours. Considering that the nightlife also stays alive very late, it is not uncommon to be around the dinner table until midnight. 

Football

Well, I know that one of the first things that come to mind when talking about Barcelona is football and FC Barcelona, one of the world’s most popular and successful soccer clubs. When you visit this city, ​​you will realize that football is not just a sport for Catalans. It is a source of pride and the symbol of their nation. “Més que un club,” is the motto of the club and it translates to “more than a club”. At the beginning of the 20th century, FC Barcelona became a part of the national identity for Catalans because of its political support for Catalan independence during the civil war in Spain.

The Camp Nou stadium is FC Barcelona’s home and it’s the largest stadium in Europe with a 99,354 seating capacity. Even for an ordinary game, the stadium is almost completely filled. The area around the stadium turns into a festival area on game days. The fans gather around the stadium for hours before kickoff and share their joined passion altogether. 

Language and communication

From the moment I entered the Catalan region, I felt like I was in a different country with all the red-yellow flags in the streets. Catalans have a culture of their own and they’re fiercely proud of their history and language. Today, they protect their culture by flying their flag and speaking their language freely, once banned under the dictatorial regime. Although the native language of the region is Catalan, almost everyone speaks Spanish as well. Since Barcelona is the heart of the region’s trade and tourism, many local people also speak English. 

Perhaps due to its location in the Mediterranean, the local people are friendly and welcoming. For example, while sitting alone on the beach, you can suddenly find yourself in a group singing songs and enjoying yourself. Or when you ask for directions, someone might say, “Follow me, I’ll take you there”. Especially if you say a few words in Catalan, they will immediately invite you to join them. Barcelona is a city full of beautiful people where you can feel comfortable and safe everywhere and enjoy every moment.

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How to Pack for a Short Trip

Written by Brad McLeod

Packing up your life into a suitcase is never easy. But what about a weekend trip?

For short journeys, keep it to the essentials. Wear as many of your clothes as you can while still being comfortable, pack those pockets if you need to. Then stick to the essentials for your bag.

Plenty of socks and underwear. Have options based on the potential weather but not too many. Just don’t forget a sweater and some pants if there’s a chance of cold conditions.

If needed, have a dressy and casual option. For hygiene, you’ll want a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and whatever else you need to feel fresh.

And of course if you’re crossing a border make sure you have your passport, ideally securely in a money belt with a little cash, your credit cards and a picture of your best friend.

You’re also going to want your phone, headphones, a good wall charger and even an external charger.  To prevent any travel boredom, you might want to pack a good book too. Then you’re good to go!

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Check Out the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival

Written by Ekaterina Tomina

Have you ever seen 70,000 lights in one place? Believe me, it’s an incredible scene!

South Korea is a beautiful country with a rich and vibrant culture. Attending one of their many festivals is perhaps the best way to experience it.

Every October, the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival takes place in a small city called Jinju in a southern region of the city. I’ve seen a lot of festivals during my life, but this was without a doubt one of the most memorable.

For 18 years I was part of a dance group and every year we would travel to between one and three different festivals around the world.

At the Jinju festival, Koreans wish peace for every family. The Korean people have a long-standing tradition of putting lanterns on the water as a reminder of the men and women who gave their lives for their nation during the war with Japan in the 1500s. Over time this tradition has grown into this magnificent and amazing festival.

The main action of the festival takes place between two bridges over the Nam River. This part of the city is covered with various figures that are lifted from the inside. There are so many different lights. Some figures are launched into the river, others are located at parks on the river bank. A floating bridge which is installed across the river allows you to have a close look at some of the floating lanterns. A small bamboo grove is decorated with various lights as well. You can find wonderful tunnels that are decorated with flashlights that people can even buy as a souvenir. 

At the beginning of the festival, there’s a huge parade, which goes through the main streets of the city. It’s a unique moment where you can see all the artists of the festival: local groups in their traditional Korean costumes alongside groups from different countries each showcasing their culture. Every evening you can see various performances at several stages by the river.   

There’s also a traditional Korean park with temples and museums at one of the banks of the river, so it’s a great idea to visit it during the day. This park is fenced and stands on a small mountain. 

The festival program traditionally includes a theatrical performance from the best theatre troupe in Jinju. Sometimes, it takes place right on the rocky bank of the river. It’s always an amazing performance even if you don’t understand the Korean language, because the actors’ emotions and scenery perfectly communicate what’s happening. It’s a love story about a couple during the difficult war period and I highly recommend that you check it out.

After enjoying the wonderful performances, I suggest you go for a walk along the waterfront. 

Here you’ll find tents with traditional Korean food and also the cuisines of different countries.

At the end of the festival, you won’t want to miss the great firework display. You’ll appreciate the lights more than ever as they surround you not only on the river and its banks, but in the sky as well.

I was lucky enough to visit the festival in Jinju three times. Every time I had an incredible experience.

Have you ever been to an unforgettable festival? Let me know in the comments where it was and what made it so amazing!

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Five Tips For Learning a New Language

Written by Sarah Richardson

Have you ever needed to learn a new language?

In this post we’ll share our top five tips for learning a new language.

Learning a new language can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have a willingness to try and are fine with making mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming fluent — or at least being able to order food, ask simple questions, and get your foot in the door to authentic experiences.

1. Google Translate is Indispensable

The Google Translate app is one of the best tools available for translating language on the go. Whether you need to ask for directions, translate text from a menu, or even have a live two-way conversation, this app is super powerful. 

It works best between languages with common connections. English to Greek works well, but it might struggle with a less common language crossover like Polish to Greek.

Pro Tip: Download for offline use

2. Immerse Yourself

Learning guru Scott H. Young recommends going all in with his proven Ultra Learning strategy. According to Scott, it’s possible to learn a language to proficiency in as little as three months. The trick is absolute immersion. 

3. Learn Verbs First

Or at least a very close second. Focusing on verbs quickly cues others around you to at least know what you’re trying to talk about. For example if you’re looking to find somewhere to eat, you may not know the word for restaurant, directions or various types of food, but the word “eating” may help you gain information on any of these topics. 

There’s a reason that human babies start learning the verbs shortly after basic nouns like ‘mama’, ‘dada’, and ‘milk’. It’s a great way to get across what you want!

4. Buddy Up

Find people to speak the language you are trying to learn with. Not only will it be a 100 times more fun, it will inspire you to try and help you both improve.

5. Try, Make Mistakes & Have Fun!

You won’t have perfect pronunciation overnight, or remember all the grammar rules, and sometimes you may mix up Portugese for Spanish, but that is OKAY! I once used 4 different languages in a sentence because I was trying to not use English. It didn’t work but we laughed and played charades instead. Native speakers will see and appreciate the effort that you put in to learn their language, so lean in and reap the benefits.

Learning a language can be rewarding, challenging and fun. The right tools, company and attitude can make all the difference. 

 

Let us know if you found this post helpful. Tell us what you learned, or about an experience you have had learning a new language. We would love to hear from you and what you want to read about next.

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4 Best and 4 Worst Things About Living in Prague

Written by Brad McLeod

First things first, I love Prague and really have zero legitimate complaints about my time there. I also only lived in the city for about six months, so I am by no means an expert. So, yeah, this headline is kinda click-bait. Everything I say is the worst is really just coming from a place of being a spoiled North American and these minor inconveniences or peculiarities are actually a big part of why I loved living in Praha/Prague/Prag.

Best: Architecture

Coming from Vancouver, Canada, I’m used to beautiful scenery, but when it comes to buildings, we’re pretty bland. You won’t find too many modern shiny high-rises in Prague. It’s all old-school Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau, with one weird Frank Gehry building for good measure.

Everything has a lot of history to it and where I lived, in the hip quarters of Žižkov, bright colours of paint turned otherwise dilapidated structures into a treat for the eyes. 

Worst: Complicated Doors

Vintage architecture may be pretty sweet, but it isn’t always the most practical. I’m willing to look past the lack of elevators because I actually enjoy the exercise and think that those spiralling staircases look so cool, but I don’t know why all the doors have to be so confusing.

When you move into an apartment, you get handed a bunch of crazy looking keys and, if you’re like me, you will spend countless hours outside of doors just puzzling about how they can possibly be penetrated. 

Best: Food

The Czech aren’t really known for their cuisine, but if you like meat and bread, buckle up. Or actually unbuckle up, because you’re going to pack on the pounds by devouring delicious meals like Goulash, Svíčková, and plenty of bread dumplings.

You can get these at any local pub, which are on almost every corner and the servings are enormous while still being affordable.

Worst: Vegetarian Options

Although the food is delicious, if you’re not a meat eater you could be in for a rough time. At any traditional Czech restaurant, meat is usually the main course. There is only one type of vegetarian option at almost every restaurant I went to and it is quite simply fried cheese.

That’s it, just a plate of different types of friend cheese. And tartar sauce for dipping. So, if you’re a vegan, well, you might as well eat at home.

Best: Dogs

An unexpected highlight of Prague is their well-behaved dogs. In the Czech Republic, man’s best friend reigns supreme and almost every pooch knew their way around the streets of Prague better than I did. 

It’s rare for a dog to misbehave because they’re so well-trained that they’ll just sit outside of a corner store and read the newspaper while their owner is inside. And if you go up to a park like the one up on Letná, it is a dog-watchers paradise.

Worst: Transit Police

While seeing dogs riding the bus like it was no big deal was a daily highlight for me, the looming presence of police trying to catch fare-evaders was not. In Vancouver, we have turnstiles and getting busted for not having a ticket doesn’t really exist anymore. 

But in Prague, they always seem to be watching because for some weird reason, they don’t wear uniforms. I once watched a tourist have their passport taken away by a police officer in street clothes and that certainly didn’t seem fun.

Best: Cheap Beer

One of the first things you’ll probably learn upon entry into the Czech Republic is the astonishing fact that a pint of beer is cheaper than a glass of water. Compared to Canada where a single Molson Canadian can run you up to 18 dollars at a hockey game, Prague is pumping Pilsner out of the tap for a dollar each almost everywhere you go.

This cheap, delicious beer certainly goes a long way to making Prague the city it is with a great nightlife and absolutely stellar hockey crowds.

Worst: Cheap Beer

As much as I like beer, my wimpy North American constitution apparently can’t handle the volume of alcohol that the Czechs consume. Staying sober on during the week or even taking the occasional dry weekend seemed like an affront to their way of life, but I couldn’t keep up.

Paying twice as much for bottled water at the pub was hard to stomach, but if you’re an expat trying to make it in Prague, you might have to do it now and then for the sake of your liver.

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Jetlag + Pub Crawl Don’t Mix

Written by Brad McLeod

It took me a while to get back to Europe. 

Born and raised in the quiet suburbs of Vancouver, Canada, I paid my first visit to the old world back in 2003 when I was 10 years old. My family and I started in London and camped across the continent with stops in France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and (a single day) Germany.

It was an amazing experience and hooked me on travelling early. After that, we made several trips across Canada, through the United States, and even spent a few weeks in Costa Rica. I always expected that it wouldn’t take long after I graduated high school to see the world on my own but I was wrong.

In university, I became obsessed with working for the student newspaper and went to school all through the summer for four years to keep working on it. My editor jobs there took me to journalism conferences in Toronto, Edmonton and Los Angeles, but it wasn’t quite the globetrotting that I had once dreamed of. 

After university, a friend and I jumped in his old car and toured across America for a month, seeing everything that country had to offer, from a Bigfoot truther museum in California, to Area 51, the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas, the Denver Airport, and a gas station in Oklahoma that sold Pepsi Crystal.

But I got so anxious about not having a career that I did interviews on the road, moved back to British Columbia and immediately started a two-year stint as a sports reporter in the little town of Cranbrook at the end of the month.

That job eventually took me back to the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, where I worked at my Alma Mater Simon Fraser University. With a healthier salary than I had ever had before, I planned to travel the next summer, targeting a return to Europe. But throughout the year, I unexpectedly made a great friend from South Korea and instead chose to spend two weeks travelling with him in his home country and Japan.

Again, I felt that spark I did when I was ten years old. This time I didn’t let it fester. I took another vacation, on a whim. Thinking it over for no more than a weekend, I jetted off to London to get another taste of Europe.

I had never travelled all by myself and I’ve always been a naturally shy and anxious person. But I was determined to be up for anything and live life to the fullest. I was going to say ‘yes’ and I was going to live, make friends, see sights and have fun.

This is a great attitude for travel.

But I learned a huge lesson within the first 24 hours of this trip: you still have to sleep. And alcohol definitely doesn’t replace sleep.

Here’s what happened. In my overconfidence, I booked my stay at a notorious party hotel on a Saturday night. I had learned that I could deal with bunk beds in crowded rooms while in Asia, but 24 people in triple-decker beds turned out to be excessive.

I took an overnight flight, couldn’t sleep and arrived in the middle of the day in London. Wanting to be a new man in Europe, I decided to try out the complimentary hotel pub crawl. I could have waited until the second night, but no, I was going to make this the best trip ever, and I was going to do it now.

It started out alright, I met some nice people from Australia, Russia, and Kazakhstan. I was excited to see some authentic London pubs, have a few beers, a few laughs, watch a footy game, maybe play snooker or darts or whatever they do, and then sleep in until the late afternoon.

I was staying right in the heart of London, surely there had to be a bunch of great pubs just around the block. I should have bailed as soon as we got on the Tube.

Kicking off at the boring chain pub at our hostel, we travelled for over half-an-hour on the train, before arriving at our first pub: the exact same chain pub in a different location. From there we drank many shots of coloured water, went to a trendy martini bar, an empty dance bar which only played MTV and only had plastic cups, before ending up at a nightclub.

Not really what I had in mind for an Authentic English experience.

But I drank enough to make it tolerable, had a few interesting conversations, and kept my positive, social mindset for hours. As the night became morning, I was honestly bored more than anything else. I could just go back to my hostel any time and call it a successful first night, still plenty of days to find more culture in London.

But then I checked my phone to see what time it actually was. My phone was dead. And I didn’t have a charger.

My only hope was to make sure I stayed with somebody from my pub crawl group. But they had dwindled. Most had the sense to get out even before the club. I was in a sea of strangers except for two people. My all my hopes on having a team to find the way back with, on the shoulders of two young Australian girls. 

Trying desperately not to lose them, I was ultimately left to find my own way home after they were both ‘picked up by blokes’ and I was abandoned. I still don’t understand how I was able to find my way back to the hostel without a map, although I remember twice getting off at the wrong station, but when I got back in the clock read 4:30.

Kept up even later by a (not so romantic) rendez-vous in the bunk above mine during the wee hours, I was left feeling hopeless about being able to survive abroad.

Thankfully my fortunes eventually did improve and I had some amazing experiences, which included making some good friends at a hostel in Edinburgh. The sober walking tour turned out to be a lot better way to get acclimatized with a city and meet people. 

Sometimes you have to get lost in a strange city in the middle of the night to learn a valuable lesson like that. I enjoyed the rest of my trip so much that I soon ended up spending six months living in Europe.

Well worth the wait.

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