Living in Continental Europe: Any advice?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 10, 2010 9:58 PM GMT
    I left my hometown and relocated to Europe (the Netherlands) three months ago, and will have to spend a year and half, probably more, in this country, working and studying at the same time.
    What bugs me is that I am thoroughly alone in a thoroughly new environment, and I do not have anyone to talk to. I seem to have lost my ability to initiate conversations with people, and therefore I have not made friends with anyone since my arrival. Beyond names, I do not know anything about the people I work with and the people I go to lectures with.
    There are colleagues I would like to know more. They are interesting people, but I think they are oblivious of my existence and... in general, quite aloof. So the voice inside my mind would tell me: if they won't give you the time of day, what's the point of making an effort to befriend them? So I ended up talking to no one.
    Is there some cultural discrepancy that keeps blocking me from good interpersonal relationships? Or should I just stay 100% professional with all my colleagues?
    I'd love it if someone who has lived in Europe as an expat could give me some advice, both on making friends (male and female) and on dating men.
  • Hunter9

    Posts: 1039

    Jan 11, 2010 12:51 AM GMT
    im sure you've thoroughly explored the language-learning option. and even though they will always speak far better english than you speak dutch, just the effort that you put in will be appreciated and can cross cultural boundaries.

    yes, the dutch are difficult to connect with... i never quite understood it when i lived in amsterdam a few years back... they're just tough nuts to crack... but they are nice people and not impossible to get to know at a deeper level.

    as a last resort, you can always drown your sorrows in stroopwafels icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jan 11, 2010 12:59 AM GMT
    I lived in Italy and what I learned from hard experience was to give up trying to live like American-style. Give up the mindset and go local. People withhold because they're not certain that you're going to stay for awhile so they treat you like another tourist to be tolerated.
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    Jan 11, 2010 1:05 AM GMT
    I've lived in Italy, France, and the UK for the last 10 years.

    My first approach was full immersion. I thought of this as the "when in Rome" plan. What I learned is that there are barriers that are impenetrable. Still, all summed, I believe I have had an experience of Italy that almost no-one has ever achieved - if at great personal cost.

    I do think that isolation is part-and-parcel of expatriation. It seems to grow worse with time and not better. I don't say that to be pessimistic, only to point out that it is a strange process that is, fortunately, well documented.

    I find that James Baldwin's writings about his experiences in France most closely mirror my own European adventure.

    I don't know the Dutch beyond superficially. However, I believe what others say.

    One thing I would say is that you should try to connect with your colleagues. European communication is far more oblique and participating in the network is really essential to success within any European organization.


    Posts: 545

    Jan 11, 2010 1:06 AM GMT
    go to bestbuy and get adaptors and plugs

    the electricity is different there
  • Hunter9

    Posts: 1039

    Jan 11, 2010 1:19 AM GMT
    WILDCARD73 saidgo to bestbuy and get adaptors and plugs

    the electricity is different there

    truly brilliant advice
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 11, 2010 3:10 AM GMT
    One of my former roommate's axioms of existence was "always bathe the French".
  • SFGeoNinja

    Posts: 510

    Jan 11, 2010 3:29 AM GMT
    First and foremost due your best to learn the local language. Especially focus on colloquial and everyday expression more than grammatical structure. Being able to comfortably introduce yourself even as a foreigner goes a long way towards breaking the ice. You are lucky because most Dutch people also speak English, not the case when I was in Spain! On the other hand, cold-weather countries like the Netherlands are known for being socially reserved and not very welcoming to outsiders. Not too much unlike Seattle! icon_rolleyes.gif

    Another good strategy is to go out constantly. Immerse yourself in as many of the same activities over there as those that animated you while you were in the US. Do whatever you can to involve yourself in the community. Join a local gym, but don't hesitate in finding a workout partner who shares your hours. Take a fitness class if they offer one. Take a language class so you can meet other expats who are also in your situation. Go out to bars, but keep it to a short list of places so that you become a "regular" before long. As soon as local people start to recognize you in public and talk to you for awhile, they will realize you are not a tourist and your efforts at friendship are in fact sincere.

    A final tip: use the website often! My cousin and his wife recently relocated to Barcelona and this website saved their lives! They met lifelong friends through a local hiking/outdoors group who has been there for them at every turn.

    Best of luck to you!
  • drypin

    Posts: 1798

    Jan 11, 2010 10:23 AM GMT
    Where are you from originally?

    To meet other expats, join groups like and participate in their get-togethers.

    To meet locals, join a sports club (not a fitness studio, but one of those clubs that offers everything from footie to pilates to jogging.)

    Maybe join a gay sports club. Contact Active Company in Antwerp or Auricula in Ghent to find out if there's a (semi-) local club.

    Come to the Gay Games in Cologne this summer. There will be tons of eye candy from Beligum there.