Every moment counts. Especially when you’re living abroad for a short time. Don’t waste your year or months abroad! The worst thing that can happen is that you look back to your time abroad and realize you didn’t do most of the things you wanted to do or things you could do. Life is short and your time abroad is even shorter. But don’t worry, I got you covered.

You will have the most fulfilling and rewarding time abroad with these tips:

photo by Rafiqua Israel
photo by Rafiqua Israel

1. Go to a local language exchange group!

The first thing you can do upon arrival is to find out where the local language exchange meets up! It’s a great way to get to know people and you might even learn some words in a new language!

2. Take the bus/subway and get off at a random station!

You might know the way to your job and back home and maybe how to get downtown but that’s not all of the new city you can call your home now! If you’re bored on a lazy Sunday afternoon, get on a bus or subway and get off at a random spot. You will be surprised what interesting restaurants, beautiful temples or cool shops might lie right before you!

3. Listen to music in your host country’s language!

Wouldn’t it be great to get to know your host country’s culture even better through local music? Each country has its own music industry far different from the global US pop phenomenon. Simply search for some cool local artists on Youtube or ask local friends or colleagues!

My first Kpop Concert!
My first Kpop Concert!

4. Wear your host country’s traditional clothes!

Wearing traditional clothes from a different country can be quite intimidating but it’s more fun than embarrassment! Big cities usually offer this kind of “experience” for tourists to try out! May it be Chinese Hanfu, Korean Hanbok or Japanese Kimono, I tried it all and was not disappointed!

I loved this Hanbok!
I loved this Hanbok!

5. Travel to at least 5 other tourist spots in the country before leaving!

Don’t make the mistake and stay in your city for the entire time you spend abroad. As we all know, everywhere in America is not at all like New York City as we see it in the movies! You might miss out on other beautiful places in your host country! Buy a “Lonely Planet” travel book or search online for interesting places in your host country or neighboring countries!

Li River January 2013
Li River January 2013

6. Make local friends – don’t stay in your bubble!

Everywhere you go, you might find other foreign expats who have a lot in common with you! That’s great! You can make friends who speak the same language, eat the same food and experience the same cultural issues as you! However, don’t make the mistake and stay in this bubble! Try to also make local friends to be able to experience the country to the fullest – how it really is from the perspective of a local!

7. Go see a movie in your host country’s language!

If you speak the language of your host country, great! If not, don’t worry, you can still go to the movies and have a great time! Body language usually makes up of 55% of communication which means you would understand a little more than half of what’s happening in the movie anyways – but that’s not the point. It’s more about the cultural aspect. Different countries have a different sense of humor or make movies in a different way than you might be used to! It can be an eye-opening experience to see a movie from a different country!

8. Go to a restaurant and point at a random dish on the menu!

Do you sometimes feel like you would love to try local food but you can’t read the menu so you end of going to McDonald’s? Let me take the pressure away – simply point at a random dish and be surprised! Caution: if you have allergies this might not be an option for you but if you’re allergy free: No excuses! Everything served at a restaurant is 100% edible and won’t kill you even if you’re might not used to eating this particular food.

by halfrain
by halfrain

9. Try to learn a local sport or music instrument!

Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to impress friends and family back home with a new sport or music skill you picked up while abroad? No matter if you’re into martial arts or traditional instruments, the options are endless no matter what country you are in! Don’t forget all of the different dance styles from Argentinian Tango to Indian bellydance! What better way to explore a country’s culture?

10. Go on a date with a local!

If you’re single and ready to mingle why not set up a date with a local person? I can tell you from my own experience there’s nothing more rewarding than dating someone from a different culture. You get to experience, see and do things that you have never heard of before. Even if you don’t end up together and get married, it’s still a valuable experience for the future!

by kaybee07
by kaybee07

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Living Abroad 10 Ways
How to get the most out of Living Abroad | Linda Goes East
  • I do number 2 quite often and it’s really fun. Especially because as I almost always travel by subway, I know all the stops but I’ve never seen what the places actually look like :p

    • exactly! I was positively surprised when I got off at random stations! 🙂

  • Megan Indoe

    Oh man number 8 is risky!!! I will only do that if I can at least tell the main ingredients or see a photo! There are some great things on here. We have yet to wear Korean traditional clothing, but I want to for a fun photo shoot! We also haven’t gone and seen a movie in Korean yet either! We will have to branch out and try new things! Thanks for sharing!

    • If you don’t have allergies what’s the worst thing that could happen? 😉 Definitely go and wear hanbok, I’m going to write about where you can do so in Seoul in the near future! 🙂

      • Megan Indoe

        You’re right! I need to be more adventurous!

  • Charisse

    Great list and I have done most of it while in Korea. I even stopped at random subway stop thinking that was my intended destination. Wish I had time for 7 and 9, I don’t even have time to watch movies in English let alone another language. Since I have a family of my own and have been with my husband for 15 years, I would have to skip 10. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Charisse! I’m glad you found it useful! I love your little family by the way! 🙂

  • Rafiqua

    These are really great things! I think these are especially good for someone who may not be enjoying the country they are living in. I like the “watch a movie in your host’s country’s language”. I often watch Korean movies without subtitles, and have found them to be very entertaining as I try and guess what is being said. I also love the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) because they play so many Korean movies all with subtitles!

    • Thank you! Yes, true! I have been to the BIFF and it’s awesome! Want to go back for sure!

    • True! Too many expats start off on the wrong foot in their host country and then do the bear minimum during their entire stay. It’s important to “start over” and make things right and experience it to the fullest!

  • Gina Panozzo

    I totally love dressing up in my host nation’s traditional clothes. Language exchange groups are also a great way to make friends. Did you make the majority of your Chinese friends this way?

    • Yes, I can see that you are almost OBSESSED with dressing up in hanbok now hehe! I love it! Yes, I met most of my Chinese friends at a language exchange! It’s totally worth checking out!

      • Gina Panozzo

        The Hanbok is so pretty! 😉 I just can’t stop! Hahaha. I think I’m all hanbok-ed out by now though!

  • Lindsay

    Hi Linda, thanks very much for sharing this post! I’ve lived here for a year and have another 16mos to go! I’ve tried a few of these (making local friends and trying out various tourist hotspots) but will be making a concerted effort to get even more ‘outside of my comfort zone’ before I leave!

    • That’s great Lindsay! It’s definitely a step by step progress! Good luck to you 🙂

  • Laura Nalin

    I agree with all of these – it definitely helps to fully immerse oneself in order to better adapt. The key to adjusting is being open to change. While it may be difficult, it is certainly necessary! By putting myself out there, I’ve made so many amazing friends and memories to carry with me forever. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you Laura! It’s definitely best to go and get yourself out there! So many people are missing out on amazing opportunities!

  • Great list, I totally agree with all of these. I personally love (#2) getting lost and discovering new places and/or views, it’s often great for photography. I like #7, it’s something I’ve never done while in Korea. I think it would be interesting to see how much I could understand with only knowing a little of the language.

    • Thanks Eric! Try #7 and let me know how it went! 🙂

  • Williams Nana Kyei

    Awesome Awesome, I couldn’t agree with you more. That is exactly what I have done over the course of my stay here in Korea. As you can see from my Dp, I am wearing the Hanbok, and I have tried all the different kinds. I would like to add that, Volunteering is another way to experience real life of locals. Of the list, it is only #9 that I am yet to accomplish. I want to try and learn to play the Korean Flute (Gayageum). Thanks for sharing Linda.

    • That’s awesome Williams! You’re profile picture looks great! Hanbok really suits you! 🙂

  • Wendy Flor

    Great list! I got to enjoy moving
    around when I learned to take buses. I always had a struggle with subways but hey, they always make funny stories (me getting lost all the time)… can’t do #10 hahahaha.

    • For sure! Especially the subway system in Seoul gets me…. super confusing!

  • deany

    You have some great points and I’d agree with you on almost all of them. However, I’m not quite bold enough to randomly choose something off of a menu. I wish I was cool or brave enough but sadly no thank you. But thankfully I’ve been out with enough locals that they choose random things that I can sample.

    • that is a great way to explore things as well for sure! 🙂

  • Ryan C. Hedger

    Great suggestions for branching out and immersing yourself! The “Choose a random food” and “get off the subway at a random stop” really hit home and remind me of our first year living in Korea where we knew none of the language and would scour the city looking for restaurants with pictures on their menus, then getting lost and accidentally exploring parts of Seoul on our way home from said restaurant. Accidental or intentional, these experiences really do a great service to your time abroad.

  • Jason Borotra

    Hey great ideas! I’ve been dating my Korean girlfriend, with whom I write my blog for over a year and a half, so it has allowed me to experience Korean culture in new ways and it’s awesome! I remember my first year in Korea, I went to a tiny chicken place near my house to get takeout (before I knew Korean) and just randomly pointed and ended up with 닭발 (chicken feet) lol. I agree Korea has so many cool places to see and things to do it would be a shame to never try to see them! Look forward to reading more!