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How to know a foreign city better

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Xiaowei Xiaowei | 14:04 UK time, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hello again everyone!
How time flies and it is now the end of January. Thank all my friends for your comments. Your sharing and communications are the most precious gifts I've received for the new year. Thank BBC Learning English staff, specially to Jennifer, I've learnt a lot from your corrections.

So far I've been in Sydney for one year and a half, and this is the first time I live abroad. Studying in a foreign country can be both exciting and challenging, and I'm always thinking a question these days: how to know a foreign city better if you intend to live there for a longer period of time, say, more than 6 months? By this I mean you has substantial touch with the local society, instead of being a tourist for a short time. This is a real problem for me, because I'm still trying to find my feet in Sydney.

I've been quite an active explorer geographically, I like collecting information of interesting places and gatherings of Sydney, as well as wandering around to see the pleasant sceneries in my free time. Even so, I still feel myself a visitor here, I approach this city in the way backpackers do. Beyond that, I'm still struggling to understand the Aussie comedies, and feel like a complete outcast when my local coworkers talk excitingly about the Spring Racing Carnival. The reason is simple, I think, I lack the usual "hooks" into society.

Back in my home city, I knew all the greasy spoons hidden at corners that serve superb local food, even though I didn't eat out that often. I hung out with a couple of friends on weekends, most of whom I knew from childhood, laughed at the jokes we talked in dialect.

But living in a foreign city simply lack these kinds of fun. As an overseas student, I seldom get connected with the local community. I do talk to my coworkers in the supermarket, but that's mainly on work, when we have time to chat, words always stop at some points - those confusing details - which is often disappointing. In uni, most of my classmates are overseas students and making a group of friends from the same language background is quite easy, which further reduce my curiosity to approach the local society.

So...going deep into a foreign society seems really challenging, and among others the biggest challenge is you always need to be more open-minded. Now I have to admit that approaching a foreign city in-depth is a skill, you need to be an active explorer to places, a quick collector of information, and most importantly, an passionate communicator with people- making friends from different cultural background requires conscious effort.

What's your experiences or suggestions of living in another country? I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Keep on joining discussions in BBC Learning English Community and all the best for the year!



  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Xiaowei,
    Thanks a lot for your interesting blog. Excellent paragraphs and photos. I dare to say you can be a successful girl in whatever you propose. The best for you!
    Beatriz. Argentina.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Xiaowei,

    I think it’s an inevitable process when a foreigner isn’t accustomed with all traditions in an unfamiliar country. You’re only at the beginning of your way there and gradually your life has to be easier. Anyway your experience is invaluable. Though I’ve never lived abroad for a long time I believe that it’s worth struggling with all problems. You have a unique opportunity to be acquainted with a beautiful country, its people and culture. Also it's a chance for you to find new traits in your character. Good luck!

    Tatiana, Russia

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Xiaowei,
    you write very well, I wish I could write as good as you.... best wishes.
    Matias Otegui. Uruguay.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Xiaowei,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about staying in a foreign country. What I'm most interested in is the "hooks" you mentioned about. Unfortunately, I have no experience overseas, but I think I would run into the same problem if I did so.
    How can we become a member of a new community and feel connected to it? How to become an inhabitant of a town rather than being a tourist? I've been thinking about these issues for hours, but I can not find an appropriate answer yet.

    By the way, you mentioned about "jokes" in your blog. That's one of the thing which I am most interested in recently. I always feel ambivalent about American (or Engllish/Aussie) jokes. While I really want to understand and enjoy a joke in English as people in those countries do, I sometimes completely fail to understand what is funny about it. There should be 3 possible reasons why the joke cannot make me laugh. First, the English used in the joke is too diffcult for me to understand, or second, I miss the point of the joke because of some cultural differences, or third, it is not even a JOKE! Anyway, it is my dream to understand these jokes and say something funny in English someday.

    So, Xiaowei, thank you again for your interesting blogs about your study, travel in Australia, your hometown, cooking, and many other things. Hope to see you in another discussion in BBC Learning Community. Wish you good luck in your study!


  • Comment number 5.

    hi Xiaowei
    i ve never been in a foriegn culture and country yet.but i guess the most important thing is history of a country.(i accept there are other elements)i 'm reading a book by name of great speaches(to improve my english) .it contains the speaches of cultural and political characters of united states in past 100 years in historical events. for example martin luter king,jfk,...and i 'm feeling that i know that country that people by heart,

    be successfull

  • Comment number 6.

    and goodbye xiaowei!
    thanx for sharing ur experience,
    wish u the best

  • Comment number 7.

    It was a pleasure reading you here through BBC learning english. Thanks for all your sharings. I agree with all the points you used to be "in" with local people. Having experienced a life of foreigner student, I do like to share with you another point that I think was very helpful for me. While living in a foreign country, one is always curious about the cultures, way of living ... and comparing it with one's mother country values. Most of the times, things are completely different, and there starts the famous "nostalgia". But the clue is taking the opportunity to experience those differencies with those local people. While doing this, missunderstandings would fall down slowly for sure.

    Wish you all the best!

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Xiaowei,
    thanks such as beautiful writting, best of luck.

    Paplu Bangladesh

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Xiaowei
    Thanks for all you blogs.You have got very good language skills.You did your best.And what about living in another country.I guess for living in another country first off all you should be flxible and you should adjust your lifestyle in regard to their people.And another way you should be around people.Lastone is simple and major way to accustom to foreign people and country.Any way wish you success in your study and hope to hear from you again.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Xiaowei. Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences with us!

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Xiaowei. If I could give you an advice I say you should look at cultural differences as learning and adaptation. If we look without restrictions for the cultural differences until we can use at home what we learn abroad. New and different backgrounds only add to our lives.
    I wish the best and sucess for you!

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Xiaowei

    I have been cosidering your talk .
    I'll write my conclusion first.
    You had better not be in a hurry.
    I think that person is a embodiment of cultures formed region,history,materials and relationship,those are composed by feelings,instinct,rationality and innocence which all people have naturally from birth.
    Therefore ,I belive that we can understand the others over the difference of one's own cultures.
    I think that Process of people's realization with only conversation is very slow.
    You are young enough to have lots of chances .

    May your days be happy !

  • Comment number 13.

    Today I saw a wonderful movie, not like others. It’s name Life in a Day. I think that I never saw better movie. People from many country from everywhere in the world filmed 10 minutes of their life. Some people filmed more or less. Ridly Scott received 4500 hours of filmed time. And he make a film of 1hour 30 minutes. I was wondered he choose persons that filmed the earliest in the morning and put them together, than he showed all others in 6am and he continue like that. I saw how live poor people, how wake up people in Spain, Turkie, Bresil, US, and other. What people of every where eat at breakfast, what they do while the day, what they think, how they live, where they live, what is around them, etc. I liked a little Chinese boy how he’s morning is different of mine, he lost his mother and his dad take care of him, I saw culture of other people so different but they live and did this at same time that I. So many so different things is happening in the same time in the world. And after it movie passed in cinema he returned in the plaice where all began youtube. And it is free to see because people make them.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Xiaowei,
    we're from Italy and we have read your post!
    You're right, because we think that go in foreign places is difficult but very important and that's interesting learn about other cultures. We also think that to go abroad you have to be an open-minded person and accept their tradition too.
    We went to England last year, but just for a week; we enjoy it a lot and it was a great experience because we had improved our English and we met new friends!
    Next year, we're going to return there for 10 days to learn more about English culture!

  • Comment number 15.

    Hello Xiaowei and everyone,

    its the end of February now and ur blog is over but I still wonna leave some words here coz the subject u've mentioned is too close to me.

    Ive been living overseas for 5 years. Absolutely agree with u about everything: the differend languadge, culture, sense of humor...U should be soo patient and open-minded, trying to understand thier tradions, to intagrate in other culture. I think the one of the most important thing is ur desire and aspiration to be in this country. Coz its like the libre, in one scale u have ur willing to be here (the better developing country, english speaking country in ur case, for example) and ur far away family and friends on the other one. Its hard, so many thing u should analyzed in ur head. I think only people in the same situation can fully understand this....

    But u a there, its ur desition, and u should do everything to enjoy ur life there. Make friends, find new interests, find love...and u'll see that its ok, its like u make it.

    Wish u GOOD LUCK!

  • Comment number 16.

    Ihave been live in boarder for while but I didn't feel forigner , as long as you were brought human values you would be able to live In everywhere In the earth


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