“Integrating into a community isn’t a quick process. It takes countless coffee breaks at the same places, countless repetitive conversations, and countless moments of courage.” – Nora Kreml
Immersing yourself into a new culture takes a lot of patience, effort, and perceptiveness. It will require you to step outside of- live outside of- your own comfort zone. Attempting to integrate into a new community can be challenging even for the most well-travelled, interculturally-minded global citizen. For our third installment of “How to Meet People Abroad”, we will be highlighting a city I love and have been fortunate enough to consider my home- three times and counting- Dublin, Ireland.
1) Art: Ireland’s capital city is a diverse and dynamic cultural hub. Internationally known for producing some of the world’s greatest literature, music, theater, Dublin continues to live up to its strong history of forging culture. There are always events happening around town, many of which are free or fairly inexpensive.
While attending museums, dance performances, art galleries, films, or theatre events are terrific ways to learn about another culture and support the arts, they are not always the easiest options to get to know others within the community. Not that it is impossible, but the focus at many events are on the art itself, not necessarily on those in attendance. To increase your chances of meeting others, try to attend the more social gatherings that generally occur before or after the actual event: receptions, galas, lectures, and so on.
2) Sport: Sport is very important to the Irish. (Note: saying “sports” is a sure way to get recognized as someone who did not do their homework!) With local, regional, and national teams, there is always a match on somewhere.
My next suggestion for meeting locals is to attend a match at your local Gaelic Athletic Association club. GAA was formed over a century ago to help preserve and promote the Irish language and culture, primarily through Gaelic games. The most popular games to watch areHurling and Gaelic football. As these games are unique to Ireland, most likely, expats will not know the rules immediately. This is a perfect opportunity to seek out some knowledgeable fans for a chat about the game.
GAA clubs are social centers. Members, athletes, and spectators are part of this tight community. But luckily, most are eager to share this important part of Irish life and Irish history with you and will quickly welcome you with open arms. Even if you are not in Ireland, but are still interested in learning more about GAA, check out http://www.gaa.ie/about-the-gaa/gaa-overseas/ to find a club in your country.
3) Pub: Another way to meet locals in Dublin is to, dare I say it, go to a pub. Irish pubs are inviting, friendly, and chatty places, not to mention warm, comfortable spots to get out of the rain! While there is much more to Dublin than the pub scene, it is core to the way of life in Ireland and cannot be ignored. Guinness is, of course, a favorite and is especially delicious in Dublin. For those of you not so sure about “the black stuff”, I suggest trying a pint with some blackcurrant cordial. Or simply forget about the infamous tall dark beverage all together and do like a local… order a strong pot of Irish tea.
If you don’t mind the often overcrowded, overpriced, touristy pubs in Temple Bar, you will find, in addition to a few well-known institutions, such as Oliver St. John Gogarty’s and The Foggy Dew, the area is amass with colorful characters, cultural events, art galleries, street artists, and collective performance spaces. Cobblestone’s in the Smithfield area is a great place to experience “trad” (traditional Irish) music nightly. John Kavanagh’s, known as The Gravediggers, is an appropriately named pub just next to Glasnevin Cemetery. Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street is another great, authentic way to get a traditional Irish pub experience. A personal favorite of mine is Bull & Castle, which serves Irish microbrews and craft beers, has great music, and has an awesome set-up with large screens during big matches to get your sport in even when you’re not on the sidelines.
4) Markets: Over the past few years, more and more markets have crept up in and around Dublin. This is my favorite pastime in this city! There are indoor and outdoor markets; markets in bars, on the street, in warehouse spaces, in squares; food markets, vintage markets, flea markets (also known as car boot sales), furniture markets, designer and craft markets, and more. Frequenting these places can give you a chance to mingle with locals and learn about their craft, art, food, etc. I guarantee that you will run into some of the same vendors and patrons multiple times at several different markets. This is another reason to love Dublin, it’s extremely common to run into recognizable strangers at events and it makes it all the easier to get to establish a rapport with the locals!
Another great way to meet locals is to rent a stall and sell items any craft or homemade items or things you have accumulated that you have no use for anymore. The Dublin Food Co-op puts on a flea market on the 4th Sunday of every month (vintage, furniture, and international/cultural products on the other Sundays). Anyone can rent a stall for 40 euros (better yet, find a few other people who are interested in selling items to split the cost!) and spend the day meeting, talking, and even haggling with Dublin locals.
5) Volunteer: The fifth suggestion for meeting locals is to get involved with one or more of the countless amazing nonprofit organizations, NGOs, or charity shops right here in Dublin. This will offer a chance, outside of your work and/or school environment to meet others with similar passions and interests.
When I was a grad student I volunteered for an educational development organization. Through this work I connected with other like-minded Irish students, as well as students from all over the world, and professionals who were all passionate for this common cause. This will definitely expand your social circle beyond your usual work and/or school colleagues. Here is a great list to get you more familiar with some of these organizations.
6) Classes: My final tip for meeting locals in Dublin is to sign up for a class, seminar, or workshop. There are various options for classes in art, crafting, crossfit, pilates, dance, literature, writing, cooking, and more. Taking a class in a subject that interests you, can help you feel more of a connection with the locals of your new city and, at the very least, it puts you “out there” ready to engage in new activities and conversations with locals!
With Dublin being a true multicultural city, its “locals” may not necessarily be Irish. As a result of this, Dublin has several reputable language colleges. These schools teach not only English, but have weekly classes in dozens of other languages in varying degrees of ability. I recently took a Spanish refresher course (thanks to a great deal on GrabOne*) and walked away with not only a better grasp on the language, but also got to know a few Irish, two South Africans, an Englishman, a French woman, a couple Italians, and a German.
No matter where you are living, if you want to meet locals, the simplest thing to do is to take a chance, get involved in something you are passionate about, and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. So go out, get your nose out of that phone/ tablet/ computer (or actual book made of paper), make eye contact, smile, and start up that chat!
*A bonus tip: there are many websites offering coupons, usually called vouchers here, for local businesses, classes, restaurants, products, and more. Definitely sign up for these to not only save money, but to learn more about what Dublin has to offer.