Frank and I know each other through his move to Dornbirn earlier this year. I am particularly fascinated by the fact, that he has networked so well in Vorarlberg within a short time.
Thank you so much dear Frank, for providing your authentic story. Thank you too for using my Relocation Service. It was a pleasure for me to accompany your move to Dornbirn.
Making friends in Vorarlberg
Moving to a foreign country was something that I had done when I was younger, but back at 17, I was dropped into a fairly typical high school filled with other newcomers and everyone speaking Englisch. My recent move from the big city of Seattle, Washington to Vorarlberg was quite different. While my work was primarily conducted in English, I had no ready-made social structure in which to navigate in my native language and culture. So my immediate fear and challenge was to create a social network where I felt comfortable, productive and accepted.
Vorarlberg presents some distinct challenges in this endeavor, but there were also several significant aids to success at my preliminary integration. And just as a side note, I am still here, 2 and a half years later, and some of these factors are still important in my social life here.
First and foremost, you will be confronted with a language that is not one bit like what you may have prepared yourself for before moving here. Forget your "Hochdeutsch", it won't help very much in conversation in the cities and workplaces of Vorarlberg. Just about everyone speaks in "Vorarlberger dialect". It's probably no harder than German, but it really isn't taught anywhere formally (that I have been able to find). The only way to get it is to keep trying to listen and communicate with people and asking them to explain the strange words you hear. There are even books on "how to speak vorarlbergerisch" but I did not find them structured in a way that made them a real educational aid.
The second challenge is that most native "Vorarlberger" have lived here their whole lives, in pretty much the same social and cultural circles. With the exception of going away for school for a few years, most local people return here to work and raise a family by the time they are in their late 20's and early 30's. This makes the social groups here a little cliquey and you are pretty much always meeting people that know someone else that you know. To succeed here, you should remember to always take care with first impressions. As an outsider, you get a lot of attention, but that is magnified in the small-town feel of even the "bigger" cities here sometimes. I was fortunate to arrive here and made some good introductions to my social community, but even I had to cultivate a perception that I was someone that wanted to belong here and that I had value to contribute.
Here are my top three ways to make new friends:
1. Join a Verein or club
Now on to the good news ...! The best thing for me is that "Vorarlberger" love their Vereine or clubs. There are groups that get together for just about anything you could want to do. My things are technology, photography and music, and there are events that I could go to almost every day of the week if I wanted to. The people at these meetups have not just been fun for getting to know the community, they have become my community. We share meals, vacations, concerts, hackathons and sometimes just a coffee in town to linger and chat about life. Take some time and use social media to find things that you are interested in and you will almost always be able to find someone else here into it too.
2. Move to a city
When I first moved here, I was in the real suburbs in the area of Feldkirch. There were no stores within (reasonable) walking distance and there was no social culture in the neighborhood (other than the occassional family events or annual festivals). While it was beautiful, I was bored and felt like I always had to "go out" to feel any sense of community. This all changed since moving to Dornbirn earlier this year. I am in walking distance of the center of town, and all the things I need are close by. Add a bicycle to the equation and I finally feel like I am LIVING in my city. This has led to a much more vibrant social life and a connection to my friends and neighbors that I was always missing.
I highly recommend city life to newcomers!
3. Get out and travel
I have found that every location I have been to in Europe has its own flavor of community and culture that can go a long way toward making friends and learning new things. For instance, go into a restaurant in Italy and you are instantly family and you better join in the fun with your new siblings and parents! Go to Berlin and you will find the most direct and creative people that I know here. Go to Vienna and talk to the museum docents and you will get all sorts of insight that you won't get by just observing the art, and don't even get me started on Lisbon, JUST GO and you will see why it is one of my favorite destinations. The amazing cultural diversity of Europe can easily be overlooked if you only stay in one location, and getting out and seeing other places gives you something to talk about back home too!
I recently had to decide if I was going to stay in Vorarlberg or relocate to another country, and in the end I chose to stay here. In two years filled with some hights and lows, I have been able to create an identity and community here that is as strong and vital to me as I had back home in Seattle. And if you are still struggling, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, Iris will arrange the contact between us and you can get coffee in Dornbirn sometime to talk! That easy!
About Relocation Services Höfler
Having professional relocation support is an essential part of international personnel recruitment today.
I personally manage your relocation and accompany you or your future employees and families before, during and after the move to to Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, St. Gallen, Winterthur, Thurgau, Appenzell, Graubünden, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg of the Lake Constance region.
You are sure to have a lot of questions about the many aspects of moving to this region.
Please get in touch with me by phone or E-mail now.
I look forward to getting to know you.