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Friday, January 14, 2011

Sports In Translation (3): Advice for Soccer Players Going Abroad

In the event, you have put the word out for your upcoming trip, and it has not yielded any referrals as of yet. You do not need to panic. There are people who are in close proximity to you who are more than happy to be of service. The members of Meetup, ExPat Exchange, and Couch Surfing are in your corner. These free and low cost organizations allow individuals with a common interest to interact and learn from one another. A brief explanation of each organization is included.

Meetup: Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. People, called organizers, create local groups about everything from cooking to pickup soccer to salsa dancing. It is free to join the groups, and they traditionally meet to discuss and participate in activities related to their common interest.

I am a member of several language and pick-up soccer groups on Meetup. Leading up to my trip to Rio, I was a dedicated member of the Atlanta Portuguese Meetup Group. Our meeting locations included a variety of Brazilian restaurants and bakeries, which helped me to familiarize myself with the cuisine. Also, I was able to put my developing language capabilities to use through conversations with fellow Meetup group participants and the restaurant staff.

During my time in Rio de Janeiro, my Meetup group organizer spent part of his Brazilian vacation there as well. It was a great opportunity for me to have lunch with a familiar face, use a little English and share some of my experiences with someone who had an understanding of the culture and its people.

Joining Meetup groups, that draw those who have familiarity with (or interest in) your destination and natives of the country together, are an invaluable way for you to prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed when you enter into a new culture. Through conversation and cultural learning experiences, you are able to go into your new environment recognizing foods, phrases and customs that can otherwise seem intimidating.

ExPat Exchange: ExPat Exchange has developed into the largest online community for English speaking expatriates. It is a free resource that assists individuals with all phases of relocation to and from their foreign country. Hundreds of questions are addressed under such topics as, Culture Shock and Settling In, Working Abroad and Overseas Property. With the country specific, network pages and forums, you are able to learn firsthand from expatriates who are living there.

Couch Surfing: Couch Surfing is an international, non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries. According to their 2009 statistics, the network includes over one million members, who reside in more than 69,000 cities and practice 300+ languages. The mission of the organization is to promote cross cultural exchanges and interactions.

Registration with Couch Surfing includes a small donation that allows the organization to cover its administrative costs. Local members offer to host travelers in their homes, meet visitors for coffee or facilitate unique experiences for those who have relocated to the area. Moreover, it is common for likeminded travelers to organize cultural explorations with the posting of a message.

In addition to social networks, there are a few government based organizations that can provide you with helpful information about your upcoming stay.

U.S. Sister City: A large number of American cities have partnerships in place with cities in countries worldwide. The website Sister Cities International ( has a master list for all sister cities. Once you locate which American city has a partnership with your destination city or one close by, reach out to the committee person via email or phone. Many times these committees are small, and access to its officers is fairly straightforward. Let them know about your upcoming athletic stay, and inquire about any helpful information or contacts that they may have available for your use.

Consulate Office: Foreign consulate offices are dispersed all throughout the country. The website provides a wealth of information about the country, as well as all of the required travel protocols for Americans.

If you live in or near to a city that has a consulate location for your destination country, you may opt to participate in cultural programming provided courtesy of the consulate. Events range from language learning to dance lessons to musical performances. In addition to increasing your exposure to the culture prior to your departure, it’s yet another opportunity for you to meet and build relationships with those who can assist your with your transition.

Reaching out to the associations and organizations listed above can begin with a simple email or membership registration. It does not take an exhaustive first effort to get the ball rolling to creating your best experience playing abroad.

Sports In Translation is now available as an electronic download for $3.99 on

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