Our Dreams Came True: Ania and Manon

10654129_750890464976536_1430052172_n“Friendship is born at that moment when one [person] says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…’ ”

We think this quote from C.S. Lewis well describes many of the friendship stories we hear week after week from Interpals members. Many friendships begin when one person notices something that they have in common with another, and contact them based on their shared interests.

We love to hear stories whether or not friends meet in person and we realize how lucky they are if they do. This week, Ania and Manon sent us their incredible story of friendship and language exchange (between Dutch and Russian), first through meeting via Interpals and then in person in Amsterdam.

Ania: We started to talk on 22 Sep 2013 when Manon first messaged me offering help with my Dutch and wondering whether I’d ever tried stroopwafels. It was amazing how easily and well we got along. We were discussing everything from boys to school, from make-ups to languages. Manon was teaching me Dutch on Skype, we were spending so much time talking to each other and I totally love it! We even made up new nicknames: I was ANLY (Anja+silly) and she was RINON or RINI (right+Manon).

So, in May we both turned 18, in June we graduated and in August I came to the Netherlands!!

The time we spent together was so awesome, we did a lot of ‘Dutch’ things: we sat on the canals, rode bikes (we even fell off together and now have same bruises on our left knees) and ate stroopwafels (so, yes, now I can say I’ve eaten them!). Our dreams came true, we met and went out! We’re sure we’ll be meeting over and over again even when we’re much older. Now it’s my turn to teach her Russian ;)

Manon is gorgeous and I already miss her so much!

Ik hou van jou, mijn vriendin  Я люблю тебя, моя подруга! <3

Thank you, Interpals, for helping me find such a friend!

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Manon: Indeed I messaged Ania firstly, after I read her profile it was basically impossible not to offer my help since she confessed her true love for the Netherlands, everything Dutch and her desire to learn Dutch quite dramatically! ;)

We started chatting more and more often and when we skyped for the first time, it felt like we had been friends for ages already. Ania supported me a lot during my final exams and other life changing events and we were indeed able to talk about everything that was on our mind.

10656347_750890454976537_2058616865_nNow we wanted to meet in person sooo badly and we made plans of all the stuff we wanted to experience together in either Russia and the Netherlands! So after we graduated Ania told me she actually was able to come and visit ‘me’ in the wonderful country she adores so much.

Even when I was waiting for her and her friend at the arrival hall at the airport I couldn’t believe we were actually about to experience adventures together! From the moment we met it felt like true friendship and there has not been one moment of awkwardness! I had an amazing week and am so so so looking forward to our next series of adventures and silly experiences!!

Ania really is an amazing person and such a wonderful and loving friend!! I am really stunned that interpals granted the opportunity of meeting her and discovering the amazing possibilities of international friendship!

Do YOU have friendship and/or language exchange story you’d like to share with us? Write to us at blog@interpals.net!

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Posted in Friendship Stories

Like Brothers: Pedro Paulo, Rafal, and Houmem

This week, we spoke to Pedro Paulo F. from Brazil. When he took an exchange trip to Lublin, Poland, he looked for Lublin residents through Interpals so that he would know somebody when he arrived. When he met Rafal, they became friends immediately. Read Pedro Paulo’s story below!

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The three friends in Lublin, Poland

Why did you go abroad?

Pedro Paulo: I was going to exchange in Poland for 6 weeks in a voluntary program by AIESEC. I worked in a project called “Enter Your Future” which consists leading workshops in high schools with 14 volunteers from different nationalities. Then I went on Interpals to look up for friends in Lublin, Poland.

Why did you contact Rafal specifically?

I found Rafal at random… I told him I would go to Poland, to his city and I was afraid I could be alone, without friends out there. He said to come and he would help me. When I arrived, there was a guy from Tunisia (his name is Houmem) and we became friends because he was my roommate in the dormitory.

unnamed-1What was it like to meet in person?

I met Rafal in a mall in Lublin, then we were three inseparable friends. We used to hang out together in the city and there was a moment when everybody from the group in the project went to Krakow! Rafal also joined us, it was amazing!

What are your thoughts on traveling abroad after your experience?

I think that if you are going to travel abroad, especially if you are alone, look up for friends on interpals, maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll find good friends in this country. This is what I did, and from now on I’ll always do that.

What do you love about Interpals?

Interpals is a great tool for who want to look for friends abroad. Thanks to Interpals I found Rafal and he means a lot to me now, he’s like my brother!

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Posted in Friendship Stories

Hometowns, Dream Towns, and Destinations 2 [PHOTO BLOG]

Welcome to the second round of our Hometowns, Dream Towns, and Destinations series! This time, prepare yourself for some stunning night shots, aerial views, and ruins from locations such as Marrakech, Morocco, and Leicestershire, UK. Don’t forget to send us photos of YOUR hometowns and dream destinations!

Budapest, Hungary

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Hungarian Parliament Building

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Széchenyi Chain Bridge

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Hungarian Parliament Building

Elina L. says:

“Hi:) The first thing I want to say is thank you. I found interesting people for friendship. It’s great experience. I want to show you some photos of night Budapest:) I make it in summer 2013 when we traveled to Europe.

It was amazing sight.

Most of all I liked very beautiful architecture. Especially at night when all the buildings shine :)

Rishikesh, India

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Udai D. says:

“I would like to share my hometown Rishikesh, India which has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. Today its known as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with varied ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. Most of this action is north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges river, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion.

But Rishikesh is not all spirituality and contorted limbs, it’s now a popular white-water rafting centre, backpacker hang-out, and gateway to treks in the Himalaya :)

Marrakech, Morocco

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Jamaa El Fna

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Bader C. says:

“My name is Bader from Morocco , i live in Marrakech , its my best City for me , i want to send you some pictures from Marrakech and hope to share it

I loved a lot things about Marrakech , i wil try to say the important , like Jamaa EL fna it’s a place where old meets with the new, the traditional and the modern, the rich and the poor, a place that he is a mixture of different cultures in Morocco, there is also a magnificent palace built by Sultan Ahmed Mansour Al-Saadi Golden (1603-1578), and the Bahia Palace, which dates back to the era of the upper Minister Ahmed Ben Moussa on the reign of Sultan Abdul Aziz.”

Fethiye, Turkey

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Fethiye, Turkey

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Durmuş G. says:

“Hello, I am from Fethiye and i love to live in Fethiye. Fethiye has a Mediterranean climate consisting of very hot, long and dry summers with an average of 34°C in the daytime, winters are cool and rainy with a daytime average of 16°C. Ölüdeniz is one of well-know beaches.

Ölüdeniz (literally Dead Sea, due to its calm waters even during storms; official translation name Blue Lagoon) is a small village and beach resort in the Fethiye district of Muğla. Ölüdeniz is also famous for its paragliding opportunities. It is regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide due to its unique panoramic views, and Mount Babadağ’s exceptional height.

Greetings From Fethiye.”

Leicestershire, UK

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Zanny T. says:

“I love living in Leicestershire, is the history that we have from King Richard 3rd to, Abbey park pumping station. Some of the things w have are all but ruins because of fighting, but they date back from when Romans ruled England and they stayed in Leicester. Also we have more recent famous people who people who now, for example, Aston Merrygold is from Leicester, and also Sam barley who just won X factor. Also Gok Wan and Colin Wilson.”

What do you love about YOUR hometown? Which place in the world is at the top of your dream list? Write to us – we’d love to hear about your favorite places in the world!

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Posted in Countries and Cultures

Meeting People on Interpals: Tips, Advice, and 22 Unusual Questions

stock-footage-young-student-friends-with-computer-tablet-chat-together-outdoors-on-campusIt isn’t always easy to establish a friendship on Interpals. The chances that you’ll meet in person vary among different situations, and busy lives can get in the way of staying in contact. Also, there are a lot of people on Interpals, which can be overwhelming! Today, we have a few tips, dos and don’ts, and thoughts for meeting people on Interpals and getting a conversation going. Scroll to the bottom for a list of 22 unusual questions to get to know new people.

Don’t be generic. When you first write to someone, don’t just say, “what’s up?” or “hi!” They probably receive similar messages every day. Also, don’t add anyone as a friend if you haven’t written to them (or if you haven’t heard back). Be sure that they’re okay with being friends before adding them.

300x208-hand-on-keyboard-typingDo read their profile. Before writing to anyone you’re interested in befriending, be sure to read his or her profile. If you don’t seem to have common interests, you might want to consider resuming your search. Try starting a conversation by mentioning what jumped out to you on their profile. More often than not, they will appreciate that you took the time to read their profile before writing to them.

Don’t troll. Although the Internet grants us with a degree of anonymity, this isn’t an invitation to troll, harass, or otherwise bother your fellow Interpals members. Our forums are a place to discuss your thoughts and opinions, but always avoid insulting or putting others down. You will not make friends if you are tactless or hurtful. To protect yourself, please report or block any users who bother you.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 8.00.33 AMDo use our features. Our search, forums, and language exchange pages are a few features that can help you find friends.

- On our forums, you can find topics ranging from Movies & Entertainment and Food & Drink to languages and language learning.

- If you’re looking for a language exchange partner, see our “language exchange” feature to find out who’s speaking your target language. Don’t be shy to ask somebody if they’d be willing to help you practice!

- If you’re looking for friends with common interests, or who live in certain parts of the world, you can customize the results you find through our search engine. Just type your interest (such as “tennis”) or a specific language into the “keyword” box.

Don’t take it personally if they don’t respond. It can be frustrating when people don’t write back, but try not to take it personally. There are a number of reasons why they not might respond:

- They may be out of town, busy with work or school, or otherwise unable to respond at the moment. Even if they are able to check their inbox, they may not always have time to respond.

- They may feel overwhelmed by the number of messages they receive. If they have already reached their limit of penpals they’d like to talk to at the same time, you may not hear from them.

After you send a message, it’s a good idea to move on and keep looking for friends. Try not to dwell on why they didn’t write back.

Chatting-online-300x199Do keep trying! Don’t give up just because you didn’t hear back from somebody. However, if you constantly open Interpals to find an empty inbox, you can try one or two of these tips:

- Try changing your search preferences. Broaden your search options to look for friends of both genders in countries you know very little about. Again, be sure to read their profile before you write to anyone you’d like to befriend.

- Search for newer members. Newer members are not likely to have many friends and more likely to be looking for penpals, friends, and language exchange partners. If they’re new, send them a welcome message – they’re bound to appreciate it!

- Remember that every friendship is different. Try not to compare your friendship to that of others. Instead, do what works best for you and your friend.

- Keep things interesting. Discuss new topics, send each other postcards (if you feel comfortable sharing your snail mail address), and ask new questions to keep things going.

Keep reading for some questions ideas to keep your conversation fresh!

Fun questions to get to know your friends:

1. Where have you traveled before? Where do you most want to go in the world?

2. What is one unusual fact about you?

3. What do you do in your spare time?

4. Do you have any pets? What are their names?

5. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

6. What’s your dream job?

7. What kind of transportation do you use to get around town?

8. Do you like where you live? Have you always lived there?

9. What are some of your hobbies?

10. Which sports do you like to play or watch, if any?

11. What is something that you always carry with you when you leave the house?

12. What’s your favorite dessert?

13. Who is the most important person in your life?

14. How do you cheer yourself up when you’re feeling down?

15. What are some assumptions that people often make when they first meet or talk to you? Do these assumptions bother you?

16. Where are your parents’ families from? Have you ever been there?

17. What are you most afraid of? Why?

18. What do you do when you’re bored?

19. Which languages do you speak? Which do you most want to learn?

20. What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?

21. Do you blog? If you do, what about? If not, what do you think you would blog about?

22. Do you prefer to read paperbacks or read books on electronic devices?

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Posted in Tips & Tricks

Noo, Angela, and Sunshine: A Canadian Adventure

This week on the blog, we talked to Noo S. from the UK, who recently took a trip to Canada to visit two friends, Angela and Sunshine, both of whom she met through Interpals.

Tell us about yourself.

Noo: I’m a Rockabilly gal who loves pretty much all things from the 1940s & 1950s. I’m a big snail mail fan. I love watching movies and making fascinators and hair flowers. I live on a small Island (26 miles across) at the bottom of England called The Isle of Wight.

How and when did you meet Angela and Sunshine on Interpals?

I met Angela and Sunshine around the same time about 5 years ago on Interpals. We all had some fairly similar interests and I just clicked with both of them. I remember Sunshine’s profile had lots of awesome gifs on it and she just seemed like a lot of fun.

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Noo meets Angela in Vancouver

How and when did you meet in person?

I met Angela in Vancouver when I decided to have a Canadian adventure. Angela met me from the airport with her son & husband, it was a lovely surprise as I wasn’t expecting her to meet me there. I stayed in Vancouver for a week before getting the train to Edmonton where Sunshine met me at the train station.

Tell us about the experience of meeting.

It was surreal to see Angela at the airport. She had previously said that she couldn’t meet me at the Airport, so I went to the information desk to find out where to get the Sky train from. I looked up and saw this woman waving at me & it was Angela! We had so much fun in Vancouver. I had my first proper Ice Hockey experience. I have watched Ice Hockey before, but nothing compares to the Canadian experience! We also went to the Vancouver Aquarium where we got drenched by a Beluga whale, touched Starfish & a Sea Cucumber which was kind of gross! We also made it across the Capilano suspension bridge and the cliff walk, which was quite an achievement!

Sunshine met me from the train station, which was so lovely of her and her partner Cory to wait for me as the train was running 2 hours late! I arrived in Edmonton at 1am after 28 hours on the train. It was actually Sunshine’s Birthday on the Sunday so we went to a Ska show at a place called The Pawn shop. Now I’ve been to some ska shows in my time, but never have I seen people skankin’ as hard as those Edmontonians. Man, it was so much fun!

Noo and Sunshine get matching tattoos

Noo and Sunshine get matching tattoos

I had the best sweet potato fries of my life in Dadeos in Edmonton- they would totally feature in my final meal! We also got matching Tattoos, so Sunshine and I will forever be linked through Ink on our arms and ink on the pages of our letters.

Noo and Sunshine show off their matching tattoos

Noo and Sunshine show off their matching tattoos

What are your favorite things about your friendships with Angela and Sunshine?

Angela is quieter than I had realised, but she’s very funny and found me pretty hysterical at times ;) she’s very kind and thoughtful.

Sunshine is my best friend in the entire world. This gal has inspired me in so many ways, and I love her dearly. She never judges people, which is incredibly rare nowadays. I know, even though we may be a few time zones apart that she is always there if I need her.

What advice do you have for Interpals members looking for friends?

Make sure that you are true friends, because there is always that chance that you might not get along in person. I was very lucky because there was no awkwardness at all with either of my pals.

Anything else?

I would say to anyone, if you can, meet your pals, because it has been the best experience. Something that will always be dear to me. I fully intend on visiting them again!

Have YOU met any good friends through Interpals? We’d love to hear your stories! Send us an email at blog(at)interpals(dot)net.

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Posted in Friendship Stories

Country Profile: Nicaragua

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Photo from Luis

Nicaragua is a country in Central America that is sandwiched between Honduras and Costa Rica. This week, we talked to Luis and Ann, two residents of Managua, Nicaragua, to find out what they love about their beautiful country.

What is Managua known for and what do you like about it?

Luis: Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua and it is famous because it is located next to Lake Xolotlan the second biggest in the country. What I like about Managua is that even though it is a city of 2 million people, living there is not as stressing as in other big cities in the world.

Ann: Well Managua is the capital, so is the most important city, and almost all people want live here. There are much trade and movements, so there are a lot of people. Managua doesn’t have big buildings like capitals of other countries, but there are important buildings here.

Managua City, Tiscapa Lagoon - Photo from Ann

Managua City, Tiscapa Lagoon – Photo from Ann

Lake Managua - Photo from Ann

Lake Managua – Photo from Ann

What is Nicaragua famous for?

Luis: Nicaragua is famous because of its many tourist attractions and natural resources. Some of its natural resources are still virgins, which mean they have not been explored yet. Nicaragua is also known as the land of “lakes and volcanoes”. Right now Nicaragua possesses 19 volcanoes and two of the biggest lake in the Central American region.

Ann: Nicaragua is famous due the nature. Nicaragua is named “Land of lakes and volcanoes” we have even in the capital natural places. We have many kinds of landscapes and environments. Nicaragua has coast in the 2 oceans and in a lake there are sharks of sweet water. Nicaragua is famous for the foreigner for beaches and historical places.

Photo from Luis

Photo from Luis

Masachapa Beach - Photo from Ann

Masachapa Beach – Photo from Ann

What do you love most about living in Nicaragua?

Luis: What I like the most about Nicaragua is that it is a country for anyone.  Since I was little I always saw how many tourists from around the world decided to stay and live in Nicaragua for a while. Nicaragua has varieties of weather which means it’s something people can’t complain about. I’ve also witnessed how people like to stay in Nicaragua because there is always something new to do every day.  People can either participate in International surfing contest organized very often, or become more extreme and go sand surfing to “Cerro Negro”. And the best about living in Nicaragua is meeting the people there. People in Nicaragua are really friendly.

Ann: I love almost all? haha well I love nature, also here people is friendly and warm hearted.

What makes Nicaragua really interesting?

Ann: I think Nicaragua is interesting due the people and environment, beach, nature, tradition and history. We have 2 important and historical cities, Leon and Granada, but there are also many many awesome cities. Each cities of my country have a special church and central park, so usually people is concentrated there, also each city have an special religious festivity, can last 1 day or months (oh yeah long party haha)  depend of the city, this festivities are really interesting.

Leon City, Traditional Festivity. Photo from Ann

Leon City, Traditional Festivity. Photo from Ann

Luis: If religious, 58% of the population in Nicaragua is catholic, which means that Easter is the best time to visit. We also have carnivals and beauty contests during January and February. In October around Halloween in Nicaragua we celebrate Los Agüizotes. This celebration is a parade where people wear costumes of some of the most popular horror character in Nicaragua legends. It is celebrated in the region of Masaya the last Friday in the month of October.

What should travelers do or see in Nicaragua?

Luis: Lake Cocibolca: It is the second biggest lake in Latin American. Despite being a fresh water lake, you can find sawfish and sharks.

Ometepe Island: Ometepe Island is an island located in the center of Lake Cocibolca. During the last 5 years it has become Nicaragua principal tourist attraction since it is the only island in the world with 2 volcanoes, one of them being still active.

San Juan del Sur: it is Nicaragua finest beach. It is located in the southern region of the country

Leon and Granada: Leon and Granada are the two oldest cities in Nicaragua. They were both founded in 1524 (Being America that’s considered really old) by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba.

Leon City, Cathedral View - Photo from Ann

Leon City, Cathedral View – Photo from Ann

BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve: it is the third largest biosphere reserve in the world and the second one in America after the amazon in Brazil.

Nicaragua Volcanic chain: in total Nicaragua has 19 volcanoes with at least 13 of the still active.

Granada City - Photo from Ann

Granada City – Photo from Ann

Ann: I think travelers should visit the historical cities like Leon and Granada, also Ometepe island and all natural places!! we have a lot of beaches! and mountains so depend of things that people like. In Managua, there is “the historic center” is where Managua started.  San Juan del sur is one of important beaches, and Ometepe Island is one of important island too, this last one is patrimony of humanity due it is an old island and is rich of nature and history. In almost all cities there is nightclubs and casinos, especially in Managua, also in Managua there is one of the important theaters of Latin America “Ruben Dario Theater”.

Photo from Luis

Photo from Luis

When should travelers visit Nicaragua?

Luis: Tourist normally arrive to Nicaragua for spring break, but I would suggest people to go during summer (may, June or July) since during spring break tourist attractions are crowded with people and the experience will not be the same. During the summer less people will be in the country and prices will go down which means it would benefit tourists.

What are your least favorite things about living in Nicaragua?

Luis: As a person born and raised in this country I don’t find anything that wouldn’t call my attention.

Ann: what I don’t like of my country… ? well some parts of Nicaragua are kinda dangerous (thief) specially in Managua, so be carefull. But in general Nicaragua is a good place to live.

Can you share some unusual facts about Nicaragua?

Nagarota City, church - Photo from Ann

Nagarota City, church – Photo from Ann

Luis: Nicaragua had the first elected woman president of any Central America country. She served from 1991 1997. Nicaragua is the birthplace of Ruben Dario one of the 20th century s most notable poets. Nicaragua s baseball team took 4th in the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta.

Ann: Nicaraguan people can be too much friendly and treat you as your family, also we laugh much. A uncomfortable or funny fact (to ladies) when you are walking in the street always guys will flirt you! haha

Like 2 years ago Nicaragua started to do rural tourism, is travel in a rural community and have experience like how people live in this communities. I did this kind of tourism and I can say, it is interesting, just “nature and you” really relaxing.

Photo from Ann

Photo from Ann

Anything else?

Ann: I hope you can visit my country soon, and discover by yourself ;)

Are YOU from Nicaragua or have you ever visited? If you have anything to add, please let us know in the comments section below!

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Posted in Countries and Cultures

Hometowns, Dream Towns, and Destinations (PHOTO BLOG)

If you follow our Facebook page, you may have sent us a photo of YOUR hometown/travel destination or seen photos of others around the world. This week on the blog, we’d like to start sharing the blurbs and photos you’ve sent. Get ready for some wanderlust (or nostalgia, if you’ve visited these places)!

Singapore

Singapore is an island country that lies just above the equator on the southern end of the Malay peninsula.

“These are some of the most popular landmarks of Singapore now. Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer. The city lights provide a beautiful scene for photos!”

-Harvey G.

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Singapore at night

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Singapore at night

Fes, Morocco

Fes is one of the largest urban hubs in Morocco. It is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and known for its beautiful streets and cultural vibrancy.

“Hey i am Nihline from Morocco :) i really enjoy interpals as i found great friends all over the world who became good friends of mine :)  i went on a trip this weekend in my country and i would like to share with you the beauty of ” Fes ” an anciant city of Morocco..known by it’s roof wooden craft of houses and its wonderful architecture and culture. An interpaller from Morocco” – Nihline I.

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Fes, Morocco

Nihline fav 2

Fes, Morocco

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Fes, Morocco

Vlissingen, The Netherlands

Vlissingen is located on the southwestern region of the Netherlands. It is known for its beaches and wharfs.

“I have a picture of my hometown Vlissingen its in the Netherlands. As you can see its a picture of the beach I love to go swimming or just making pictures. Vlissingen is not really my hometown, my hometown is Middelburg it’s very near to Vlissingen. I send you some more pictures of my real hometown. Greeting from the Netherlands.” – Jessica M.

Middelburg

Vlissingen, Netherlands

Vlissingen 2

Vlissingen 1

Middelburg, Netherlands

Kalmar, Sweden

Kalmar is located in the southeast of Sweden. It lies beside the Baltic Sea.

“This is Kalmar castle from Kalmar where I live! I see it every day when I walk to classes, and it’s beautiful! It’s about 700years old, and a great reminder and window to the past! (Kalmar is a city on the east coast if Sweden). The most important must be that the Kalmar union was founded there by queen Margaret I (or as we say in Sweden Drottning Margareta) in 1397,a union between Sweden Denmark and Norway, it lasted until 1523 :) .” -Agnes O.

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Kalmar Castle, Kalmar, Sweden

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Kalmar Castle, Sweden

Tampa, USA

Tampa lies on the west coast of Florida, a southeastern US state. Tampa, like many other cities in Florida, is known for its beaches and warm weather.

“This is home in Tampa, Florida, United States.I always see pictures of other cities around the world and they are so pretty. when I leave my home and come back a short period of time later I always see the skyline and say I am home. This is where I belong. It is a combination of family, friends and community. I can not put in words why I love this place. Nice people, good food, The gulf of mexico and the year round warm weather. It is my home and it is part of me and I am a part of it. No more to be said.” -Kenneth B.

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Tampa, Florida, USA

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Tampa, Florida, USA

Want to share something about YOUR hometown? Contact us through our Facebook page or write to us at blog@interpals.net.

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Posted in Countries and Cultures

6 Ways To Maintain Your Language Fluency

how-many-words-to-fluency-in-language-learning-header-image-425x218In previous blog posts, we have suggested ways to increase your language skills. If you have pushed past the beginner and intermediate stages of language learning, and are now at an advanced, fluent, or near-fluent stage, congratulations! You have worked hard and you should be proud of yourself. It takes a lot of hard work to reach your level of language learning accomplishment.

However, your work is not finished. Now you need to maintain your skill level, and that requires practice, persistence, and more practice. This doesn’t mean you should stop having fun! You can find many interesting ways to engage your language skills, even without having to travel and be fully immersed in your target language (which is, unfortunately, not always possible). This week on the Interpals blog, we have a few ideas to keep your target language fresh in your mind and always on the tip of your tongue.

hawthorne-sophiaKeep a notebook in your target language.

Do you keep a journal? Even if you don’t scribble down an account of your life each day, maybe you keep a small notebook or electronic device with you to jot down notes. As long as you’re keeping these notes to yourself, you should take advantage of this opportunity to write notes in your target language to keep your vocabulary and grammar skills in check. If you’re a student, try taking down your class notes in your target language. If the notes are only for your reference, rigorously using your target language in this way will help you maintain fluency.

Use cookbooks in your target language.

Cookbooks tend to use language in a simple, direct way, which isn’t necessarily helpful for advanced language speakers, but cookbooks and other specialty books use a certain vocabulary that may challenge all but native speakers of the language. You’ll find verbs you’ve never seen before, descriptions for dishes and equipment that you might be unsure about, and ingredients lists may unearth a wealth of new, unfamiliar words. Plus, trying out new recipes – even if you’re a talented chef – can be a challenge when you’re still mastering a language. The best part is, you can savor the result!

au-pairLook for childcare jobs.

Taking care of children is a great way to maintain your language fluency. Not only do children tend to be very talkative, you can observe how native speakers of your target language pick up the language. In addition, children are more likely to stick to a language they are familiar with, and will therefore be unlikely to slip into a language they know you speak well in order to facilitate your conversation. They also don’t slow down for language learners, so you will have to stay on your toes!

In order to find families who speak your target language, offer your name at elementary schools or clinics in parts of town where those speakers tend to live, or ask your family and friends for references. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can look for au pair or other long-term childcare jobs in countries where your target language is spoken. Check out these tips from a seasoned au pair to become familiar with the process. If you feel uncomfortable around children, don’t worry – keep reading for more ideas!

Set up a weekly language group.

stock-footage-group-of-young-people-hanging-out-at-parkThere are probably others in your community who want to improve or maintain language skills in your target language. The Internet, library, or local recreation center are all great resources for finding people nearby who might be interested in a weekly group session. As a group, you can enforce a strict target language-only policy and use the time to throw together potlucks, go bowling, play scrabble, or simply meet over coffee.

Teach a beginning-level class in the language.

Even if you’re not as fluent as a native speaker in the language, you probably know enough to direct your knowledge onto beginning learners. Teaching at a junior college, community center, high school, or elementary school will allow you to improve your mastery of the language by constantly refreshing what you know. Plus, other learners will ask questions that make you think on your feet and consider the nuances of the language from other perspectives.

20130619193813!How_to_be_a_Great_Tour_Guide_Booth_PenguinVolunteer or work within the community of target language speakers.

Volunteering can have many  benefits, both for you and the community you’re helping out. Be creative with volunteer work and take on a position within an area that interests you. If you have a passion for helping out the homeless, look for volunteer positions with homeless shelters that serve members of your target language-speaking community. If translating interests you, look for a volunteer position or translating job in a clinic, law firm, school, or somewhere similar. Working as a tour guide for tourists who speak your target language or as a host for out-of-towners can also be great ways to surround yourself in your target language without leaving your hometown.

Are you an advanced language speaker? What do YOU find most helpful for maintaining your language skills?

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Posted in Tips & Tricks

Budapest: A City With History in Every Street

This week, we talked to Rèka, Adrian, and Hina, three residents of Budapest, Hungary, to learn about what it’s like to live in Budapest. Check out their tips and advice for visitors to Budapest, too!

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Budapest at night – Photo from Rèka

How long have you lived in Budapest?

Hina: I live in Budapest from 4 years, but before it I lived in Érd, what is really close to Budapest so I was here a lot and since 2007 I’m here in a high school so I spent all of my weekdays here :) And I don’t mind it.

Rèka: I live here since I was born.

Adrian: I am living in Budapest for 23 years.

What are the most interesting things about Budapest?

Hina: The spirit of the city. It was not rebuild after the war, so we have the history between every house and in every street. It has a really amazing atmosphere!

I think [this video] really shows what Budapest looks like in the usual everyday life.

Rèka: Budapest famous for the buildings, spas and bathes. A lot of medicinal water is in the city and in the whole country.

Adrian: Budapest Ruin Bars and Pub Crawling Tours, River View Restaurants in Budapest, And This is the only capital where you can also visit many natural caves :) We also have many baths. I think these are the most unique things. Other than that the bridges are beautiful. The building of parliament, the castle on Buda and Gellért Hill. Authentic and nice buildings in city center. Good parks,. Heroes Square, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Fisherman’s Bastion.

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Budapest Castle – Photo from Adrian

What should visitors see when they travel to Budapest?

Rèka: Visitors should see the Buda Castle, the Citadella, the Parliament, the Andrássy Street, the Váci Street, Vörösmarty Square and the Heroes Square. The best times for the visit are from April to September and Christmas.

Hina: If you come here, you have to take a walk in Nagykörút and in Kiskörút. There are a lot of people, but if you walk here, you can reach most of the things. And the buildings what stand here really beautiful. If you like going to museums, here you have a lot of chance for it. Most of these stand really close to each other, so you can find them easily. Make free time for it, you won’t with it! If don’t really like walking next to the traffic, the nature is here too. Go to Gellért-hegy or to János-hegy can be a very good trip, these are in the poart of Buda. You can find good places to have a lovely picnic. For picnis, or jsut find the nature in the heart of the city, here is Margit-sziget too. It’s a wonderful green oasis in the center of everything. If you spent the whole day walking around, in the night maybe you want to have a good beer. In Budapest, you always can find a “romkocska”. These are places what was made in old buildings or places where nothing was made after a wrecking. The prices usually reasonable and in most of these places you can find sanwiches too and some funny hungarian who can tell you some hungarian joke ;)

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Budapest Opera House – Photo from Adrian

Adrian:

-Discover historic Castle Hill with a walking tour.

-Take a Danube cruise for beautiful panoramic views of Budapest.

-Enjoy a performance at the world famous Budapest Opera House.

-Shop with locals or try some traditional Hungarian food at Central Market Hall.

-Take a dip and relax in one of Budapest’s famous baths.

-Walk across Chain Bridge, the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest.

-Visit Hungary’s Parliament Building, see the amazing architecture and the

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Budapest is famous for its baths – Photo from Adrian

-Hungarian Crown Jewels and Seuso treasure (Sueso treasure is free to visit but only temporary).

-Take a stroll on Andrássy Avenue to Heroes’ Square and you’ll understand why Budapest is often called the Paris of the East.

-Try an authentic Hungarian dishes paired with Hungarian wine.

-Window shop and people watch on “Váci utca” (grab a coffee but look elsewhere for restaurants) and other famous streets in the city center.

(this is just a brief summary, there are many other attractions to see.)

What is your favorite time of year in Budapest?

Hina: When the sun i shining I like taking walks next to the Danube. It can make your mood better. Or if the day is lightly rainy, Budapest can be a beautiful place. I really love it. The weather is the best in early autumn and early summer. These times are the tipical not too cold, not too hot periods :)

Adrian: Budapest is the best during the Summer or spring.

What do you love most about Budapest?

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Liberty Statue – Photo from Rèka

Hina: In Margit-sziget, there are a really good running track. When I have time, I go there. The rack is next to the Danube, all around in the island. At the morning when the sun is just waking up and the air is a little bit chilly, it can be the best.

Rèka: I just like to walk in the Andrássy Street and the Váci Street. I really like to go to the Citadella at night, because there is a fantastic sight of the city. At Christmas there is a Christmas fair in the Vörösmarty Square, that so awesome and in that time the whole city full of Christmas lights and decorations.

Adrian: Budapest is quite free city. With many good pubs, restaurants and parks. You have many options to party. I love to walk around in the city center (Pest side). The buildings are beautiful and the atmosphere is really good.

In total Budapest has beautiful scenery and a very good place for party. Budapest is also very cheap compared with western parts of Europe.

What are your least favorite things about living in Budapest?

Hina: In Budapest, just like in every big city, has districts with more danger than another places. You have to be careful with your values in these parts of the city.

Rèka: It’s a big city and live here many people and here are a lot of traffic jams.

Adrian: Graffiti, Subway is kind of old, and looks dirty on Line 3.

What foods or drinks are specific to Budapest?

Rèka: We have a very specific cuisine. For example: goulash(gulyás), clear soup(húsleves), fried chicken(rántott hús), stuffed cabbage(töltött káposzta), some desserts: pancake(palacsinta), floating islands(madártej), chimney cake(kürtöskalács) and turó rudi.

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Photo from Adrian

Tell us something that’s fun about Budapest.

Adrian: I really loved to visit the Hungarian National Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Hina: This city is never sleeps. Here always happening something. If you come here, I’m sure, that you will see something funny or incredible. And if you go to the pub, you always find somebody, who can tell you the funniest story of the day.

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Posted in Countries and Cultures

What To Avoid In…

When traveling, many people inevitably find themselves in uncomfortable situations – either because they are met with something they do not expect or they accidentally break a cultural taboo. When you make arrangements to travel to another country (or even another part of your own country!), it is always a good idea to research the local habits, taboos, and customs so that you aren’t caught completely off guard. This week, we extracted a few crucial “don’ts” in certain countries around the world so that you can begin the process of traveling with ease. If you have concerns about traveling in a particular country or city, you’ll surely find someone to answer your questions on our Society and Culture Forum.

Argentina: Don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response.

Dinner-party-001If you invite friends over, you may not hear back about whether or not they plan to attend. If they do respond, it may be very late. In big Argentine cities such as Buenos Aires, it is also very common for events, dinners, and parties to begin much later than you may be used to – and may continue for much longer than you expect. Be prepared to relax and enjoy yourself!

Brazil: Don’t speak in Spanish.

The official language in Brazil is Portuguese. Although many Brazilians may speak Spanish, they will often resent the assumption that South Americans primarily speak Spanish. Even if your Spanish is stronger than your Portuguese, make an effort to speak in Portuguese as often as you can.

chopsticknono2China: Don’t place your chopsticks upright.

In China (and in Japan), chopsticks placed upright in a plate or bowl – such as in rice – is only done at funerals and is considered inappropriate to do in everyday situations. Furthermore, do not pass food to another from your chopsticks. If you would like to share your food with somebody else, use your chopsticks to transfer the food to their plate, or allow them to take the food from your plate themselves. Passing food from one pair of chopsticks to another also carries associations with funeral rites. Check out this informative site for more information on how to use chopsticks.

England: Don’t cut in line.

In general, the first to arrive at a bus stop (or café or ATM) should be the first to board (or order or help themselves). It is considered impolite to cut ahead of those whose rightful place is before you in the queue. If you do cut, expect to be berated.

France: Don’t start conversations in English.

This is true of many countries, but the French can be particularly sensitive about travelers using English in France. It’s all right if you don’t speak the language fluently, but it is generally appreciated when visitors make an effort to learn a few words. If you must speak in English while you’re traveling through France, at least learn how to say, “Do you mind if we speak in English?” or “Do you speak English?” (“Parlez-vous anglais?”) rather than assuming that everyone can (and is willing to) speak with you in English.

India: Don’t use your left hand when eating, giving objects to someone, or touching a person.

In India (as well as many Middle Eastern and African countries), use of the left hand is frowned upon in certain situations. It is particularly taboo, if you are not using cutlery, to eat with your left hand. The left hand is generally treated as the “bathroom” hand and thought to be unclean. Objects given to others should be passed in the right hand.

Japan: Don’t keep your shoes on.

ryokan_ingressoIn Japanese homes, it is customary to exchange one’s shoes for a pair of slippers. This is also true in certain public places, such as a hotel or inn, restaurant, or onsen (Japanese hot springs). When entering a building, see what everyone else is doing. If you see that others are wearing slippers, or if somebody offers you a pair, be sure to remove your shoes. This is especially important if somebody has invited you to their home – be respectful!

Russia: Don’t be offended if people don’t smile.

You may notice that, particularly in big cities, passersby will rarely smile at others. It is also common for Russians to appear stoic in photos. However, this is not a sign of impoliteness or unfriendliness – smiling at strangers is simply not a societal habit in Russia. Of course, Russians will smile and laugh among friends and family.

tip-jar-halfThe USA: Don’t skip the tip.

In many restaurants in the United States, waiters and waitresses earn their salary through tips alone. Therefore, unless you are offended by the service or otherwise inexcusably unsatisfied, it is considered extremely impolite to skip the tip at restaurants. Generally, a 15%-20% tip is expected. It is also advisable to tip cab drivers, barbers, bellhops, hotel cleaning staff, and café baristas (you’ll often see a tip jar at cafes).

What are some taboos in YOUR home country?

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