If you chose an expat location that was bustling with life and never a dull moment, then this article is not for you. This report is for the rest of us who live in sleepier towns with not so much going on whereby finding something to do when there is nothing to do requires creativity and imagination! I would like to share a few things with you that my expat community get up to in the hope that these ideas will inspire you to find things to do when there is nothing to do so that you can stave off boredom and fill hours with fun, worthy or interesting events.
Sunday brunch – remember those? The last one I went to started at eleven in the morning and we stumbled home at sometime just after seven in the evening. The host cooked pancakes and scrambled eggs and the invited guests brought everything else that was needed to share with everyone in attendance. The table groaned with fruit, yoghurt, sausages, bread, maple syrup, bacon, pate, cold cuts, olives and cheese. The wine was plentiful alongside tea, coffee, orange juice and champagne. It was one of those truly fabulous days where people came and went and more people arrived. It was very casual, very relaxed and without doubt a day to remember. The next one at a different location is already planned – so why don’t you think about getting a wider group of friends and acquaintances together for something similar?
A treasure hunt – This works well for kids or adults or mixed teams. These take a bit of planning and organisation but they are such fun so it’s well worth the trouble. A treasure hunt is also a fun way to help newly arrived expats get to know the local neighbourhood, and you can involve as many people or as few in your planning and organisation! Create clues leading you on to subsequent locations where the next clue is to be found – or create riddles that have to be solved and which relate to things you can see around the vicinity. As each riddle is solved participants can write down the answer and move on riddle by riddle, clue by clue to the end. The winner is whoever arrives back at base having worked out what all the riddles relate to, or who has followed the path of clues to the prize. Prizes can be given out to the fastest team – or the most creative answers if those unravelling the riddles have trouble and come up with some alternative takes on the targets that you were trying to direct them to! No treasure hunt is complete without a get together at the end. Again, ask all participants to bring something to the party!
A quiz night – I’m sure there are plenty of know-it-alls at your place of work or amongst your wider circle of friends and neighbours, so why not put their knowledge to the test with a quiz night! It can be held for charity, or all participants can pay a tiny fee that goes to the overall clever clogs in the form of their winnings! If the quiz goes down well, why not have the winner arrange next month’s quiz and make it a regular occurrence? If you struggle to come up with questions do an internet search and you will find someone has done the work for you – for a small fee of course.
An un-birthday party – birthday parties can be quite stressful for the parents involved – which theme to have, what to dress the kids in, what presents to buy for which children or which treats to put in party bags for attending children…so why not have an un-birthday party for all the children in your area or who belong to your circle of friends? You can ask everyone to chip in with food and drink and the cost of the bouncy castle or entertainment, no one child is the center of attention which prevents jealous feelings or anyone getting overawed and overwhelmed, and everyone can have a very special and fun day.
A safari supper (or lunch) – if you’ve never been on a safari supper with friends then trust me this could be the most fun you’ve had in ages! You either need to live within walking (or staggering) distance of all those involved, or better still, hire a sober minibus driver to ferry you about. You begin with cocktails at one friend’s house, progress to the next where there will be hors d’oeuvres waiting, you then roll on to the next house for your starter, another house for the main course, yet somewhere else for dessert, before finishing up with ‘one for the road’ at the final friend’s house where you can also dance the night away until the minibus driver calls time! The benefit is no one person has to act as host all night, and if you’re a terrible cook you can opt for a cocktail, aperitif or dancing round!
On canvas – this is one for the family – get a canvas, get some paint and all get creative together. You may draw out your inner artist (draw out – get it!) or you may all make a great big mess – but either way you will have a fun time together creating something you can hang on the wall with pride or burn the next day!
Write an article – having moved abroad and settled into a new life in a new country you have an awful lot of exceptionally valuable experience to bring to bear. Why not write about an element of your experience as advice for someone else thinking of moving overseas? Submit it to Escape Artist, they may publish it for you! Alternatively, send it off to your local expatiate publication if you have one, and share your thoughts and feelings with your fellow expat friends.
Do nothing! – A lot of the time in life we are so busy rushing around after other people in our home and work life that we never have any time to literally smell the coffee, look up at the clouds or appreciate the trees! If all of a sudden you have nothing to do, try and learn to savour the moment because it is a fleeting moment in anyone’s life!
Try a new recipe – be inspired by the Internet or borrow a cookbook from a friend. Purchase a core ingredient and look for a new way to burn it (if you’re me), or follow a set recipe from scratch and impress the family. Set yourself the challenge because if it goes well you will get plenty of praise, and if it goes wrong at least you will have tried and the dog will be happy!
A scavenger hunt – this is a game played in teams where you’re set challenges to collect items or just perhaps photographs of items on a long and strange list! The idea of the game is to beg, borrow and even steal (be careful!!!) the items on the list. The winning team is the one who gets the most items in the shortest time possible – and this can be a game of great competitiveness and hilarity especially if you’re all after a one of a kind item at the same time. Cheating and naughtiness is to be encouraged – and if you want to add another element to the hunt, ask contestants to be creative in how they fill their scavenger list!
A murder mystery party – such a party is a great way to fill an entire weekend. All partygoers should be given an identity and a character in advance of the party, and they have to attend in appropriate dress and in character when you will begin introducing them to each other. You can have let slip a few snippets of information about other characters to each character in turn that will perhaps reveal more about a given individual…then slowly through the night you can release clues about what’s going down in the murder house. One guest will have to be sacrificed as the victim – which can be a great excuse for a few blood curdling screams – and then comes the tricky job of working out ‘who done it’ with clues hidden about the house. Who will discover that they are the guilty party, how will they hide their secret? More people can be bumped off along the way and if all this sounds very complex to organise – fear not, there are murder mystery house party game rules and ideas on the Internet for you to follow.
A sports day – why not organise an adult and kids sports day where everyone can get involved individually, as families or in teams to compete for small prizes or just the accolade of being the fastest dad in the egg and spoon race! The more wacky and inventive the sport, the more fun it can be, and everyone needs to be encouraged to be as competitive but as useless as possible! A picnic lunch or tea can be organised by all participants to turn this day into a fantastic event for all!
Bring and buy sale – we all accumulate junk, but one man’s junk is another man’s essential item so why not organise a community, school or work bring and buy event where everyone brings items they no longer want or goods, services or commodities they wish to donate for sale. All the money can go to a local charity or good cause, and at the end of the day you may find you’ve not only cleared a space in the garage for your car, but that you’ve raised a packet for a worthy cause.
A charity event – following on with this charity theme, you and your friends can ‘compete’ with different events from a lunch to a promise auction, from a ball to a sponsored walk or toddle where you all raise money for your favourite causes. Whilst too many events could bankrupt you all, you could have an event annually or biannually and each time it is the responsibility of another person to organise the day, with all attendees responsible for raising the very welcome funds for charity.
Make up/Tupperware party – companies such as Avon now have an almost global presence and so why not be a representative for the brand abroad. Alternatively, get together with a local boutique and think about having a make-up or fashion event in your home. Samples can be tried and tested, someone with a good talent for making the most of other people’s looks can be drafted in for some makeovers! And all in all you can have a fund evening trading tips, sipping glasses of wine and perhaps some of you will even purchase the make-up, clothes or Tupperware on offer!
As you can hopefully see, with a little forethought and a tiny bit of planning, there is so much to do when there’s nothing to do that you may find you never have a dull or empty moment again! The best part about arranging things to do is that you can invite and involve other people, make new friends, help people get more out of their time abroad and maybe even learn a few things along the way!
Of course we are curious to know what you get up to in your expat location – if it is legal, decent and honest please share by leaving a comment.
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has spent the last five years. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.