When looking to make friends in a new country, there can often be no faster or more effective way than by picking up a local sport. Here are the most common in some popular study destinations.
Sport has been an integral part of Australian culture since the founding of the nation, with sports like cricket, Australian rules football and rugby union being some of the most watched and played.
Australia’s sporting history is marked by great successes, stories and moments. Events like the Ashes, the Melbourne Cup and the America’s Cup have all helped form the Australian national identity in addition to their successes at the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games.
Being quite the cold nation in parts, Canadian sports often reflect its frigid nature, with ice hockey being by far the most common. They have also seen success in lacrosse, Canadian football, football, basketball, curling and baseball.
China has long been closely associated with the martial arts, though its size and diversity means China is a great supporter of a huge number of other sports, as its successes in the Olympics testifies to. Basketball, football, table tennis and volleyball are all frequently watched and practiced.
Like most European countries, football is France’s most popular sport, with just under 2,000,000 licensed league players. France is also known for its rugby, motorsports and, of course, cycling, with the Tour de France held there being the most prestigious cycling race.
There is no doubt that football, like many other countries, is the most popular sport. Germany has won the FIFA World Cup four times, while FC Bayern Munich has become one of the strongest club sides in the world.
Other popular sports include ice hockey, basketball, handball, motorsports and tennis.
Germany is one of the most successful sporting nations of all time, ranking third in total Olympic medal count and there are around 100,000 sports clubs in Germany. You surely won’t have to travel very far to find a sport that you both like and that is commonly played nearby.
Cricket is the most played sport in India, while football, hockey, badminton and tennis range in popularity depending on the area. Kabaddi is a sport that originated in India. A contact team sport, one player on each team runs into the opposition half and attempts to touch opposing team members then return to their home half. If the raider is tackled, however, the opposing team earns a point.
Popular sports in Japan include both traditional Asian competitions and more recent Western innovations. Sumo, judo, karate and kendo are inherently Japanese, massively popular and of great importance to the culture of the country, while baseball and football have also recently become commonly played.
Of course, becoming practiced at sumo or karate may take some time (and significant effort) for someone not from Japan, so it may perhaps be a little easier to break into Japanese culture via baseball or football.
There are around 35,000 sports clubs in the Netherlands, with over a quarter of the population registered. Around two thirds of the population older than 15 participates in sport at least once a week. To put if briefly, the Netherlands is a country of enormous sporting potential.
Football is the most popular, with hockey, volleyball, tennis, gymnastics and golf also enjoying great success. For something more local though, you could try fierljeppen (pole-vaulting over a river), klootschieten (similar to shotput) or korfball (a cross between netball and basketball).
Sweden is an incredibly active nation and it is estimated that around half the population occupy their leisure time with one sport or another. The most popular include handball, football, golf, athletics and gymnastics, while others like ice hockey, basketball and tennis are also common.
More particular to Sweden are the sports that make use of the country’s more unique environments, like kayaking, canoeing, deep sea diving, hiking, air ballooning, fishing and hunting. They may not be for the faint of heart, but they’re sure to make you some close friends!
Similar to Japan, Thailand’s sports of choice are a blend of the more local, traditional events and popular Western games that have recently taken hold. These two histories are most evident in Muay Thai, a combat sport similar to boxing and, of course, football.
Special mention should also go to golf, as Thailand has been described as the golf capital of Asia, with more than 200 world-class golf courses nationwide, attracting golfers from all over the world to PGA and LPGA tournaments.
The UK is the birthplace of golf, football, rugby, tennis, cricket, badminton and many more, while variations on some of its sports have found great success elsewhere. There are multitudes of options for sports you could pick up and you will no doubt find opportunities to practice even the less well known or popular sports of your choosing.
Britain prides itself on a great sporting tradition and its recent successes in the Olympics are emblematic of that. However, if you’re looking for something that’s easy to understand and play, football is your best bet here. There are clubs and practice pitches to be found across the islands and it is without doubt the most popular sport there with millions tuning in to watch Premier League games every week.
Some say sport in the United States is going through something of a revolution at the moment. A slow revolution, but one all the same. The country’s most popular sports, American Football, basketball and baseball, while remaining very popular, are currently being caught up to by hockey and football, both of which are gaining popularity among young people.
Similar to China and the UK, the US enjoys great success in a variety of sports and really, whatever you most have an interest in, you will be able to find a community that shares your interest.
The truth of it is that it is typical for a country to generally gravitate towards a particular sport or two, but most, if not all of these countries will have all sorts of options depending on your experience, your preference or your ambition.
Any sport is a great opportunity to meet new people and form friendships. And every person has the right sport for them. If you haven’t found yours yet, keep looking no matter which country you are in and you are bound to find something which suits you.
If you’re still undecided, go with football. That’s generally a pretty safe bet.