@Stacker I asked myself the same question 18 months ago. I moved to Essen, Germany and quickly found a job as a Software Entwickler in Duisburg. I had a couple private lessons back in the UK before I moved here and once in Germany I tried to speak German whenever possible.
After a month though the novelty wore off and the reality check hit hard. I was just another Brit in Germany who knew how to order in a restaurant and explain where I came from. It didn't help that I was talking English all day in the office either.
Realise native speakers don't always want or have time to be friends with you
The simple fact is that unless you do have a reasonably good conversation skills it will be difficult to chat and become friends with native speakers. Ask yourself this simple question. In your home country do you take time to make friends with non English/Dutch speakers and correct them along the way. Do you like meeting up with strangers who spent 10 minutes trying to explain what they had for breakfast? Probably not and neither do most native German speakers. Germans are also very conservative people, more so than English people I find. Here are three things I recommend. They are working for me.
1. Develop a habit of listening first so you can pick up new phrases, vocabulary you can use in conversation.
The first thing to do is make sure you develop a habit of regularly learning new vocabulary each day. At first I was good at speaking German and had memorised many phrases but often had to switch back to English when the shopkeeper or waitress replied with something I didn’t expect. I started by signing up to a podcast Germanpod101 and listened to a new episode on the train every day commuting between Duisburg and Essen.
The beginner series is quite funny and the dialogue is between a German girl and an American guy in Berlin. They cover all the basic topics and also explain a lot about culture and useful phrases and practices specific to Germany. It really helped me pick up some useful phrases. There is an app too so you can view the script pdfs on your phone/computer and also play the dialogues at various speeds and line by line.
2. Make sure you are looking for a German speaker in the right places
Look for people who want to learn English / Dutch from you at same time. I use language tandem apps like Tandem and Speaky. I can find native Germans to speak to who are also looking to talk to a native English speaker. The apps are simple messaging apps but allow users to correct each others message and it highlights which words / Grammar they corrected.
I prefer Speaky as it has a web interface I can use so can type faster. I engage in conversations each day with people and even met up with one guy on there called Dennis as he lived also in Duisburg. Through meeting him I found out something else important.
3. Realise that the best people to practice with are not necessarily native speakers.
If you want get better at something quickly hang around with people who are already doing it but just a little bit better than you. As humans we adapt to our surroundings and become the average of the people we share most of our time with. Native speakers won’t always be able to explain the grammar.
I had a colleague who could not explain why in German you say ‘fliege nach Italien” but “fliege in die Türkei“. Die Türkie has an article so you say "fly in the turkey" not "fly to turkey”. Because you are flying into turkey (wohin) you use accusative case so it stays as ’in die Türkei” not “in der” (Dativ case). This is just basic A2 level German.
The best people to help with these questions are therefore other people learning the language who may already be a level or two ahead of you. Through Dennis I met some of his friends who were also learning German and also found about a language exchange that takes place every
month in Essen at a bar called Felis. I visit twice a month and we all comment on how much we have improved and help each other out.