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Whether moving because of a lifestyle change, a spouse's job or a work assignment, it's common for expatriates to arrive in a new country without knowing anyone. Often, the first step to establishing friendships and integrating with locals is connecting with other expats.
Finding opportunities to connect with expats and building a network of friends doesn't have to be difficult. Here are three suggestions for expanding one's social network abroad.
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It's no surprise that the Internet is the first place many individuals will look for other expatriates. Websites like InterNations and AngloINFO boast social networks with millions of members in almost every city in the world - and offer free memberships.
Matt Beaubien, a Canadian expat, and founder and CEO of OctaneNation, a network for automotive enthusiasts, utilizes InterNations' information forums to learn about a city's community and cultural differences before arriving. He also checks the site for information on monthly networking events. "Regular, in-person events are important for having strong community," he says.
AngloINFO's discussions forum was an invaluable resource for Maia Neumann before her move from the U.S. An American expat and owner of Yumbox, she regularly found information on housing costs, neighborhood information and the pros and cons of living in Nice, France.
Members of InterNations and AngloINFO consistently attend events, post about local happenings and share personal experiences, ensuring the information is up to date.
Joining a club can also be an invaluable resource for new residents. For example, the International Newcomers Club lets newcomers network with expatriates who have similar interests and lifestyles. And because it also caters to expats with children, parents in a new country will find a simple way to connect.
Another resource, the Association of American Clubs (AAC) is an alliance of American clubs, societies and associations that spans more than 20 countries. It connects U.S. expats and provides information about local cultures.
Sheridan Becker is a U.S. expat, living in Brussels, Belgium, and editor at Bon Voyage, a European-based travel magazine, as well as a children's and travel book author. She attends club gatherings at the American Women's Club of Brussels and the American Club of Brussels to meet with other U.S. expats. "There is a common bond as an American expat that can't be duplicated in any other environment," she says.
If an expat plans on joining a club or one of these organizations, he or she can use the services of a trusted online foreign exchange provider to submit one-time or ongoing foreign payments for membership fees.
Since common interests create automatic connections, joining a club, sports team or volunteer organization can help individuals meet other expats. "You're able to meet new people, discover a new country and do something you enjoy," Becker says.
No matter the country, meeting with expats in the area is a surefire way to learn from their experiences - good or bad - and adjust more quickly to the local culture and community.
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