Building A Social Network After Moving Abroad
There’s a certain amount of fear that accompanies relocating: how will you reestablish yourself in your new home? Your social networks - friends, coworkers, family - do not usually move with you. You will have to learn both the physical and social geography of your new home without many of the supports you once had.
When relocating abroad, you might experience language barriers and cultural differences that may only magnify your fears. Whether you are thinking about moving, are in the process of relocating or have recently relocated, here some tactics you could use to build your new social network.
1. Lay the seeds of connection
Before you start packing your bags and booking tickets, test your network. Reach out to friends, coworkers, family, college alumni or your college alumni association and ask if they have contacts in your new country. It’s easier to gain their contacts than to start from zero and struggle on your own. Once you have a few contacts, you can ask about your new home: what is it like culturally or socially? What are some pro-tips to help you fit in better? Doing some of the social legwork pre-departure will help you feel less lost and alone on arrival.
2. Join a local social group
The first order of business post-arrival should be finding where the locals are. This will help you integrate into your new home and feel more at ease. So join a large social group like a church or salsa club, volunteer to help students after school, or find a recreational sports team. The most important thing is to attend diligently.
3. Take advantage of your connections with co-workers
While there are many unknowns when moving abroad, some facts are known. The first is that your new coworkers will be working alongside you. This makes them an easy and ready social resource for you. Many of them may be old hats at either your branch of the company or living abroad. Some might be like you: international newbies looking for a new network. Make use of them as a resource and don’t be shy in asking for help. People usually won’t offer themselves unless they know or think you need it. A coffee during your lunch break with a coworker or some beers afters work can go a long way.
4. Discover other expats in your city
Expats are a ready-made social network. Instead of toiling fruitlessly in search of native friends, why not just meet up with others who’ve gone before and stumbled their way into social networks? Expats can often be found through various social platforms such as Meetup.com, or by searching “expat groups in (your desired town)” on Google or Facebook.
5. Bring the locals to you
AirBnB is a great tool not only for housing, but also for meeting locals and building a social network. Your host might indicate hopping social venues or cheap shopping spots. Even if AirBnB is not feasible, you might also try living with a local roommate as an easy path to meeting locals. You might also simply make a concerted effort to meet and know your neighbors. Using any of these options will expand your social network and help you integrate after you relocate.
6. Try social apps
If you’ve tried all these tips and you are still hitting a wall, social apps can be your another recourse. Mobile apps like Tinder or Bumble (set to BFF only) are a good way to dip your toes into the ocean of social life. These apps work to varying degrees abroad so you’ll have to explore and see if they have active user populations. Sometimes, there might be another similar, but more popular, social app in your region.
At the end of the day, the challenge for the American abroad is to find any excuse to strike up a conversation. Once you’ve locked someone in conversation, odds are better that you’ll make a connection. Social networks are stronger if you’re not solely relying on coworkers to be friends, so try to diversify who you know and where you go.