Working away from home can be an exciting experience as you further develop your career on the international scene and learn first hand what it is like to live in a new country. Whilst the daily work routine can take you from your office to your hotel room or apartment, some people also want to make new friends beyond those who they are working with. So, how do you do this?
1. Find out if your employer organises anything for the new arrivals
Many employers have welcome dinners and lunches and some will organise weekend activities and trips. These are great as they provide you with time to get to know the people who you already work with but, away from your official duties and in a different setting. Some shop talk will probably take place as that is what connects you and I think that’s fine. You can however further network, making enquires about things to do and places to go which are of specific interest to you. In the past, colleagues have been great in suggesting, exercise classes, jazz clubs and vegetarian restaurants on the back of casual comments they have overheard from me.
2. Research what groups exist or start your own
It is important to find a group that fits your range of interests. Some of the information may be on line or may come from colleagues. The process for joining groups is usually simple. Some groups may need to see your passport to verify that you are at expatriate. On completing your registration, you’ll receive the alerts for your chosen groups and can then attend when an event you’re ready. These groups are often flexible and will allow you to bring along a friend as they may have been expatriates in other countries themselves.
Meet up groups pop up all the time and allow for easy set up too. If you have an interest that is currently not being met in a group and you’d like to meet other like minded people, you are free to create your own group. Any new group, provides a scenario for networking towards other social or business ventures and a great way to meet new people. There is always loads of potential in attending or in creating a group!
3. What is on offer ?
I have worked in the UK, Ghana, Malaysia and Jamaica. In all of these countries, there are groups for expatriates and ‘Meet-up’ groups. The meet-up groups will focus on one area such as Photography, Online entrepreneurial opportunities, Vegans eating out and Hiking. They are varied and, like the groups which I have attended in Accra and Kuala Lumpur, I found a balance of local and expatriate individuals at the events. In Accra, I joined the hiking group and completed the climb to the top of Mt Afadjato in the Volta region. It was an amazing challenge and bonding opportunity alongside 5 other climbers. In The curious Travellers group, I visited Machap Baru New Village in Malacca as part of a group of 11 ‘curious travellers’. In both of these groups, there were local and expatriate members . I learnt some local history. and in Accra and Kuala Lumpur, no trip would be complete without good food and the stories behind each dish!
4. Meeting new people is really OK
The thought of meeting new people, in a new country might leave you feeling nervous. Think of all of the new experiences you’re already having and you can add this to them! My general experience of living and travelling abroad is that most people are really nice and very friendly! They are often as curious about me as I am about them. In Malaysia and Accra, there are many ethnic and tribal groups. People often have asked me where I am from and, being of Jamaican parentage usually leads to at least one person singing their favourite Bob Marley song. That generates laughter, more sharing of favourite songs and discussions on the popularity of Bob and now Bolt!
- Enjoy the process of living and working abroad.
- If you are naturally shy, you can set yourself a goal of meeting one person at events that you attend
- Exchanging business cards is only necessary if that feels right
- Try to get to know local and expatriate individuals along your journey to gain a wider insight into the country.