Recently, I hosted a coffee morning at home. I wanted to ask some of the expat entrepreneurs I had interviewed in the blog to share their experience on how to meet other expats outside an office setting.
To give you a little bit of context, most of the people I interact with on a regular basis are women who are working from home, working part-time, full-time mothers, volunteers and entrepreneurs. Most of them do not have a 9 am - 5 pm job, so they depend largely on their daily activities to network and meet other people outside an office environment.
In a recent post, I mentioned the difficulty of being the “trailing spouse”, the partner who follows the other one around the world for him or her to pursue his/her dream (s) and career (s). On the flip side, the opportunities in doing so are countless and so are the advantages; like having the flexibility of time and the possibility to pursue something new and different.
Undoubtedly, it is not easy to leave behind your career, colleagues as well as your financial independence. Many of us invested long hours and big amounts of money in our education. However; the privilege of living a nomadic lifestyle gives us the benefit of adding more to our lives that has nothing to do with what we do for a living. It took me a while to grasp the fact that there is so much more to us than having an office title.
Ever wonder how expat women make friends in their host countries? After a frank and constructive talk with other expat entrepreneurs, I came up with five ideas on how to get to know other expats outside an office environment.
Go local - Like in many cities around the world, there are weekly activities in town that you might find interesting. You can sign up for photowalks or traditional cooking classes or visit charities that give back to the community. This is a way to get a higher appreciation of the place you’re in and to meet people with similar interests. Leaving our comfort zones and what’s familiar to us (neighborhoods, beliefs, stereotypes) allows us to enrich our lives and help create new memories. Diversity is part of what makes our expat lives so interesting.
Volunteer - This is a way to connect with others through a hands-on, face-to-face experience that allows you to get to know people while at the same time make a difference. In my years as an expat, I have met wonderful people through volunteering and I even got a part-time position while living in Nepal. Volunteering often times results into more meaningful relationships than the ones you’d have at social or formal events.
3. Share a skill - Do you speak different languages? Do you know how to use a software, program or tool that could be helpful to others? Have you taught crafts, music, yoga or meditation before? Your assets can help build other people’s skills while at the same time help you to create a supportive and creative environment around you. Join a Facebook group or advertise at online platforms the assistance you can provide. To make it consistent, propose a time and a date that aligns with your schedule and lifestyle.
4. Pursue a hobby - What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Perhaps you’ve wanted to learn how to knit or how to use that fancy camera you bought a while back? What about making your own tea blends, baking vegan desserts or making your own cruelty-free skin care products? Whatever you have been wanting to do is possible with a little bit of time and creativity. If you passionately share your ideas with others, it is likely that someone will talk about it with their friends who might later want to contact you. But don’t wait for people to find you. Start where you are, share your passions with the world or behind the scenes photos of your projects to create momentum. People, women in particular, are usually looking for ways to try something new that brings them closer to others. Give it a go!
5. Start a meet up group - During my time in Jordan I’ve reached out a couple of times to people I didn’t know. In all honesty, it was not easy but the more you do it, the less uncomfortable it gets. The first time I did it was to ask people if they wanted to join a monthly vegan/vegetarian meet-up group. The second time was to start an accountability group in order to advance with my creative business. In both instances there were people interested and, months later, we still meet on a monthly and weekly basis respectively. Don’t be afraid to reach out! Chances are there are other expat women hoping to find an opportunity to meet more people as well.
So there you have it, 5 ways in which you can get to know other expats outside an office environment. Below you will find other resources, online platforms and Apps that can also help you meet interesting people and enrich your life as an expat.
Meet Up - Based on your interests in film, food, outdoor activities, languages, hobbies and a myriad of other pursuits, Meet-Up helps you connect with people who are active or interested in the same areas as you are. You need to sign-up on their website and give information on your location so that they can connect you or help you start a group. I am not a part of it but as I was exploring their site, I would be interested to know how to reach other vegan and animal activists in my area. What an easy way to find a tribe!
Internations - This is a site very popular amongst expats. It is a place for networking and to find other professionals in town. Internations is also a resource of information for job opportunities, tips on the host country, housing, meet-ups and advice by expats for expats. What my friends have said though, is that many of the activities Internations organizes revolve around drinking scenes. If you do not like that kind of setting you could ask in the forums if there’s another type of activity that you could join that adheres more to your preferences.
Like a Local - This site gets useful travel information from local people in thousands of cities around the world. Suggestions on where to go, what to do and local places to eat are some of the helpful tips you’ll find there. They also have an App that has maps, tours and activities you can explore.
We are Bamboo / Global Volunteer Network) - From their website: “Over the last 15 years, GVN and The Bamboo Project have placed 36,189 volunteers on projects around the world and opened the eyes of international travelers to new cultures and customs globally. They've raised almost $2.5 million in project donations and have generated tens of thousands of volunteer hours for needy and worthwhile projects.”
Rotary International - With decades of recognition and more than 1.2 million members worldwide, their programs and causes bring people together to offer relief and solutions to different global issues. There are Rotary Clubs all over and they not only facilitate that you meet local members but also help you meet those who come visit from other countries. The interesting dynamic about this organization is that the aim is to help others while traveling or living overseas.
What about you? Do you have any suggestions on how to join or create an expat network? Please share your comments below. Every idea will help expat women to connect with other women in this nomadic lifestyle!