When you arrive in your new city, whether it is for a “trial stay” or something more permanent, you may have some preconceived notions about the expat community. Some people, eager to immerse themselves in the local culture, may feel that getting too involved with the expat community means being exiled to “gringolandia” forever. But that need not be the case.
Not only can the expat community serve as an important source of support during those initial few days (weeks, months) of acclimatization, but they can also be the people who can provide an introduction to the local culture as well.
So how do you get introduced to the expat subculture in any given city? Hopefully, contacting TCI will be one of your first steps.
TCI’s network of expats is looking to establish one-on-one relationships with prepats so they provide information, resources, and a helping hand to guide you through the process.
Beyond TCI, there are a number of organizations that you can use as a resource even before you step onto the plane if you are eager to get started.
One of these is InterNations , which is an organization that has a presence in 390 cities worldwide and 2.9 million members. Most cities have monthly events that bring together both locals and expats from all over the world that are either residents or visitors.
There are also a number of special interest groups that have activities ranging from hiking and beach volleyball to dining out or attending cultural events –6,000 activities around the world each month, according to their website.
You can either get an unpaid membership that gives you access to the website and the calendar of events or you can become an Albatross member that entitles you to a wide scope of privileges, including contacting other members directly.
Check out the web sites
There are also numerous websites that you can connect to, like www.expat.com that will help you with your journey. On the site, you can list where you are (will be) an expat and receive emails specifically tailored to that country. There are forums where you can ask questions, events, real estate listings, a job board, and classifieds.
A number of cities also have expat-oriented newsletters–a great way to learn about the goings-on (and issues) of a city well before you arrive. For example, in Cuenca, Ecuador there are two online publications: Cuenca High Life and the Gringo Post. And then there is Expat Living Singapore, Expatriate Magazine Paris, and Expat LIfe in Thailand, to name a few. Most of these publications have online forums or message boards where you can ask specific questions.
Where the expats hang out
Once you arrive in town, it’s typically not too difficult to find out where the expats hang out since there are bars and restaurants where they congregate–look for the English names.
In fact, there’s a number of expats, imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit, that have developed businesses specifically to appeal to other expats.
If you’re feeling particularly outgoing, you can always put a note in the local expat publication or on a Facebook expat group site, saying you are new to town and would love to meet some fellow expats. It may seem rather bold, but I’ve seen it done numerous times.
Keep in mind that there are as many types of expats as there are cities that they flock to. There are some who are so determined to integrate into the local culture that they avoid all contact with other expats like they have some contagious disease. There are others who are so determined to recreate their U.S. life in their home country that they make no attempt to learn even the basics of the local language.
However, for the most part, expats are a friendly lot, eager to help others avoid the pitfalls that they fell into, predisposed to making new friends, and truly hoping that you will love your new home as much as they do. And those are precisely the people you want to meet.
Are you an expat looking to pave the way for others or a prepat looking for assistance? Please get in touch!