Friday, October 08, 2010

How to Network When Living Abroad

[Claudine Williams wrote this guest post on behalf of MNUI, a travel insurance company. You might also want to check out her blog, "Korea-Diva".]

When living abroad for an extended period of time, it's a good idea to have a solid network of friends. You need people with whom you can share your experiences, laugh, or simply relax. However, because you are new to the country, finding new friends can be a challenging task. That's why you should try to network as much as you can, before you leave your home country.

Make friends in the new country, before you even leave home. This is a possibility, thanks to the Internet and social networking. You can find groups of people who are also traveling to your new country, or you can meet people who are already settled there.

I highly recommend using Facebook Groups on to meet friends with your interests who may be living abroad. You can find groups for just about everything on Facebook. If a group does not exist that meets your interests, you can create the group and see who joins. Your best bet, of course is joining an established group. Be as active as possible in the group. Answer questions. Post your own questions and form connections with people. People will eventually ask you to friend them or swap contact information for sharing additional information. Of course, be careful about sharing any personal information on the Internet. You may only feel comfortable with sharing an email address, not your home address or phone number. You may decide to keep all contact limited to Facebook. Be as cautious as possible when interacting with people you don't know, but get to know them. It is definitely possible to safely make friends on the Internet.

To meet people in person, try using These groups have in-person meetings, so people can connect. While in your new country, for example, you may join a meet-up group for going to movies or taking adventure trips. You may join a meet-up group for people who are learning the language spoken in your new country. Just like in Facebook, there are a variety of meet-up groups. With meet-up, you can meet a large group of people in person, depending on the size of the group.

Of course, you can go the traditional routes of meeting people in bars or at parties. Bring business cards with you or create name cards with your name, email address, and cell number. You can also opt to add the person to your cell phone while you are at the venue. I've had people ask me to call them, or they will call me, to exchange numbers during social events. When attending social functions, be prepared to meet new people, and be approachable. If people are not approaching you, approach them. If you are introverted, make a goal of approaching at least two or three people and introducing yourself and chatting for at least four minutes. Don't be tempted to simply say hello and move on. Ask the people about themselves. Getting them to talk about themselves is a great first step to starting a conversation and increasing your network.