The Social Expat in Germany
It is hard to think back to an age before the Internet. Keeping in touch with friends and family in faraway lands is rarely a problem, as most of the world’s countries have Internet access. The Internet has introduced an age of fast and cheap communications and has made it possible even for people to connect with each other who have perhaps met only once or twice, if at all. Websites such as Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter have enabled people to share information, ideas and events. Others facilitate dating, business contacts, the exchange of political discourse, hobbies, etc. InterNations focuses on connecting global minds. In the last years they have become the biggest network for expats and international people worldwide and they offer regular get-togethers where expats can mingle and make new friends or meet potential business partners. If you want to kick-start the process of getting connected in Germany, check out the InterNations expat community.
As an Internet aficionado, one often forgets to maintain personal contact with people as it is often easier to send an email or have a quick chat. It is therefore important to leave the virtual world, get out of the house and have a cup of coffee with your colleague or neighbor in order to maintain real life contacts as well.
Now imagine that you are an expatriate moving to a foreign country, far away from your comfortable social circle. The human being is a social animal and needs to be in touch with other likeminded people. Of course the Internet is a welcome option and chatting away with friends on Skype is always a nice idea. However, it is equally important to have social and, more significantly, personal contact. If something were to happen to you and you were to require the assistance or emotional support of someone, it would be quite difficult and often expensive, for a friend from North Carolina to drop by in Zimbabwe to be by your side.
It is therefore particularly important for the expat to network in his/her new city of residence. Experiencing the same difficulty with the tedious and unfriendly lady at the bank, finding the same bakery absolutely amazing, or complaining about the delays the subway has been having lately with someone who is also new to the city, can be quite comforting. The expat in particular needs to build up a support system in his new surroundings and what better way than with people who went or are going through the same process of adaptation.
Social networking with like-minded people who are in the same situation abroad is therefore a vital step for expats in their new home. The exchange of information, insider tips and trick for bypassing the bureaucratic system, etc., are all things that help the expat find solid ground beneath his feet and not give him the feeling that he is floating aimlessly through space.
If expatriates go abroad for work, social networking is also a great way to meet potential business partners, find out about new job openings or attend seminars to enhance your know-how. In addition, trailing spouses who do not yet have a daily routine and are looking for some sort of occupation to pass the time, be it a bowling club, cooking classes, or a playgroup for their children. All these activities can be managed and organized through a social network.
As mentioned above, the Internet is quite useful for meeting new people, but what is truly important is socializing face-to-face in the real world. This is the element that is often lacking among online expat groups, the definitive push to organize an actual meeting in person.
Not only is it essential for expats to meet other expats, whether from the same country or not; meeting locals is of equal importance, if not even more! These are people who are interested in different cultures, who may not have the advantage to live in a foreign country, but who nonetheless crave an international atmosphere. Such locals are key to expats, as they will unwittingly help them internalize possible cultural differences, explain or excuse mishaps based on a cultural difference, give important pointers on how to act in certain situations, or even come along and personally help solve a problem. Therefore, when one mentions social networking, one should take into account both online and offline networking. People should use the online communities to exchange information and set up meeting places and then meet in real life to solidify these contacts and possibly even make lifelong friendships.
This article has been provided courtesy of InterNations, the leading online community for expatriates worldwide. InterNations is present with Local Communities in over 250 cities across the globe and aims to help expats socially integrate into their new cities abroad, both online and offline. Each month official InterNations Events take place in more than 150 cities around the world, creating a nice opportunity to get to know and celebrate with like-minded internationals. With its headquarters in Munich, the InterNations Germany community has been especially flourishing, connecting expats from more than 170 nations throughout the country from Hamburg to Munich.
Click here to see the InterNations survey results about expats in Germany.