There is no recipe to make an expatriation a great moment in your life but meeting new people from totally different backgrounds in term of culture, profession, religion, social status, is one of the best things about living abroad. Of course for most people it is really hard to meet new people when moving to another location leaving behind close friends and family.
In general women are good at networking but expat women are particularly good to create brand new relationships with other expats, co-workers or other women. I lived mainly in Europe, Japan and the United States and each country or region has its specificity but globally here the five main reasons why expat women makes friends with people they don’t know much quicker than people who live in the same place for long periods of time.
1-A sense of urgency: When you arrive in an unknown place the first thing you need is to set up a good medical support: Family physician, pediatrician, dentists, OB/GY, emergency room etc. Expat women usually either don’t know the language, don’t trust the local medical practices or won’t turn to the yellow pages and ads in local newspapers. In most cases it is easier to meet other expat women who can explain the healthcare system and recommend the doctors that speak your language or English. If you have children in international schools you usually meet people coming from all over the world and feel included more rapidly than if your kids go to local public schools with very few foreigners living in your town. This motivates even the most shy person to ask for help and search the internet for local support groups. I have been doing that for 20 years and I am lucky to be French and lived in big cities like Tokyo or New York where the French expat communities are very active. Even in suburban New Jersey I found such a group of about 100 french speaking families organizing monthly networking events.
2-Expats never know how long they will stay: on average I have moved every three years for 20 years so I have to make friends quickly but this is the hardest part of being an expatriate. No matter how friendly or understanding people are in your local community, they have no idea what you are going through what is called “culture shock”. It can be really frustrating to be ignorant about what other people take for granted and don’t even think that you are not aware of local customs, unspoken rules and habits. It takes a good 6 months to one year even for the most seasoned expat to make really good friends and adopt a new culture. Hopefully for the last 5 years or so, the growing usage of social networking and the internet in general has helped expats tremendously to connect on a global scale. I have made many friends virtually on expat forums, through blogs,Twitter or Linkedin sometimes having virtual conversations for years before even knowing my next destination. I am always amazed and thrilled when I finally meet face to face the person with whom I feel emotionally connected already, it definitively helps feeling at home faster.
3-Women are better at nurturing relationships. With men, when you buy something even a house, once the deal is done, you cannot really count on extras like recommendations for where to shop, a hair salon, gym, schools and children-related topics. For example for the last move I met great american women and good service providers through my local real estate agent who is not an expat but she is such a great listener and connector I can really call her a friend.
4-Great listeners and communicators. living abroad makes expat women great listeners and communicators. When you don’t know the culture and the language well, you need to make special efforts to understand what people are saying to you both verbally and with body language. You have to ask questions or rephrase to clarify the messages. You also have to be creative and test various strategies to get yourself heard and become assertive.
5-Natural collaborators: Expat women can be corporate managers, entrepreneurs or stay-at-home moms, the are successful at what they do because they love doing project together. As expats we search other like-minded people we enjoy to be with to accomplish something by combining our talents. A collaborative spirit reign among expats and if you search expat women resources you will see more collaboration than competition.\ even among entrepreneurs such as expat coaches or cross-cultural trainers.
Being a great networker makes you a better leader, marketer or entrepreneur and an effective communicator to thrive in non-familiar, complex environments.
Are Expat Women Good Friends ?
What do you think ?