The importance of networking when you are an expat
Moving abroad is both exciting and unnerving. The opportunities for adventure, getting to know another land, its culture and its people make up for a rich experience.
Yet, as human beings we are built in a way that makes us seek for things which are familiar, those that give us some level of comfort even as we openly pursue the strange and unfamiliar.
Finding yourself in a new country
Finding yourself in a new country makes you realise that you do not have your network with you anymore.
If you are an international assignee, your company’s HR department may be able to help you with the basic stuff and you have the opportunity to meet new people via your work.
But when you are a trailing spouse or accompanying partner, the experience can be doubly overwhelming.
Simple tasks like knowing where to buy whole wheat organic bread and finding one’s way around with the public transport may be enough to trigger a meltdown when you realise there is simply no one you can phone and ask.
The first few months become a struggle in terms of settling in and making sense of a strange language for instance. The need to connect with other people who are going through or have undergone the same experiences can be very helpful.
Networking, like any form of human contact arises from our desire to be connected to others. This need could not be stronger than when you find yourself in a foreign country, without the support of your friends and family.
It is one thing to meet people at the store where you frequently do your grocery shopping or at the butcher where you buy your meat. It is another thing to meet people in an organised setting by joining a group or association, be it casual or formal.
Websites and publications dedicated to expats are very useful tools and rich sources of general information. However, I have learned that the best way to get acquainted and experience the local culture is through first hand accounts and recommendations of fellow expats.
Why expats should join nextworks
Networking comes in many forms. It can be through a language class, a group or association made up of citizens from the same country, a business network, knitting or quilting clubs or a playgroup.
Here are some reasons why it is important to go out there and join a network:
› People who attend networking events are more open to new things / ideas, so you get to meet people who are as enthusiastic as you are about making new connections.
› You meet like-minded individuals whom you share common goals or interests with, or who may come from the same country of birth.
› People who network are quite friendly and eager to know others. Some lasting friendships have been formed in the expat circuit, even as parties move on to other countries for other assignments.
› Meeting an eclectic group of people from different cultures in one melting pot makes you appreciate and celebrate the diversity of the world we live in.
› You get to learn new things and expand your circle.
› You will have access to all kinds of information like where to find a good organic market, the best Japanese restaurant in town or how to find a babysitter through a network of au pairs and house help.
› You do not sit at home and mope, and get lonely because you will stop feeling socially isolated!
The advantage these days is that there are all kinds of groups and associations out there to satisfy every networking need or goal. The key is finding the right match to your personal networking goals so you can embark on an enriching expat journey.
Expat networks for women in The Hague
From my own experience, I have discovered first hand the benefits of joining two remarkable networks in The Hague. My life has been definitely richer and a new world has been opened up for me, which would not have been possible to find even in my current employment.
› Women's Business Initiative International
The monthly networking event at the Women’s Business Initiative International, an incubator and business center for women entrepreneurs, is a fertile setting to meet women in various stages of starting or running their own small businesses.
Collaborating and learning new ideas through these helpful and encouraging women who are willing to share their own expertise, experiences and the ups and downs of running one’s own business definitely makes it an event worth attending.
› Connecting Women
Connecting Women on the other hand is an English-speaking community of both international and local women. The meeting is as rich and varied in themes as the women who make up the association.
You do not have to be a member to attend the meetings. Sessions cover a wide range of topics with different speakers who are experts in their chosen fields, from ExpatWomen.com founder Andrea Martins to the Antiques Diva herself Toma Haines.
And the energy in these meetings and conversations are quite vibrant. You walk away from it feeling alive and rejuvenated. That itself is reason alone why you should go and try it out.
The ability to network is a skill
The ability to network effectively is one of the most important skills an expat can have. It is an activity that works both ways, it could benefit you and the people you are in contact with, so giving and receiving information is vital.
Sharing is the key word and one has to be proactive and realise that it is all about building relationships long after the initial meeting.