InterNations: Connecting a World of Global Minds

Featured, Staying Connected, Working Abroad — By on July 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

If you’re an expat, or have ever dreamed of living and working abroad, you might be aware of all there is to think about with such a move. With members based in over 200 cities across the world, online expat community InterNations wants to help you in the process of taking your life global–whether through relocation guides, monthly “offline” get-togethers in 100 cities,  or online forums with other members.

InterNations expat communityThe globalized world in which we live today gives us the chance to travel fast and far. The world is our oyster and there are only few obstacles for us when we attempt to follow our dreams of swimming in Caribbean lagoons, of bungee-jumping off a bridge in New Zealand or road-tripping through Russia.

But this freedom does not only apply to those who yearn to travel the world but also to those who want to take their career to a whole new level. More and more companies operate internationally and are more than willing to hire an international work force.

But for those expatriates, moving abroad is only the beginning of their journey. The first few weeks are particularly challenging, no matter if it is their first time in another country or if they have travelled abroad before. After all, they have to deal not only with the cultural differences but have to learn how to fit in at work and within a foreign society.

On InterNations, people living and working abroad interact, find help and extend their circle of friends in their new home. As one of the leading expat communities, InterNations is constantly growing. Currently, the network has about 300,000 members from all over the world and offers more than 270 local communities.

InterNations’ members are familiar with the effects of culture shock, the issues that come with trying to settle into a new life, and other side-effects of living an international life. Jim from New Zealand is on his third expat assignment right now. He has a clear strategy for dealing with culture shock: “The first two weeks are nothing but exciting. In the two weeks that follow, I try to establish my life in a new culture, join a few clubs and become acquainted with everything. The two weeks after that are make it or break it!”

Not everybody can keep this tight schedule of course. But even those who are not as quick to adapt as Jim try to develop strategies that help them settle into their life far away from home. Margarete and her husband have moved from country to country ever since they left Austria. She knows that going outside and exploring a new home is essential. “Whenever we arrive in a new city, the first thing we do is to find a good place to eat the local food and a place with live music where we can get in touch with the locals. This helps us get the feel for a new place.”

And Omar, an expat from Morocco, adds: “Observe, even study the locals, and try to pick up on how they act, talk, dress and work.” He has just returned to Morrocco after spending two years in Ecuador and Chile. “It helps you to interact with them and to find out more about their priorities and values. You will learn to accept your new home just the way it is.”

Online Community InterNationsJust like most travelers and adventurers, expatriates enjoy exchanging stories and experiences on InterNations. A large part of the conversation takes place online, of course, but many expatriates also meet in real life at one of the many official local events. In a relaxed, global atmosphere, the language barrier and cultural differences are always a topic of the conversation.

Tomas, a French expat in Hong Kong explains: “I had to rely on my colleagues a lot in the beginning, to help me with the language. But after a while you just develop ways to deal with it.” He laughs when he remembers his struggles with Cantonese. “I began to carry a sketchpad with me whenever I went to a store. If I was looking for apples, I would draw an apple and show it to the sales clerk…”

Gwendolyn faced entirely different issues when she left London to live in Zimbabwe. “What I struggled most with was the speed of life – or rather the lack of it. There is this non-haste at getting things done. It’s always tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Despite cultural differences, many global minds catch the travel bug and never return back home. Marisol is one of them. She left Porto, Portugal, when she was 25 and has lived abroad for over 15 years now. “After I’ve lived in places like Tokyo, Sydney and Geneva, I could not imagine going back to a place where there is just one language and one culture.”

For people like Marisol, the concept of “home” can become a tricky one, after many years or even decades abroad. Is “home” where you were born? Is it the country in which you have lived the longest or, as the saying goes, is it where the heart is? Marisol has pondered these questions as well: “All these clichés about heart and loved ones and ancestors come to mind. I have finally decided that home is where I have a bed with my own pillows and blankets, that smell and feel like me.”

At the end of the day, InterNations members come from all kinds of backgrounds and represent all types of expatriates. There are those who move abroad for a short assignment before they return back home. There are those who become global nomads and never become tired of experiencing foreign cultures. And then, there are those who move abroad and never look back.

If you’re interested in connecting with other global minds, check out InterNations and get in touch!

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