Wednesday 16th May 2012

Making friends as an expatriate

Quite often the success of an expatriate assignment can hinge on the speed at which you meet like-minded people with whom you can form friendships and who can help you to settle into life away from home. In order to do this it is often extremely important that you start to network with fellow expatriates and locals alike and many expats are all too aware of the need to get out there and socialize. However, many expats make the same mistakes that impact their ability to meet new friends. Here is our lowdown of seven mistakes that expats should avoid when meeting new people.


1) Judging on First Impressions

Do you ever find yourself meeting new people and instantly making a decision as to whether they are a potential suitable friend for you or not? When you are new to a country and you meet friendly people you really should avoid prejudging them. Give everyone you meet your time and energy, over time you will be in a better position to make a decision as to whether or not you can be really good friends.


2) Failing to Follow Up

When you are new to a country you will meet a lot of new people and you will find yourself with a large number of cards and contact numbers. Many expatriates make the same mistake of failing to follow up on these. While it can take a lot of guts to pick up the phone and dial the number of someone you only met briefly, the truth is that they gave you their number and they were therefore expecting you to call them. Making new friends will take some effort on your behalf and if people have reached out to you and asked you to get in touch then you should do exactly that.


3) Not Listening

As with all things in life, listening is extremely important and when you meet people for the first time you should really listen to them in order to understand what drives, interests and motivates them. Only then will you be in a position to understand what you have in common and what really makes this person tick. When you next meet them you can ask after their interests and this will help you to form a rapport with them.


4) Talking About Yourself Too Much

If you have followed point three then this should not be too much of a problem but many expatriates make the mistake of focusing on themselves when they first meet a new person. Keen to impress and demonstrate why they would make a great friend they are so engrossed in providing details of their own lives that they fail to show interest in the person they have met. This will get you nowhere in the popularity stakes.


5) Failing to Make an Effort

Many expatriates may be planning on staying in a given location for a short period of time and may therefore think that there is no point in trying to make an effort to network with new people. This is often referred to as short-timer syndrome. If you move to a new country with the attitude that there’s no point in trying to make friends then you will end up isolated and alone. Even if the situation is temporary it seems like a terrible waste of an opportunity. Embrace your time overseas, no matter how short it may be and get out there and meet people.


6) Only Focusing on What is in it For You

If you are meeting people and immediately questioning what they can do for you, who they can introduce you to and what doors they may be able to open for you, you have the wrong attitude. Take a long-term approach to networking and meeting friends and acknowledge that, while not everyone will be instantly able to get you into the right social circles or get your resume in front of key recruitment consultant, they may just be great friends anyway and you should make every effort to get to know them.


7) Giving in to Your Fear

Putting yourself out and trying to make friends can be an extremely daunting process, especially if you are shy or lack confidence. Quite often making new friends and networking can involve talking to strangers and the prospect of this can be so terrifying that some expats fail to make an effort at all, hoping that one day the right friend will just come knocking on their door. Try and set yourself small targets and each day take yourself a little further out of your comfort zone. You really will get out of it what you put into it.

What networking mistakes did you make when you first moved overseas?

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