Expat Articles » Using Social Media To Make Your Move A Success
Advice for expats on staying connected in a mobile world
By Expat Arrivals
Its official, you’re moving overseas; but before you start bubble wrapping boxes and brainstorming your own bold and never before seen attempts at acclimation, it’s best to arm yourself with a clear idea of what to expect once you take the leap.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to have been teased abroad by a lucrative expat package, take advantage of your company connection and solicit your boss-to-be for advice and information. Request to be put in touch with expats either currently living in your future destination, or those who have returned and now live to tell the tale.
There’s no replacement for the value of direct information from an individual that you share a degree of common ground with. Some companies even sponsor support groups or have put into place mentoring programs to help prepare new assignees and their families.
A leg up and over
For those still “mad” about moving abroad, job or not, or even expats walking into a welcoming position, but with little help from their company, the hurdle of relocation is now more manageable than ever in lieu of the proliferation of social media. The dark ages have dropped away and now, it’s possible to obtain relevant data and to create a network that can let you hit the ground running well before your arrival.
While information-dense sites, like Expat Arrivals.com, are fantastic for providing the framework and foundations you’ll need to master the art of relocation, social media utilizes the staple of commonality and thus can help expats approach their future destination on a more personal level.
Sussing out the benefit of social media
Currently, there’s an unprecedented amount of user-generated content buzzing about the blogosphere, populating forums and of course, fuelling the fervent fires of social media powerhouses Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Wikipedia.
Expats need to take advantage of this increased sharing to learn about the idiosyncrasies of their destination. Spend time reading sites that have been built from the bottom up, like travel blogs and Wikis, to learn what others who’ve walked the line wished they knew beforehand.
Forums are also fantastic places to engage, source information and begin to reconcile your priorities with the realities of your home to be. Don’t be afraid to post queries you may have, as silly as they may seem, chances are it’s not an original. What’s more, this is your opportunity to instigate answers to questions you won’t find addressed in traditional resources. Very few formal Internet sites, and even less print publications, will be able to advise about whether “The Simpsons” is accessible in China, double breasted suits are the norm in Singapore, or if diapers are available and affordable in Angola.
What’s really socially acceptable?
Facebook and LinkedIn boast dedicated expat groups, and those moving abroad can find these virtual organisations through a quick search based on locality. These sites specifically cater to the idea that human connection is based on commonality, and so it’s often that you’ll even find groups within groups; devoted to specific work environments, interests, or to serve a popular purpose in your new country.
Be sure to join, and don’t feel hesitant about contacting the group administrator or other members in regard to concerns you may have. These individuals either created or joined the group under the umbrella of the same motivation, and more often than not, they’re happy to arrange a time to meet when you arrive.
Getting your social calendar sorted before that first Saturday night can often be the best thing an expat can do. Not to mention, these are great spots to find larger expat events and become familiar with what’s hot and what’s not from the comfort of your lounge.
No discussion about social networking sites would be complete without mentioning Twitter, a microblogging site that’s a boon for expatriates. Finding a friendly soul to answer your questions is as easy as searching general hashtags such as #expat – or more country-specific ones – and sending the tweeter a DM (Direct Message) with as many questions as the 140-character limit will allow. (Note that DMs can only be sent to people you follow.)
You can also send a message out into the twitterverse at large; as long as you add those hashtags to your tweet, anyone searching those specific terms will find your request for information.
The social exception
As simple and effective as social media can be, it’s important to recognize potential downsides and be wary of the weird ways of the world that online networking can invite onto your virtual doorstep.
For your own safety, don’t leave your common sense behind when you move. Be careful about revealing too much personal information, perhaps keep your exact location and contact information as vague as possible to begin with. If you make the decision to meet someone face to face that you’ve connected with via a social media resource do so in a public setting or bring a third party along.
Do your research prior to the event, read about their activities and engagements.
Remember also, that reading something online doesn’t make it reliable – it’s important to verify any information you receive.
Don’t let cyberspace box you in
Lastly, as simple and effective as social media can be for an expat relocating abroad, don’t allow the online world to get in the way of discovering a reality you desperately need to integrate into.
Don’t think of it as a substitute for immersing yourself in the host culture and engaging in face-to-face contact with real, live bodies. Use it wisely, and respect it for what it is: a tool for gathering information and connecting with people who can help you on your journey.
Social media gets your foot in the door; beyond that, it’s up to you to get out there and live your new life, offline.
About the author: Expat Arrivals is a site dedicated to easing expat transitions abroad. We publish comprehensive destination guides, unique articles and quirky expat interviews to help your move abroad become a success. Join us on Facebook or LinkedIn, or follow us on Twitter.