I’ll admit that it can be tough living by yourself as a foreigner in a country so far away from your homeland. Everything is new and exciting, but can also be confusing or frightening. Due to the high level of uncertainty and fear, many people find that reaching out to others who have been in their situation before and survived to tell the tale is one of the best possible solutions. I can’t say if this is the right or wrong way to go about being an adult and starting a new life in a foreign land, but I can give my two yen about how it’s worked for me so far.
Funny enough, when I first started writing this I had no idea I’d have so much to say on a single topic. Due to the surplus amount of writing and not wanting to put up a wall of text, I’ve decided to split this entry up into three separate blogs. This is Part 1 – an introduction and overall thoughts on expat communities.
What is an Expat Community?
An expat community is any group of foreigners who band together, either in person or online, to ask questions, share experiences, and stave off homesickness. No matter what country you hail from, the majority of expat communities are comprised of people from many different countries, though I’m sure it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to find a group of people from just your homeland.
If you’re not sure where to look to find an expat community, there’s a good chance that the company that hired you to work in another country has a Facebook group or other social media outlets where employees can exchange ideas and answers questions. From there, you can branch out to find a group that suits your needs. For me, personally, I used the app LINE to stay in contact with coworkers, as I don’t have Facebook or any other social media most foreigners use.
Why Make or Join an Expat Community?
For a lot of foreigners moving to a new country, there is a steep learning curve to almost everything. Buying groceries, interacting with coworkers, breaking through the language barrier, making friends, being respectful, finding a new job; all of these things seem like daunting tasks if you have no clue how to do any of them in a different country.
The internet can only get you so far. Many people (myself included, I guess, though I just write more about personal experiences and less about ‘how to do xyz activity’) write on their blogs or websites about how to do these tasks or social interactions the correct way. Yet, every person is different, and not all situations are exactly the same.
Just because I was able to do something one way doesn’t mean someone else can always replicate my success. Just because I reached an impasse during a situation doesn’t mean that others can’t prevail. I’ve come to understand that the overall reason to join or seek out an expat community is to have a support system for those times when you just don’t know what to do and can’t find advice for your situation anywhere else.
It’s not hard to see the merits of helping others who are struggling to make a life for themselves in a foreign land. If you have helpful information, you can pass on your experiences and tips to help someone in need. If you yourself don’t know something, hopefully someone else will be able to guide you through what you should do based on their knowledge or experiences.
Having said that, I’ve found that expat communities have their time and place, and that many of them cross the line in regards to helpful or hurtful information. Below are my personal feelings on the good, the bad, and everything in between. As for most things in life, your own experiences may differ.
My biggest piece of advice? Expat communities are great for new expats, expats seeking specific advice about daily life or work life, and people who want to live in the country for a very long time. I’ve had a few experiences within the expat community tainted by those who seek to make everything about themselves and use these social media groups as an pseudo blog.
Disclaimer: The things I’ve written here, as well as what I’ve written in Parts 2 and 3, are my own personal experiences and my own personal take on the expat community. You might have your own experiences that either made you love or hate your expat community (or if you’re not in an expat community gave you a bit of insight to the good and the bad), and that’s fine too. These are my own beliefs and experiences, and in no way abdicate whether or not anyone else should start or join an expat community.
Everyone has struggles when moving to a new country, but as a member of a community you shouldn’t try to put yourself on a higher pedestal than others or try and make people believe you have it the worst. We’re all trying out best to survive in a new land, and if you’re not willing to be a team player and give honest advice and help, then you might want to start looking for a new group to talk in.
If this was enough to give you a rough idea of expat communities, then great! If you want to dive deeper into my thoughts on the subject, you can check out
where I go over the pros of living in an expat community, and
where I take a look at the cons of being part of an expat community.