In our globalized world, more and more people are taking the opportunity to live and travel overseas. Whether it’s teenagers taking a gap year before university, young professionals accepting a work transfer abroad, or seniors retiring in the sun, there are more and more reasons for people of any age to settle in a different country.
But what exactly is an ‘expat’? Good question. An expatriate is a temporary or migrant worker who lives and works in another country for a set period of time. The difference between an expat and an immigrant is that expats usually plan to go back to their home country at some point. Countries and cities with a lot of migrant workers often have a vibrant expat community, who provide security and support for people who are feeling far from home or who are experiencing culture shock.
Expat communities are a great way to get to know the local area, but they are not the only way. Social media can come to the rescue and help people make the most of their travel experience. So here are 5 ways that social media can help you make the most of being an expat.
No matter where you go in the world, you are sure to find someone who has blogged about it. Travel bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the advantages of bloggers’ pages is that they tend to be a bit more honest than most travel literature. Your travel guide is all well and good to get a general impression of a place, but bloggers often live in the places they write about and have some up-to-date inside knowledge on how things work. They’re often good sources of tips and tricks for surviving in a foreign land. Many travel bloggers are migrant workers themselves, often living there on temporary work visas and doing bar work or teaching English. Blogs can not only give you inspiration for local places to visit, but can also give you some realistic expectations for what living in a lace is really like.
A lot of blogs cater to specific needs as well as specific places. For example, JourneyWoman is a blog that caters to solo female travellers, with tips on what to do and how to stay safe. For couples, Practical Wanderlust gives some insight into navigating travel for newlyweds. For seniors, Life Part 2 can inspire people to get out of their homes and make the most of their twilight years.
There are also blogs that follow specific themes, such as eco-friendly travel, LGBTQ+ advice, and outdoor adventures. Expat blogs are more detailed than travel blogs, such as Travelling Mama’s adventures in Morocco or Diary of a White Indian Housewife, which describes a white Australian’s life in Mumbai, India. So, wherever you move to, be sure to check out the local blogs and get the inside scoop!
Most people are familiar with using social networks on a regular basis. They can be a great source of information when you are living and working in another country. For people who are comfortable using Facebook, there are usually groups they can join that are specifically designed for expats in certain parts of the world. Facebook groups come in all shapes and sizes, so chances are there is a group for your nationality based in any major city in the world. These groups can be useful for a variety of purposes, such as organising social gatherings, passing on local news, or giving people a head’s up about where to buy familiar imported goods locally.
For the more adventurous expat who would like to mingle more with the local people, you should check out any local social networking sites that are specific to that country or language group. Facebook is international and is used in most countries around the world, but in a lot of places there is a local equivalent that is much more popular. For example, expats in China who have some knowledge of the language should check out Sina Weibo or WeChat, people living in Russia or the former Soviet Republics can find friends on VKontakte (VK), and Skoob is a source of local info for people in Brazil.
Forums, like social networks and blogs, can provide expats with a lot of good local information and tips. As well as local advice on where to shop, how to find a plumber, and if there are jobs available, there are usually boards dedicated to specific purposes, such as making friends, offering and seeking services, or asking for advice. Like Facebook groups, forums can bring expats together and form a community, but can also give local people access to that knowledge as well. Unlike Facebook groups, which are often closed and are specific to one nationality, forums are open and can include people from different backgrounds. They can also allow locals to search through and find services offered by expats, such as language lessons or translation work.
As with other forms of online information, you have to go through and search for a forum that is specific to the country you will be living in. For instance, if you live in Russia, you might want to join Expat.ru, or if you’re an American living in the UK, then UK Yankee is the way to go. A useful resource is ExpatForum, which has an extensive list of forums for different countries worldwide.
Twitter is a powerful tool that can be used to share and receive ideas at a lightning fast pace. Avid users are skilled at hashtagging their way through life and being constantly connected to the latest news, celebrity gossip, and political scandals. But how can it help us with living abroad?
When we use Twitter, our content is curated by algorithms and the people we follow. So, if you live abroad, the best way to keep your finger on the pulse is to follow some local users. National celebrities will give you an idea of pop culture in your host country, local news stations will keep you up to date on what’s happening in your city, and fellow expats and immigrants will give you the best of the best when it comes to local gossip.
Everyone likes photos, that’s why when we travel, we always have our phones out, snapping the best bits and posting them online for our friends to see. Instagram is a great place to keep all of those carefully posed snapshots and spontaneous pics that will haunt us forevermore. However, how can this enhance the expat experience?
By following some local Instagrammers, expats can get some suggestions and ideas for places to go and things to see that will help them to make the most out of their stay abroad. After all, what’s the point in going half way around the world if you don’t get out and see anything?
So what do we take from all of that? The life of an expat can be full of twists, turns, and missteps, but by taking full advantage of all that social media has to offer, you can make the most of the experience and maybe find some hidden gems while you’re at it. So next time you think about taking the plunge, head on over to some expat forums, blogs, and Facebook groups, and see if you can’t get to low down before you go.
Facebook: Find out the best ways to make the most of your expat experience. Read my tips at: https://bit.ly/3s80yWo
Twitter: See my 5 ways to make the most out of your #expat experience in my new blog post. Find it here: https://bit.ly/3s80yWo