10 Reasons Why Expats Make the Best Social Entrepreneurs

The global age is the era of the social entrepreneur. Their innovative projects are the change agents for addressing burning issues, such as poverty, education, environment, or inequality. In fact, people all over the world are moving towards building sustainable businesses with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.Hanging

It is also the era of global nomads and expats: as InterNations members know all too well, people leave their home countries and seek opportunities and adventures elsewhere. Those new types of global citizens often dream about achieving new peaks, creating their own thing, taking control of their lives and passions, and generally having a greater impact on the world.

Well, guess what — these two trends walk hand-in-hand!

I’ve gathered ten main characteristics of expats that make them the perfect candidates to become social entrepreneurs and change the world for the better.

Creative problem-solving: The ability to solve problems empowers you, but being able to solve them creatively gives you an edge — making you perfect for whatever you take on. Expats learn to be very resourceful and persistent to adjust to their new host country; those exact characteristics are the driving force of social entrepreneurship.

Curiosity: “Curiosity killed the cat,” the saying goes, but do you know what comes after? “Satisfaction brought it back.” Fascinated little kitten staring at the monitorCuriosity is what drives us to try new things, discover new possibilities, and come up with those creative solutions. Being an expat makes you inherently curious — look at all the new things you’re exploring! The same curiosity drives you to explore social problems and sparks your passion to fix them.

Flexibility: Reworking your entire life to become an expat definitely took some flexibility. After all, entrepreneurship is a constant sine-graph of ups and downs, especially for entrepreneurs working on socially responsible projects. That flexibility of yours will come in handy.

Rapid learning: Adjusting to a new area and culture, learning how to interact with “locals”, how to do your grocery shopping, how the new currency works… these are all invaluable skills for life, but they are even more important for creating your own socially innovative project. InterNations Expat Blog_Why Expats Make the Best Social Entrepreneurs_Pic 1 When looking at a social issue, expats have a fresh approach that can lead them to finding innovative solutions no one else has considered!

Pursuit of meaning: The latest studies show that the young generation of “millennials” seeks more meaning and passion, rather than only material comfort. This notion is magnified for expats, whose work is nothing like a nine-to-five job that we forget about once we get back home at night. It shapes your life, where you live and who you share your existence with.

Many expat chose to leave their comfort zone because they want to do “something that really matters”, something they care about and that will contribute to others’ well-being — they move abroad, take risks, and look to have an impact on the world. Any better solution than actually creating the project you really care about and fixing a social problem?

Seeking freedom: People move abroad to seek freedom and explore the world. There are many forms of social entrepreneurship — and instead of living where your expat job “needs” you, you can indeed choose where to live and work.Donation Jar with Copy Space

Financial opportunity: Social entrepreneurship is still a business after all, so it is a unique opportunity to do well while doing good. Yes, there are some risks associated with an entrepreneurial journey, but it could also allow you to pursue your passions of changing the world and become a scalable business.

Lack of “conventional wisdom”: Many people have a defined idea of success; they call it “conventional wisdom” or “common sense”, and most value it as the ultimate truth. poster with think outside the boxYet, for expats who move away from their familiar natural environment and immerse themselves in so many new things, this limiting belief doesn’t exist anymore. They are now free to take on the world, conquer new peaks, and make a difference.

People skills: Humanity thrives on connection, and each of us wants to be a part of a group, to belong. Expat life immediately requires you to build new networks, forge new friendships, and meet new people. Like any other entrepreneurial journey, at the end it comes down to people; this is especially true when you join forces to create a social project.

Open-mindedness: The decision to become an expat, as scary as it is, probably isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s some optimism, some excitement — something new and unique to be found! Achieving the greater things in life is all about harnessing that optimism and letting it drive you forward, perhaps even solve a social problem and thrive overseas.

Rita Golstein-Galperin is a multicultural expat in Paris. On top of her love for exploring the world, learning new things and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, she is also an author, entrepreneur, speaker and career makeover strategist for expat women.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

My InterNations: LGBTE(xpat)

Nearly all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people have probably experienced some degree of prejudice in their home country. Coming out is often a struggle, but it can be easier at home: you have a network of friends and/or family members to support you and, most of all, you have an idea of what the culture is like. But moving abroad is quite a different matter.

SaoPandZurichBlogGoogle is both your best friend and your worst enemy — searching “LGBT life in X” will return numerous results, but no one really wants to know only about the statistics or the nitty-gritty legal details. Instead, we want to know more about the people themselves, hear their stories of triumph over prejudice and, to quote Rihanna, of “love in a hopeless place”.

But herein lies the paradox: such stories often don’t focus on the mundane, but on the emotive, the extraordinary, and the empowering. It’s encouraging to hear that people can thrive even in averse circumstances, but this “anecdata” is worrying nonetheless. Ultimately, the backdrop of prejudice or even violence is what remains, and this becomes the vision we hold of LGBT life in a specific country, whether it is actually indicative of everyday life or not. The retreat into what some call the “expat closet” is easy.

This is why LGBT Groups are so important: they show us the way; they tell us what life abroad is really like, whether it is safe for us everywhere, or sometimes only here or there. InterNations Expat Blog_My InterNations_LGBT Expats_Pic 4 They introduce us to the LGBT scene; they provide us with a sense of community and support, and, most importantly, they let us be who we are.

But while this sounds all rather morose and serious, in fact, our LGBT Group Consuls also do something else — and something equally important: very simply, they show us the fun side of LGBT E(xpat) life!

LGBT Life in Brazil

A great example of both an LGBT Group and an inspirational Group Consul can be found in São Paulo, Brazil. Itamar, a self-described “guy who moves fast and breaks things”, as well as an entrepreneur, world traveler, and fanatic of all things cultural, sporting, and sociable, has been the Consul of our São Paulo LGBT-Friendly Group for almost two years now.

Before returning to Brazil, Itamar lived abroad for ten years, both in Ireland and in the Netherlands. He has seen the trials and tribulations of life as a gay expat and can offer some insight into what the communities in these three rather different countries are like.

View of Sao Paulo, Brazil Itamar actually has found some surprising similarities between LGBT communities in Ireland and Brazil: he describes the people as easy-going and friendly, and true to the clichés about outgoing Latin Americans and fun-loving Celts alike, they do “love to party”.

In contrast, the community in the Netherlands is a bit more reserved, and if you don’t speak Dutch, it can be hard to find your way as an expatriate. However, Itamar describes this nation’s consideration of its LGBT community as nothing short of inspiring: the people are “heard, respected, and safe,” he says. “I sometimes wish Brazil and Ireland would take care of their own LGBT communities as the Dutch do.”

While Itamar heard of InterNations while he was living in the Netherlands, he only got involved in his local InterNations Community when he decided to return to Brazil with his partner two years ago. After living abroad for nearly a decade, Itamar almost felt like a stranger in his own country — it was as if he faced all of the same problems as LGBT expats do when they first move abroad.

Gay couple watching sunset“We live in a huge city,” he explains, “and I felt that it was important to have a small group of gay expats” — to meet new people, to find new friends, and to expand his professional network, but also to help others with advice and information on gay life in São Paulo.

Today, Itamar leads a fantastic group that organizes plenty of creative and fun activities — visiting a pop art exhibition in an old building about to be destroyed is but one example! His LGBT Group attracts a close-knit bunch of regular attendees: some of the new people he met at one of the early events in 2014 are now his friends.

Itamar also has some excellent advice for anyone who wants to open an LGBT Group in their InterNations Community. First and foremost, while you do need to invest some time and energy, you really need to have fun! “It is not a job,” he stresses. “I do it because I like it. The stories I hear inspire me.”

He recommends potential LBGT Group Consuls to be creative, not to go to gay venues only, but also to explore places that are LGBT-friendly and to break out of the mold. And if you are planning on moving to Brazil — don’t hesitate to join his group!

The Story from Zurich

While the LGBT community has fought for recognition and acceptance, it has always been bolstered by those allies who are not necessarily LGBT themselves: people who are simply open to who others truly are and see beyond social prejudice. Without such people and their support, any movement is bound to fail. St. Peter church in Zurich

One such supportive person is Vanessa in Zurich. One of the most active and dedicated Groups Consuls across the InterNations Community, she manages an astounding six groups, from after-work drinks to talking Portuguese to the InterNations Zurich LGBT-Friendly Group.

Vanessa first joined InterNations four years ago and immediately jumped into a leadership role, bringing people from all walks of life together and helping them not only to find friends, but also to make a new home in Zurich. While she agrees with Itamar that organizing her groups takes quite a lot of time and energy, she also thinks that, in her own words, “the kickback is priceless!”

While she doesn’t identify as LGBT herself, Vanessa has always drifted towards and been involved with the community both in her native Portugal and in Switzerland. “Maybe it is because I studied arts — cinema, theater, photography, and music,” she says. “People with an artistic background often believe in expressing themselves freely, so to speak. So many of my friends were part of the LGBT community.”Two charismatic multi ethnic young girl friends

With Vanessa’s natural inclination towards freedom of expression and openness, her relationship with the LGBT community is thus hardly surprising. So far, she has been mostly invited to social gatherings and cocktail hours, but, as she emphasizes, “we could do so much more — the community has a lot of potential to grow.”

Vanessa’s advice for those who want to get involved with LGBT Groups is simple — just jump right in and go for it, you won’t regret it! And don’t worry too much about moving to Zurich: “The city is quite open about the LGBT lifestyle and people are more comfortable in expressing themselves here.”

(Image credit: 1) InterNations 2) iStockphoto)

New Year’s Resolutions and Kick-Off Parties: Get 2016 Started

After we have all made it safely through the holidays, it is time to head into the New Year with full force. Exciting things lie ahead of us and we want to get 2016 started together with you.

The beginning of a new year also always means one thing in particular: New Year’s resolutions! Whether you have decided to quit smoking, join a gym, learn a new language, or finally finish that project you have been working on, January is the perfect month to make some plans and set some goals.

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With this month’s “Get 2016 Started” campaign, you can kick off the year with a bang. Join other InterNations members for a delicious and healthy brunch to start working towards your “clean eating” goals; take part in the next hiking, running, or tennis activity to work on those muscles; learn more about your new home abroad or simply come to our events and start building your expat network abroad.

There is no end to what you can achieve with a little help from your expat friends.

So let’s start the New Year in style!

Fancy Hats and Plans for the New Year

January 2016_Nice3

Our Nice Community started this year with a (slightly belated) New Year’s Eve Party on Tuesday, 5 January. The members met at a piano bar to listen to the tunes of the jazz and blues band “Bud’s Bubble”. With delicious drinks and tapas, and the opportunity to practice their dancing skills, the night was a great success.

January 2016_Istanbul1

InterNations members in Istanbul kicked off 2016 in a slightly more unconventional way. For the first event of the year on Wednesday, 6 January, expats and global minds were invited to wear their fanciest hats. The two people with the most extravagant, flamboyant head gear received a little surprise.
January 2016_Sofia1

InterNations Sofia celebrated the beginning of 2016 at an Italian restaurant and bar. On Thursday, 14 January, the members of this community got together to network and make new friends. Moreover, every attendee received a monthly pass for the Pulse Fitness & Spa centers to get started on their New Year’s resolutions.
January 2016_Paris Activity

A literary aperitif among books was the perfect way for the Paris Social Writing Group to welcome the New Year. Members of the group met at le Café Livres on Thursday, 14 January, to talk about their new writing projects and discuss what they have planned for the year ahead.

Tea Ceremonies and Great Parties

Luckily, January isn’t quite over yet and we aren’t done kicking off 2016 in style. If you haven’t made it to one of our “Get 2016 Started” events yet, don’t worry, there is still plenty to come.

On Tuesday, 26 January, our members in Monte Carlo are taking the opportunity to celebrate the New Year for a second time. And, of course, it is never too late to make some New Year’s resolutions. Get ready for champagne and great music!

On Friday, 22 January, you will get the opportunity to get to know your community in Casablanca. Wonderful people, a great atmosphere, and a beautiful view of the city promise to make this year a delight. If you need a break from your New Year’s resolutions, you should stop by in Kigali on Friday, 29 January. The members of this community will get to start off the year with a new game, people’s bingo, which makes interacting so much more fun.
Get 2016 Started_Casablanca Sunset

Our High Tea Group in The Hague is also welcoming the New Year at a new venue and with new and exciting flavors!

Get ready to try some delicious sandwiches and, of course, tea. Are you more curious about a tea tradition from the other end of the world? The Beijing Tea Tasting Group is hosting their first activity of the year. This is a great opportunity to experience and learn more about the traditional tea tasting ceremonies and to make new friends.

Bouquet of purple and pink asters and teaware for chinese tea ceremony horizontal

The Stavanger DinnerNations Group invites their members to get together and talk about their New Year’s resolutions over Mexican food. The activity host will provide everyone with a delicious dinner but attendees should all bring their own drinks.

It’s also a new beginning for the Barcelona Tapas & Aperitivo Group. Together, the group members will explore a new insiders’ tip for foodies. The bar has made it onto their list for its great design and variety of delicious food. Don’t miss out!

There are a lot of ways to start the New Year, of course, whether you are making concrete plans or just trying to take every day as it comes. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Tell us how you got 2016 started.

(Image credit: 1-4) InterNations, 5-6) iStockphoto)

Getting Started: 3 Pressing Expat Problems & How to Overcome Them

The year 2016 is just getting started, but the month of January is nearly a thing of the past — sadly, so are many New Year’s resolutions. But just because you still hit the “snooze” button every morning, this doesn’t mean that there are no more opportunities to make the most of the next eleven months.

iStock_000077832757_SmallWhile some people put “move abroad” on their list of New Year’s resolutions, those already living abroad often face different obstacles. Last year, during our Expat Insider 2015 survey, we asked over 14,000 expatriates about their most common problems — the facets of expat life they struggle with.

Perhaps it’s time to get started with the things that actually affect our lives the most and find out how to embrace expat life to the fullest.

All the Lonely People — Or: #1 Revive old friendships, embrace new ones

More than half the expats surveyed admitted that they miss their personal network of family and friends. Geographical distance requires quite a bit of time and money to bridge. It’s probably no coincidence that the survey respondents who seem to feel loneliest live in the relative isolation of New Zealand.

Make that your resolution #1 — spend more time with family and friends, be it during regular visits or just virtually. If you used to have a favorite shared activity, revive that ritual: pencil in a weekly date for, say, watching a popular TV show together and discussing it afterwards. It’s not the activity that matters: it’s the time you take to talk to loved ones. The regular contact also ensures that the annual reunion back home doesn’t collapse under the metaphorical weight of cramming twelve months’ worth of interaction into twelve days.

Friends dining together at a table in a garden Technology offers a myriad of possibilities to help you forget that you may be several thousands miles apart, but it also holds the danger of isolation. It’s essential to find just the right balance between keeping in touch with your (emotionally, rather than geographically) nearest and dearest and putting yourself out there to meet new people. And never forget: There are plenty of others who feel just like you! Meeting them and talking to them about the experiences you share will make dealing with some of the issues that expats face so much easier. After all, as the German proverb goes, a problem shared is a problem halved!

Nobody will be able to replace your family or your oldest childhood friends, but you might find someone else to add to your loved ones. Living abroad is a unique opportunity to form close and lasting relationships – despite and quite possibly because of the challenges we all face. Being away from our personal support network might leave us more vulnerable to some extent, but it is just this vulnerability that can also make us more open to the world and to the people we meet.

Money (That’s What I Want) — Or: #2 A penny saved is a penny earned

Two out of five expats are worried about their future financial situation, especially retirement provisions. Unsurprisingly, this applies especially to expats in their late 30s: many people are now raising children and worry about balancing their family’s present-day needs with saving money for the future.

Living and working abroad has some financial long-term risks: due to a spotty record of paying social security contributions in your country of origin, your chances at getting the maximum state pension are probably slim, and plenty of private pension plans are bound to one specific country. Unfortunately, not all expatriates are senior executives who often have an annual household income of 100,000 USD or more — which the average person moving abroad can only dream of.

plant growing out of coins with filter effect retro vintage styleHappy are those expats who have chosen one of the best destinations for the “money-savvy”, which the InterNations Expat Insider survey has also identified: expats in Ecuador, for example, are most satisfied with their financial situation and their household income while profiting from the best-rated (read: lowest) living expenses worldwide. Those living in Thailand and Hungary are especially content with the affordability of housing for expats.

Obviously, you can’t just up and leave for Quito, Bangkok, or Budapest to join the ranks of the financially lucky ones. But there are some things that everyone can do to save a nice nest egg, no matter where they live.

Get started by taking a good long look at your finances. First, take meticulous note of every single expense for the next month. Second, while you’re busy tracking that, make an overview of all your assets and liabilities worldwide. That will at least give you a good idea of where to begin.

The Lonely Hearts Club Band — Or: #3 Be awesome on your own

The third most-cited problem of the expats surveyed was their relationship status — or, rather, their lack of a relationship: 38% of expats didn’t only bemoan their singledom, but also agreed that expat living makes finding the love of your life difficult.

True, it might seem that way when you are inundated with invitations to weddings you’ll miss (on account of living on another continent) or cute baby photos in your Facebook feed, right after your last date told you they have accepted another assignment and will be moving to Shanghai soon.

Two cup of coffee with heart symbol and candy around.So what can be done about that? Apart from envying those blissfully happy expat couples in destinations such as Costa Rica or Malta, who report complete satisfaction with their romantic life in the Expat Insider survey, that is. If you’d like to overcome that secret twinge of envy, the most helpful advice is probably this: what would you do with your life if you were 100% sure that you will never ever find that special someone?

At first glance, this attitude might look defeatist. Actually, it forces you to rethink your priorities — career, international travels, hobbies, extended family, volunteer work, etc. Once you decide to go actively looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, it reminds you to save some time for all the other things that matter in life.

This approach could also help you find the right kind of person: there’s no point in dragging yourself to one pub crawl after the other, in the hope of meeting that special someone, when you would rather get up early the next morning and explore the country side, or go on a stroll through the city’s art galleries. The most important thing is to get out there and do what you enjoy doing, maybe join a group or club to find others who are in a similar situation and share your interests — and just be happy doing what you love.

Friends On Road Trip Sitting On Hood Of Convertible Car

No matter which issue you identify with the most, maybe we can help you a little along the way. We can’t move your family halfway round the world, send you a winning lottery ticket, play match-maker, or even switch off your “snooze” button, but perhaps other InterNations members can come up with helpful ideas, provide good cheer, or offer moral support.

In our communities around the globe, we feature InterNations Groups dedicated to professional networking, coaching, or finance and investment. There are groups for singles and those for LGBT expats and friends. Just in case you don’t even know where to get started.

And if you need some more inspiration for kicking off the New Year, have a look at our “Get 2016 Started” campaign for worldwide InterNations Official Events and Activities in 2016.

A New Milestone: InterNations Welcomes Member No. Two Million!

For InterNations, the new year is certainly off to a good start: we have just welcomed the two millionth global mind. It seems like it was only yesterday that we celebrated InterNations member no. 1,000,000 here at the Munich head office.

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Overall, 400,000 new people joined our international community in 2015. In the past year, our numerous InterNations Ambassadors and Group Consuls hosted an amazing 40,000 official events and activities for 1.25 million guests around the world.

These numbers obviously speak for themselves. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at some of the 390 InterNations Communities across the globe, as well as the two million global minds they now connect.

From Munich to London to Dubai: The Most Active Cities

Unsurprisingly, the InterNations Munich Community — where it all began more than eight years ago — is our third-largest worldwide, following closely behind London, probably Europe’s most international city, and the uncontested winner Dubai, the leading expat hub for the entire Middle East. Munich and London, together with vibrant Madrid and Brussels, the heart of the European Union, are also among our top communities when it comes to the number of official events and activities per month.

No wonder: the most popular interests among our members include “dining out”, “lunch & brunch”, “sightseeing”, “movies”, and “professional networking” — and these metropolises offer ample opportunity to find other international people to explore the city with, iStock_000068760433_Smallto try out a hip new restaurant, or to rebuild your business network after moving abroad. But expats with somewhat more specialized interests can also find someone to share their personal passion.

An InterNations Munich Group dedicated to Schafkopf (literally: ‘sheep’s head’), a popular Bavarian card game, might not be particularly surprising, considering the location, but we have an equal number of backgammon enthusiasts in Munich as well. Not to mention the groups catering to outdoor painters and metalheads in Dubai, or to burger lovers and conspiracy-thriller book club members in the UK capital.

From Palau to Maseru: The Tiniest InterNations Communities

In comparison to the bustling InterNations Communities in the global top three, with over 60,000 members in Dubai alone, foreign residents in our smallest communities might be feeling somewhat lonely. A glance at our member statistics reveals that we even have a few expats currently living in Pyongyang, though the North Korean capital is hardly known as the most welcoming of destinations. iStock_000005384677_Small

In comparison, the Pacific serenity of Micronesia seems a lot more appealing. However, there are only 89 InterNations members right now, spread out over the largest of more than 2,100 islands, like Kiribati or Palau, and a total surface area of more than seven million square kilometers.

At least, our 175 members in Maseru have a far easier time if they are looking for a bigger and busier expat community nearby: they can simply leave the landlocked enclave of Lesotho for a trip to Durban or Johannesburg.

From Language Skills to Travel Destinations: Record-Breaking Members

And what about individual InterNations members rather than entire InterNations Communities? If our member no. 2,000,000 is the ambitious sort, they have some rather challenging benchmarks to meet. The most polyglot person on our platform lists 20 different languages in their member profile, and the most widely traveled member has been to an astonishing 292 destinations across the globe — and counting.

Potentially, InterNations also has some ambitious goals to aim for: according to global market research company Finaccord, there are currently over 53 million expats worldwide. A startling figure that shows how many people are in need of a supportive community like ours and the company of other global minds.

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But don’t worry — we are not actually planning for rampant growth in the future. Still today, with a size of two million, we make sure that every new registration on our website is individually reviewed in order to protect our members from spammers, combat fake profiles, and hold up our high quality standards. InterNations will always remain the trusted and close-knit community that it is and that our members appreciate.

Here’s not only to the next million, but especially to the two million highly international, widely traveled, multilingual, open-minded, social, and welcoming people that have already found their way to us. In short: here’s to you!

Breaking Down Social Barriers with InterNations Volunteers

On 20 February, we commemorate the United Nations’ World Day of Social Justice. According to the UN, this is a day to mark the removal of barriers that people face as a result of their race, ethnicity, culture or disability, to name just a few. These are all causes that InterNations Volunteers are working hard on all year round, and with the World Day of Social Justice coming up, we are proud to be able to present some of these.

Breaking Down Language and Poverty Barriers

Breaking the cycle of poverty is a difficult but important task. Three of our Volunteer Groups have chosen to take this on, working with children from low-income backgrounds on a variety of language and employability skills.

1. Hong Kong Volunteers

In Hong Kong, Group Consul Mavis Lee took the initiative to set up an English speaking course for children from low income backgrounds, in conjunction with their partner non-profit organization, Hope Worldwide. A committed group of enthusiastic volunteers have given the children individual attention, using their native language skills to give children the opportunity to reach their potential. 2. Hong Kong Teaching

Interview skills, language mentoring, financial and employability skills have all been covered by the talented group of London volunteers. Giving their time to students, many of whose first language is not English, they are providing valuable support for young people as they prepare to apply for further education and employment.

New York’s Volunteer Group has formed a strong partnership with Dare2B, an inspirational organization focused on educating and empowering homeless children to break the cycle of poverty. From entertaining the children to widening their future career options with a series of ‘career tours’ around the city, Group Consul Julia Canham has regularly brought together a team of volunteers to bring a smile to the faces of these children.

3. New York Volunteer with Children

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers

With refugees in the forefront of our minds, InterNations volunteers in many communities have been working hard to make refugees feel at home. Recognizing that expats are also away from their home country (albeit for very different reasons), our members can relate to some of the issues refugees face. It is an important and worthy cause for us to support.

4. Kuala Lumpur Children Eating_v2 In Kuala Lumpur, volunteers have provided much needed help at the Pandawas Academy. The school supports refugee children whose families cannot afford to send them to school, and sometimes even struggle to feed their children.

The volunteers have helped by providing the most basic but crucial gift of food, as well as organizing well deserved fun activities for the children as a break from the hardships of their home life.

The InterNations volunteers have prevented many a child from going to bed with an empty tummy and the appreciation of their hard work can be seen in the smiling faces of the children.

5. Kuala Lumpur Smiling Children

Breaking Down Barriers Created Through Disabilities

Volunteers in Munich have been spending time with people from a local center for adults with cerebral palsy. They have found many common interests and have all enjoyed movie nights, pampering days and having a coffee and a chat. Friendships have been formed and people at the center always very much look forward to the visits as an enriching and enjoyable break from their usual routine.

6. Munich Fun With People With Disabilities

If you’d like to get involved in another city, please check if there is a Volunteer Group in your InterNations Community. Every InterNations member can join the group and take part in the activities!

Find out more on our About Page or write to volunteerprogram@internations.org.

Book Review: Foreigner in Charge

A new job offer for an executive position overseas is often the career opportunity of a life-time for international professionals in upper management. But if they shouldn’t succeed, the price to pay for failure will be high — both for the company and for the person.

In his business guide Foreigner in Charge: Success Strategies for Expat Leaders in Australia, leadership coach Padraig O’Sullivan claims that a failed executive assignment may cost a corporation up to 40 times of the respective manager’s salary. Business As we are talking senior executive positions, where the yearly remuneration sometimes amounts to USD 250,000, this means the staggering sum of ten million bucks.

Moreover, divorce rates among such couples are high: according to some estimates, every second relationship ends in marital breakdown, with the expat executive burying themselves in work and the accompanying spouse unable to adapt to their new (temporary) home.

The PALDER Method

To avoid financial loss for the employer, professional failure for the assignee, and tears for their family, O’Sullivan set out to write a holistic introduction for expatriates heading “down under” to head an Australian branch office. Aiming to integrate cultural support, family support, and executive support for the new management role, the author — as quite a few business and relocation coaches seem prone to doing — creates an easy-to-remember acronym for his approach: the PALDER method.

PALDER represents the six phases of any successful transition into a foreign assignment (Pre-arrival — Arrival — Look, Listen, Learn — Decide — Energize — Review & Renew). map of Australia with flag on wooden background (3d render)After briefly summarizing some essential information on Australia and the potential impact of moving there on the expat family, O’Sullivan explains what each of these phases entails and outlines the basic structure for the rest of the book.

He delivers some cogent reasons as why to the ever-popular 100-day plans are rarely realistic for newly promoted executives, let alone for expatriates who have to successfully master several different transitions (professional, cultural, and familial) all at once. His model allows for a far more leisurely timeline of six months and counting, while reminding his readers that they should try to stay on track from the very beginning of their assignment.

Great at Business Coaching, Culture and Family Less Convincing

The chapters devoted to the overview of the PALDER model and its different phases are all very neatly structured. They usually provide clear directions as to key events that are supposed to happen at a certain time (from the first meeting with the Australian head of HR to the official announcement of a new business strategy), as well as the necessary skills required for that phase and the desired outcomes (such as making decisions about the members of the local leadership team). A variety of checklists (e.g. a typical agenda of the first day in the new position) rounds out the useful advice.

However, while the book mostly succeeds at providing a succinct introduction to the executive dimension, I remain less convinced by the cultural aspects and the (largely failed) attempt to integrate family concerns. The chapter on Australia remains understandably short and superficial, but as the country information is easily available elsewhere, the space might have been used to dig deeper into other topics. At least, the chapters outlining the PALDER model contain quite a few nods to how the theory might apply to Australian business practice. mother and son playing on summer tropical beach

After reading the entire guide, though, I didn’t have a particularly clear picture of how the executive might support their spouse and children in the course of the proposed timeline. I thought in the initial chapter on the role of the entire family that the writer was off to a promising start.

I like the section on the partner’s potential loss of identity and on the gap between what they rely on for their sense of identity at home and what their situation might realistically be like after moving. Unfortunately, this topic isn’t really elaborated upon in the following chapters. Considering that O’Sullivan aims to write a holistic guide for expat executives, the book doesn’t actually deliver — though his business coaching advice might indeed come in handy.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Geneva

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck made a last stop in Switzerland before the end of the year and visited our community in Geneva.

Geneva is our second biggest community in Switzerland, after Zurich, with almost 20,000 members. This should not come as a surprise, as Geneva is a very cosmopolitan city and home to a lot of international organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, or the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Needless to say that visiting this city and finally meeting the Ambassadors in person was long overdue.

Meeting the Ambassadors… Fashionably Late!

AmbassadorTeam_570px I planned to attend the community’s Christmas event, which was hosted at a relatively new and stylish venue, Lake Geneva Hotel, in Versoix. It is only located 15 minutes from the city center, right on the lakeshore. We had over 400 members from more than 80 countries on the guest list, making the event something to really look forward to.

Unfortunately, I arrived with a 90-minute delay and almost missed the beginning of the event. But Greg, one of the Ambassadors of the Geneva Community, who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport, didn’t waste time with sightseeing and took me right to the venue instead. That way, we made it just on time!

Consul_570px There, I met the rest of the Ambassador Team: Federica and Goncalo were busy welcoming arriving members and greeted everyone with a smile. Sadly, I didn’t get to meet Hasti, who was in Paris that night, or our two Newcomers Ambassadors, who simply couldn’t make it. However, I used the opportunity to get to know some of the Consuls of our Swiss communities, such as Kenza from Morocco, who runs one of our groups in Lausanne.

Breaking the Chocolate Cauldron

Aside from the wonderful Ambassador Team, the chocolate fountain and the chocolate cauldron filled with sweets were probably the highlight of the night. cauldron_400px The latter was put up in celebration of L’Escalade, the 1602 victory of the Geneva people over the troops of the Duke of Savoy. This day is usually commemorated on 11 or 12 December and includes mulled wine, children singing Escalade songs, and the aforementioned chocolate cauldron, which we broke open to get to the sweets.

On the night of the event, there was also a terror warning in Geneva and people were urged to stay at home and avoid public places. Luckily, two suspects were arrested and there was no reason to worry in the end, but some members erred on the side of caution and did not attend the event. Nevertheless, the night was a great success and I got a lot of feedback from different guests.

Gin & Tonic and Rooftop Bars

Of course, my night didn’t end there. Greg and Goncalo decided to take me to a few of their favorite places around town. Our first stop was a local bar called Arnold & Julen. Not only is this a nice, relaxed place in the middle of the city, but Greg and Goncalo also insisted that this bar serves the best gin and tonic in all of Geneva. Then we hit Rooftop 42 to enjoy the great view of the city before we moved on to Baroque Bar and later Baroque Club to dance all night.

Geneva_570px The next day, we all met up again to enjoy the view of the lake over breakfast before they drove me back to the airport. Our Ambassador Team and our members make Geneva a great community with a great spirit. The city was the perfect choice for my last community visit of the year 2015, and I hope that I will get to see a lot more places which are as welcoming as Geneva in the year to come.

Image credits: Malte Zeeck

5 Perfect Ways of Spending Christmas Abroad — and on Your Own

Christmas… the very word evokes a wealth of memories, often seen through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia or blurred by kitschy holiday movies and even kitschier TV commercials.

Little girl at Christmas dinner Christmas is an occasion to celebrate with your loved ones, when your home is full of festive decorations, your table is laden with a home-cooked meal, and every single family member, from the nonagenarian great-aunt to the two-year-old toddler, is smiling in perfect holiday cheer. At least in your imagination — reality often looks quite different.

Loneliness during the Christmas holidays is a common plight. Not only does it often affect senior citizens, but some expatriates might also face the dilemma of having to spend Christmas on their own.

You moved abroad for a great new job, and maybe you were single at the time or love didn’t survive the challenges of an international long-distance relationship. Some expats also leave their families temporarily behind for a short-term project or a career opportunity in a high-risk location. artwork in retro style, burning candle

Then, suddenly, it’s that time of the year again: your new friends from the local expat community are preparing to leave town, and all flights home are overbooked or only available at astronomical prices.

What’s the lonely expat to do? Make the boss happy and work through the holiday season? Spend a couple of solitary evenings with a microwave dinner and the ultimate Christmas movies (Die Hard and the 1990 sequel)?

If that isn’t quite how you are imagining the festive season, here are five ways to make yourself a merry little Christmas abroad:

The Family Type

If you have plenty of relatives and friends you’d like to spend Christmas with, but happen to be separated from them by a few oceans or continents, the internet will be a life-saver. How about scheduling an online Christmas party? Just find a slot that’s as convenient as possible for all time zones involved and treat yourself to a decent web cam plus headset as your Christmas gift.

InterNations Expat Blog_Spending Christmas Abroad Pic 5You can all agree beforehand to dress up in festive clothing (or your tackiest Christmas sweaters), put on exactly the same background music, and prepare the same meal. Make yourselves comfortable and unwrap the mutual holiday packages live. Only the hugs and kisses will still be virtual.

The Gregarious One

If you are that kind of person, you probably won’t have to worry about a lonely Christmas, not even if you have recently moved halfway round the globe. You are outgoing and find it easy to make friends. You have already met your new neighbors, know the names of all co-workers on your floor, and have probably joined a book club or gym.

Christmas background with walnuts, red bells and candles. Perhaps you have even managed to find some local friends who are generous enough to invite you to their home on Christmas. This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the peculiar customs of your adopted home, be they time-hallowed or of more recent date. (If you spend Christmas, for example, in Germany or the Czech Republic, be prepared to sit through at least one showing of the 1973 fairy-tale film Three Nuts for Cinderella.)

The Giver

For you, Christmas isn’t all about gorging yourself on mince pies, panettone, or cured ham, and splurging on expensive gifts. You enjoy making other people happy, and you don’t hesitate to give your time. If you identify with this description, there’s only one way to spend the holidays: volunteer.

If you live in a destination where Christmas is widely celebrated, plenty of local non-profits — Christian charities, inter-faith projects, and secular organizations — organize Christmas dinners for the elderly, the poor, and the homeless. Homeless B&WEven though you might still have trouble with the language barrier, this shouldn’t deter you from offering to take care of decorations or do the dishes.

Christmas isn’t an official holiday in your new home? Then your helping hands may be needed for another good cause. Either way, you’re bound to get to know new people — and perhaps make friends beyond the holiday season.

The Traditionalist

Chances are that you find yourself saying “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without…” every year. You probably hate popular holiday hits such as “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Last Christmas” (okay, I don’t know anyone who actually loves “Last Christmas”, so that might not be a unique feature of yours).

In short: you want your holiday season to be quiet, quaint, and a bit old-fashioned. Perhaps you’ll be happiest if you see the prospect of a solitary Christmas abroad as the chance to have that peaceful celebration you have always wanted. Christmas decoration, candles and bells on wood

Wait until it gets dark and light a few candles — real beeswax, please, no blinking fairy lights — and deeply inhale their smoky, honeyed scent. Then curl up with a mug of hot cocoa (or a cool drink, depending on the local climate) and a good book, like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or perhaps some non-fiction about Christmas traditions around the world. If your room should get a bit too quiet, a CD with traditional carols, The Nutcracker suite, or Händel’s Messiah should do the trick.

The Lone Wolf

Silently crying into your mulled wine and feeling sorry for yourself? That’s definitely not how you plan on spending the holidays. Others might describe your Christmas as “lonely” — you simple see it as an opportunity to get some precious “alone time”.

Now you’ve relocated to another country you have finally found the perfect excuse to avoid the high-strung family drama back home: no emotional blackmail from divorced parents, no temper tantrums from spoiled nephews and nieces, no rants about “kids these days” from your curmudgeonly great-uncle, who has conveniently forgotten that you reached the age of majority twenty-five years ago. Red cocktail with salt

You’re looking forward to doing whatever you want! Nobody is going to give you grief for spending Christmas at the hottest cocktail bar or loudest karaoke party in town, for pampering yourself during an extended spa day, or kick-starting a new hobby, while spending the holidays with your oldest friend: yourself.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

My InterNations: Nairobi — a Breakout Success

As 2015 is drawing to its close, so is the first year of the My InterNations series: we have shared the personal stories of members around the world — expats in unusual destinations, a couple who met via InterNations, an adventurous biker on the road, and many more. InterNations Expat Blog Nairobi Success Story 2015 Pic 3

For the last post in 2015, we’d like to present one of this year’s success stories and give you a glimpse behind the scenes. Thanks to InterNations Ambassadors Akinyi (Grace) and new arrival Fabrizio, as well as Evgenia, their contact in Munich and our International Relations Manager for Africa and Oceania, the InterNations Nairobi Community has grown to be our largest local network on the continent.

Three Global Cities — Three Global Minds

The driving force behind the Nairobi Community involves three global minds from three fairly different global cities. With Grace, born in Kenya and living in Nairobi for most of her life, we are fortunate to have a local InterNations Ambassador who knows her city like the back of her hand. The Kenyan capital is one of the most prominent African cities, both financially and politically, housing, for example, the UN headquarters for Africa and the Middle East.

Nairobi’s regional significance reminds Fabrizio of his hometown Brussels, one of the major political centers in Western Europe. While he grew up in a multinational family and has traveled to two dozen countries, accepting a job offer on another continent was a big step for him. InterNations Expat Blog Nairobi Success Story 2015 Pic 1 Fabrizio used to study in Germany and has plenty of work experience across the Benelux countries, but Kenya – though he loves its richness and diversity — was in a different league at first.

“I fell in love with Munich when visiting Germany for the first time in 2004,” Evgenia recalls. It was her very first trip abroad, and she was resolved to return one day. Meanwhile, she traveled extensively — finally leaving her native St Petersburg, the “city of white nights and splendid palaces”, for a Master’s degree abroad when she fell in love with a German rather than a German city.

Evgenia started her job at the InterNations office around the same time when Fabrizio decided to join the Ambassador Team. The Kenyan-Italian-Belgian-Russian trio has been looking after the Nairobi Community ever since.

East Africa’s Most Dynamic Metropolis and its Expat Community

Despite the safety concerns affecting daily life in Nairobi — “get used to different security standards and set your mind at peace,” Fabrizio recommends — more and more foreign residents keep settling in East Africa’s most dynamic metropolis.

The strategic location “between Dubai and Johannesburg, Lagos and Mumbai, with many booming markets within reach” is one reason for the growth of Kenya’s diversified economy. Planned infrastructure projects and a high demand for housing offer plenty of jobs for locals and expatriates: incidentally, Fabrizio works for a construction company and Grace is involved in the fast-moving real estate market.

“Every day you hear of new opportunities,” Fabrizio says. Kenya’s multicultural population, which includes sizable groups of Somalis, Arabs, Asians, and Europeans, has been growing, and so has our Nairobi Community. New members in particular are in need of support and advice. InterNations Expat Blog Nairobi Success Story 2015 Pic 2

There was just one catch: Grace’s former Co-Ambassador moved on to Dubai in late 2014. Though Grace was experienced in hosting events for international organizations, she still needed to find a partner for a “great duo” — “someone with that extra ‘kick’,” as she calls it, “who can read a crowd, step outside their comfort zone, and still be a great event host even after a long day at work.”

Luckily, Fabrizio has the right background, with family working in the hospitality sector, and what Evgenia describes as an “open-minded and fun personality”. The two tried to find their feet in their respective role — one on location in Nairobi and the other in the German back office.

“What I found challenging at first,” Evgenia explains, “was finding the right approach for each local Ambassador, to meet their particular needs and make them feel comfortable working with me.” She is responsible for coordinating events in over 40 communities on two continents, and every Ambassador Team is slightly different.

“But when you meet Fabrizio and Grace, you feel like meeting old friends,” she says. “They are both very out-going, and Grace seems to know all the expats in town!”

Fabrizio and his fellow Ambassador started tackling various challenges head-on: how to find Nairobi’s best venues and establish a good relationship with their owners; how to organize treats for prize raffles and, most importantly, how to welcome and connect their guests. “Sometimes, it can be demanding,” he admits. But their achievement speaks volumes.

To a Great 2015 and an Even Greater 2016!

Nairobi has become the largest InterNations Community in all of Africa, with 2,500 newcomers joining in 2015: the Ambassadors host, on average, 200 guests at each of their two monthly events. At the InterNations birthday party, they broke their own record and celebrated with 300 people.

This development is a reason to be proud for Grace, Fabrizio, and Evgenia, but they view their success rather modestly: “There’s nothing more rewarding than the smiles of the attendees,” the Ambassador Team says. “The success is thanks to the amazing Ambassadors I have the honor to work with,” Evgenia adds.

Let’s hope that 2016 will be just as — or even more — successful. What are their wishes for the next year?

Fabrizio simply wants to enjoy Kenya: “You drive half an hour out of Nairobi, and you find yourself in another world. It’s breathtaking!” Passionate about animal rights, Grace wishes to share her love of Kenya’s “gentle giants”, the African elephants. InterNations Expat Blog Nairobi Success Story Pic 4

What about Evgenia? “I hope that more expats find great connections through InterNations. And I’m excited about my second year in an international and motivating team. There are several projects we’re going to work on — like new learning and engagement opportunities for Ambassadors.”

Bonne année, gelukkig nieuwjaar, felice anno nuovo, heri ya mwaka mpya, s novim godom, and all the best for 2016!

(Image credit: 1) iStockphoto 2) Riz Ibrahim/InterNations 3) Riz Ibrahim/InterNations 4) Evgenia Pyatko)