For many expats, their company provides an instant network. For people who travel independently, there are less formal, but equally useful, support networks and resources. You just need to know how to tap into them.
There are great web sites out there catering to the massive expat market. These range from professional and/or specific resources, to those just there to provide a sense of community and opportunities for friendship.
In my experience, you get back what you put in. The expat community is used to high turnover in its social circles, so usually quite welcoming. People are interested in meeting newcomers and sharing tips about settling in. You can find loads of advice in online forums; never be afraid to ask even the most stupid question (believe me, loads of other people are not feeling any shame).
There will be sites and groups relevant to your specific country and city – just jump on Google or Facebook to find them. For the globetrotters, here are some I’ve found useful on an international basis.
www.internations.org - global organisation that builds local expat communities, hosts networking and events, great forums and resources available online. Members can change their local community status if they move.
http://www.expatexchange.com – expat services with country specific links. Especially useful when you’re in the planning stage, or have just made a move.
www.expat-blog.com – select your location and explore what’s on offer. A nice, informal but strong community, great friendly forums and useful classifieds. You don’t need a blog to get involved.
www.expatwomen.com – Blogs, tweets and resources with a comprehensive collection of expat clubs and services searchable on a country by country basis.
English speaking bookshops can be a good source of info about expat events, especially if you like arts and culture. Go along for a chat – they usually have a mountain of contacts.
Your embassy can be useful for social contacts and resources. Not all embassies and not all countries – the Australian Embassy, for example, varies in its services to Australians abroad depending on its size and priorities. And whether the staff on the ground care about creating a local community.
If you have any tips about settling in, great sites you know, advice to share, please post a comment. If you’ve got a question, post that too. Don’t be shy!