One of the biggest challenges of living in a foreign country is meeting new friends and belonging to a new community. Developing acquaintances through work, school or social clubs could be a good way, but you need to have some common ground like playing the same sport, having young kids or having similar experiences in different cultures… People tend to socialize with people from similar backgrounds or interests because they would like to understand each other without extra effort and enjoy each other’s company. There is a global organization dedicated to serving as a bridge among expatriates from different nations called InterNations.
As expatriates living in Singapore, we were introduced to InterNations through our Turkish friends who had been to a few events. The InterNations event of the month was hosted at an Italian restaurant where welcoming cocktails and delicious finger food were served. People at the event were there to meet new people from different backgrounds, exchange contacts for potential business partnerships and just enjoy speaking with global people who have been through similar paths. My husband and I met people from Burma, England, India, Germany, France, and Turkey. We found out about their life styles, interesting business ventures that they’re working on, business travels that they take on a regular basis, international schools that their children are attending. The atmosphere was very friendly yet productive. I ended up with 20 business cards for potential business contacts and friends.
InterNations events are held the first Friday of every month in Singapore. Every social networking event is held in a different venue. Mostly international bars, lounges or restaurants are preferred so that people can chill after work with a few drinks and finger food while meeting expats with different backgrounds yet similar experiences. One has to be invited by an InterNations member in order to attend an event.
InterNations was an idea created by three young German businessmen, Christian Leifeld, Philipp von Plato, and Malte Zeeck, two former McKinsey consultants and an N-TV editor. As all three have lived in different countries for school and work over a decade, they knew how hard it could be to meet friends with similar mindsets. In order to globally link expats, they established InterNations as a social network service on Web 2.0 in September 2007. Their aim was to make expat life easier and more pleasurable by connecting likeminded people. The first interactions among members were only web based through forums, discussions and private messages where people would exchange knowledge and experience on living and working abroad, relocation to a new country, cross cultural communication or typical problems with international business partners.
When InterNations reached 100,000 users around the world in early April 2009, the founders decided to carry this online network to a real life social platform in form of periodic social get-togethers. They continued managing online services with personal accounts, messages and forums, but also organized events that enable members to interact face to face. Dedicated ambassadors were appointed to different cities in charge of organizing events. Currently, InterNations organizes events in 100 cities on a monthly basis.
Through InterNations webpage, it is possible to connect with members in other cities, exchange ideas online and even attend events while visiting different cities and meet global members.
In fact, I am planning on attending an event in Istanbul if there is an event during my stay there. Last InterNations event in Istanbul was on April 1st at the trendy nightclub 11:11 in Tepebasi. The Founder of InterNations, Malte Zeeck was also present at the event. He came from Munich to meet the community in Istanbul and answer questions about InterNations. The upcoming event in Istanbul is in Reina on April 27th.
Online or offline, the motto of InterNations is “Connecting Global Minds.” They call ‘global minds’ the individuals with an international mindset, a multicultural background, or a place of residence abroad. These include professionals who work in multinational corporations and frequently travel on business as well as diplomats, government and NGO officials, journalists, doctors and lawyers. They all have one thing in common: interest in different cultures. If you are one of those global minds interested in meeting new cultures, you might want to check out upcoming InterNations events in your community.
Ela Erozan Gürsel writes a weekly column named “Değişim Yelpazesi ” on global business trends for Dünya Gazetesi on behalf of Datassist for almost two years. Her feature topics include: green energy; climate change; impacts of financial crisis on companies, sectors and regions; innovative technologies in sciences, human resources and management; social networks transforming business and politics; changing dynamics of marketing and branding.
She also writes articles for international magazines published in Singapore.
Prior to her writing career, she worked at Datassist as a Project Manager in a project that combines human resources and mobile communications with the aim to connect blue-collar workers and employers through mobile phones. Before engaging in this exciting project, she was in pharmaceutical sales working for a multinational company. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC, majoring in International Studies with a concentration on International Business and Europe. She worked in Washington D.C. as an Account Manager at a boutique telemarketing firm that specializes in fund raising and publication renewals. She speaks Turkish, English, French, and Spanish. She currently resides in Singapore with her husband.