Amidst the pandemic, how did you make connections in your new host country?
Settling in a new country at the beginning of a lockdown is certainly a new experience that requires new ways of building your network.
For the past 20 years, I lived in Mexico, France, South Africa and I relocated to Dallas, Texas 5 days before travel ban in March 2020 to basically search for a house within 2 weeks before official shelter-in-place which started out on April 1st in my new home city.
After settling the different admin topics that takes “a bit of time” (L.O.L) when you arrive in a new country and wait for your container about 2 months (I can share our camping moving tips in another article), be your 5 yr-old personal teacher and “BFF” as he has not been able to incorporate the school he was supposed to attend for over 6 months, September came as a rebirth to me (my 5 yr old BFF was back full time at school, I have received my work permit, etc.) and I was able to go back to some things I like to do : meaningful connections to build my network on topics I love and see how I could reinvent my journey in the US being of service to communities.
I will use the “I” mode to describe how I did things because this works for me, it is perfectible and is not concrete advice, it is just a shared experience.
I spend a lot of time researching on my favorite topics. I read articles, I listen to podcasts, I follow MOOCs, I make notes and search for the authors, the guests, etc. To each one of those persons that I enjoyed reading or listening, I send a private InMail, mainly using the Linkedin social media platform and I offer a way of connecting either by InMail or a virtual coffee/tea/juice informal video call of 15 to 30 minutes – mainly 30 minutes (in my new country time is money so I do not ask for more).
I had incredibly positive response in general for those requests to connect. Of course, some do not answer (I will follow up if, maybe I find another topic I want to exchange about and try to reconnect) but on a global level I have been able to share experiences and have meaningful conversations with these people. The process has enabled me to make progress in how I reinvent myself in the USA and decide how to handle it.
To prepare for the informal chats I usually prepare a slide on what could be the best outcome of the chat for both parties (get the info for an additional connection, share connections, discover/share new platforms, articles that might be useful). Those people usually work in my area of interest and we share our thoughts and chances of being employed as a foreigner in this difficult moment for any country in the world and ways of how to better present a request to work in such conditions. I also always send a thank-you message for the time they have given me after we have exchanged and when relevant I try to give back something that can be interesting depending on what we have discussed in our conversation (a platform, an article, a connection, etc.).
I still do not know how far it will lead me but now I am in stage 2 of connections, I now have connections that I share with new ones; slowly but surely building the network.
My other way to build meaningful connections is to start volunteering in my areas of interest where you “meet” people with the same mindset and enlarge your understanding of your new host country. I have therefore started to do some volunteering in my new place, in a virtual mode.
All of this requires a lot of time and commitment. To me it is a lot of fun actually and I do not see it as something overwhelming or mundane. I enjoy the discovery and the unintended places it takes me to and it contributes to the constant learning need that I have and must nurture.
This is a way for me to give some meaning to my expat life and learn more about the place I now live in. Connection-success can be measured if it helps me to get a position, launch my activity or something else I have not thought of. As a connector, initially I am not connecting to get something out of it for me, I do it because I am truly passionate about learning new things from new people.
And you : how did you make connections when you arrived in your new country ?