How to build short-term expat relationships

June 2023

One of the most exciting opportunities that can arise for workers is the chance to work abroad on a short-term assignment. It’s a chance to meet new people, experience a new culture, and make some memories while advancing your career. But as exciting as a short-term expat assignment can be, it can also be quite challenging, especially if you're not adequately prepared.

One of the most crucial aspects of preparation is building and maintaining a personal network in your new destination. Building expat relationships isn’t always easy, but by establishing connections, you'll have a much smoother transition and a more enjoyable experience. So, what are some ways to connect with your new network? Let’s explore some tips to make the process easier. 

Before we go on, let’s clarify exactly what a short-term assignment (STA) is. An STA is defined as an international project that usually lasts between 3 and 12 months. STAs allow organisations to transfer resources, knowledge and skills cost effectively and quickly provide fast response to business needs.


STAs are becoming more popular than long-term assignments due to changing business needs and flexibility being a priority for workers. But that’s not to say that STAs are easier than long-term transfers – often, workers can find them more difficult, as they have less time to adjust to their new surroundings and have to hit the ground running to make up the workload. That’s why it’s important for short-term expats to invest in their relationships – having a network to socialise with is important to ensure your stay is as fulfilling as possible.

Before you go, do your research on your destination country, including the culture, customs and traditions. This will give you a better understanding of the environment you'll be working and living in, allowing you to make more informed decisions and develop a better connection with locals and other expats.
Ask your company’s HR team about connecting with other expats from your organisation and reach out with any questions, concerns, or just to introduce yourself. If you aren’t aware of any expats from your own company, search for expats and local professionals through social media, LinkedIn, or other networking platforms. These connections can offer you valuable insights into the local business practices and culture, as well as provide you with a social support system when you land.
Before you go, look up any networking events in your destination city, such as conferences, industry events, and social gatherings - especially those targeted at the expat community. Attending these events can help you establish new contacts, learn about the local industry, and stay up to date on the latest developments in your field.
Branch out from work and join online communities and forums related to your interests and hobbies – especially if you find some that are based in your host country. This can help you stay connected with like-minded individuals and keep up with news and trends, even when you're miles away from home.
While you may not be staying in your destination country for a long time, knowing a few key phrases in the local language can help you connect with locals and make a good impression. Consider taking a language course or using a language learning app before you go and make breaking the ice a little easier when you arrive.
Be prepared for cultural differences and potential culture shock when you arrive in your temporary home. Depending on how far away your destination is, the culture may be very different to what you are used to. Do your research with expat country guides, learn about local customs, and keep an open mind. This is a chance to embrace the expat experience, so be sure to try new things and keep a positive mindset.

Finally, get to know your line manager in your new destination before you leave. Reach out on LinkedIn or arrange a virtual meeting to catch up before you go. Ask about their expectations, policies, and procedures, and learn as much as you can about your new role. This will help you hit the ground running and make a good impression on your international assignment.

By following these tips and building your personal network, you'll be well-prepared to tackle any challenges that come your way as a short-term assignee. Good luck and enjoy your adventure!

Before moving abroad it’s important to have health insurance coverage in place. With Allianz Partners, our Flexicare Short-term health insurance can help support you and your family when transitioning overseas. Get your quote online today.