Moving overseas demands just as much brainstorming as it does bubble wrapping, and before you touch down in your new destination its best to prepare accordingly.
Those lucky recipients of lucrative expat packages should certainly badger their bosses-to-be for information and advice about just where in the world they're going. Request to be connected with returned expats who've lived to tell the tale, as well as those still successfully surviving overseas.
There's nothing better than direct information from someone who you share common ground with. What's more, some companies and corporates have even organized mentoring programs or support groups to aid assignees and their families with the transition.
A leg up and over
For the hard-headed expat - those that are going abroad job or not - and even those moving into a position but without the helping hand of a company or coach, jumping the hurdle of relocation is easier than ever before in light of social media. The dark ages have dropped away and now it's possible to hit the ground in full stride even before the dust settles on the runway.
While information-dense sites, like Expat Arrivals.com, are fantastic for providing the framework and foundations you'll need to master the art of relocation, social media is built on the idea of commonality, a cornerstone of approaching your new destination on a personal level.
Sussing out the benefit of social media
User generated content is bombarding the blogosphere, fueling forums, and of course, driving the pistons of social media powerhouses like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Wikipedia.
Expats should spend time reading grassroots sites, like Wikis and travel blogs, to learn about the idiosyncrasies and the finer details of their destination to be.
Forums are also prime opportunities to digest information and to start to align your priorities with the realities of your home to be. Don't be scared to post queries you may have, as silly as they may seem, chances are it's not an original.
What's more, traditional resources will rarely be able to provide the same kind of content. Very few formal Internet sites, and even less print publications, will be able to give advice about where to find Corn Flakes in Cape Town, what to wear to a baby shower in Beijing, and how much it costs for a pack of rolling tobacco in Riyadh.
What's really socially acceptable?
Getting your social calendar sorted before that first Saturday night can often be the best thing an expat can do. Networking prior to putting your feet on new soil is especially important for certain destinations, namely in the Middle East or in non-English speaking nations.
Facebook and LinkedIn boast dedicated expat groups, and those moving abroad can find these virtual organisations through a quick search based on locality. These sites specifically cater to the idea that human connection is based on commonality, and so it's often that you'll even find groups within groups; devoted to specific work environments, interests, or to serve a popular purpose in your new country.
Be sure to join, and don't feel hesitant about contacting the group administrator or other members in regard to concerns you may have. These individuals either created or joined the group under the umbrella of the same motivation, and more often than not, they're happy to arrange a time to meet when you arrive. Not to mention, these are great spots to find larger expat events and become familiar with what's hot and what's not from the comfort of your lounge.
Twitter, an abbreviated blogging site of sort, can also be a cantina of information. Finding a friend or even just a respected resource to answer a simple question is quick and easy. You simple search for a general hash tag - like #expatriate or a more country specific keyword and see what comes up. Send the tweeter a DM (Direct Message) with as many questions as the 140-character limit will allow. (Note that DMs can only be sent to people you follow.)
You can also send a message out into the twitterverse at large; as long as you add those hashtags to your tweet, anyone searching those specific terms will find your request for information.
The social exception
Though social media seems to be the best thing since sliced bread, it's still important to be wary how you wield your new power. It's vital that you be mindful of controlling who and what you invite onto your virtual doorstep.
Take care to protect your personal information in the beginning, and for your own safety, if you make the decision to meet face to face with someone bring a third party along or do so in a strictly public setting.
Do your research prior to the event, read about their activities and engagements.
Remember also, that reading something online doesn't make it reliable - it's important to verify any information you receive.
Social media gets your foot in the door; beyond that, it's up to you to get out there and live your new life, offline.
About the author: Expat Arrivals is a site dedicated to easing expat transitions abroad. We publish comprehensive destination guides, unique articles and quirky expat interviews to help your move abroad become a success. Join us on Facebook or LinkedIn, or follow us on Twitter.
I'm the editor of http://www.expatarrivals.com - a site devoted to developing comprehensive destination guides aimed at easing expats' transitions abroad. I moved to deepest darkest Africa - well, Cape Town to be fair, from the US of A back in 2007 and haven't found my way out since.
We're constantly looking for contributors and expats interested in offering their unique perspectives and personal experiences in any and every destination. Don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, concerns, and feedback!