Friday, 13 August 2010

The art of making and keeping friends the expat way

Source: Getty

We have explored before the ways in which some expats are finding romance away from home whilst others are experiencing the familiar loneliness that accompanies the transition to a new way of life.

Our 2009 Expat Experience report found that while expats in Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong indicated positive experiences in meeting new people overseas, expats based in Germany, Belgium and Japan have found it more difficult to mix with fellow expats and make local friends.

However, we came across this Telegraph article that might offer a rather immediate solution for those looking to ingratiate themselves into their newfound local communities. The latest range of online networking websites are offering friends for hire! For a small hourly rate you can select your companion for platonic activities such as chatting over coffee, cinema visits and shopping trips, through services such as The opportunity to instantly fulfil social needs is said to appeal to those who have relocated with their busy careers or simply need a native tour guide to show them around their new neighbourhoods.

As the birthplace of Hello Kitty and capsule hotels, the Japanese have also embraced this networking opportunity and come up with a new type of “social service” that help people fill that social abyss, Office Agents- a Tokyo-based company rents out friends, work colleagues and even relatives. For expats, this could be a practical (albeit unconventional) solution to exploring your new territory and meeting new people.

Mitch Moxley, an American in China is paid to act as the “foreign” colleague for Chinese businesses. He says, ‘Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave... The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit...It’s a lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here.’

We’d be interested in hearing about what you think about this rent-a-friend phenomenon or even about your own social experiences around the world. Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

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