Is Joining an Expat Club Worth It?

by farrah on May 24, 2013 · 10 comments

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 Last night we had the chance to do something pretty cool with our expat club. They always seem to have many fun events for us- and on the heels of the history of  House of Orange meeting from a few weeks ago- we had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Tilburg and receive a tour of the very unique ‘castle’ that sits as the city hall.

The Palace Raadhuis of Tilburg

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As far as history goes, this castle – Palace Raadhuis was started for and by King Willem II in the 1800s. Unfortunately, he died just before completion and was never able to live in it himself. The palace has been used for several different purposes- at one time it was a high school where it was attended by its most famous student- Vincent van Gogh. We wouldn’t have had the chance to get a personalized tour otherwise- so once again I have the Tilburg International Club to thank for that!

Mayor of Tilburg Peter Noordanus introducing us to mayors past

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Our expat club is represented by (currently) 21 different nationalities. There are individuals, families, students and more who make up this eclectic group. We’ve been members for the six months that we’ve lived here- and I have to say that if you’re an expat thinking of  joining a club like this, it’s absolutely worth your while. The boys have been to an event at the train museum in Utrecht, bowling night out, my husband and I have taken advantage of date night dinner and I am a member of the book club just to name a few. They host on average three events per month so there’s always something new going on and the activities appeal to everyone.

View of Tilburg from atop city hall

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How to find an expat club:

There are many benefits to joining a club- discounts in the area, knowing about upcoming cultural events and simply having other people to talk to that completely understand expat life. Not sure if there’s an expat group in your area? Try Googling it first- and if that doesn’t work, ask around at your workplace, children’s school or other expats in the area.

In the Netherlands, one resource is to check out the list at Expatica.com. They have club lists broken down into three parts- and there are many, many groups listed there. If you’re a student or faculty member- ask around at the university. You might even find that club dues are paid for by your school.

You can also check out meetup.com and find local meetups. I have been to one in Tilburg with the International Ladies Meetup– and I have to say they are quite the fun group. Dinner, drinks, dancing, movies- they do it all. I find that I have a busier social calendar here than I ever did back home!

Just a quick search at ExpatFocus.com popped up this compilation of expat groups in France. If you do a quick search for your country you are bound to find something in your area. One of the things we talked about last night was how do we get people to know about us??? I think it starts with the expat being aware (first and foremost) that these groups exist and it’s up to the individual to seek them out.

You’re already an expert at research:

I realize with everything else you have going on- researching one more thing doesn’t exactly sound appealing! But if you take the time to do some quick searches and make contacts before you move- you will have already established a network of support in your adopted country. I found our club online well before our move and emailed questions I had so I knew what to expect.

Do you belong to an expat group? How did you find the one in your area?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elizabeth May 24, 2013 at 11:58 am

I did try an international women’s group once. I don’t do particularly well with groups of people I don’t know, so I met with two of the girls ahead of time. I really liked them and enjoyed our lunch together so I was ready for the women’s group…or so I thought. On the morning of the get-together, I took my older daughter with me because she didn’t have school that day. When we arrived, there was a girl from Florida there. She was very self-important acting, on her cell phone when we were trying to have a conversation, etc. She mentioned that she was going to have to leave early to get to a nearby city. My children who attend an international school near that city have friends who live there which I mentioned. So, someone asked the girl if her children attended the international school. She said that they did not and then proceeded to go on a 10 minute rant about how she’d never send her kids to that school. The reasons ranged from outright falsehoods to the ridiculous. Some of the other ladies and I tried to correct her at first, but she wouldn’t be stopped so eventually we all just let her rant. My daughter, who was sitting next to me, was becoming increasingly upset by what this lady was saying. M is an unusual sort for the teenage set-she is very invested in school and doing well so she can get into a good college. Finally, I had to turn to M and tell her that she went to an awesome school (which she does) and pointed out the very first thing the lady said: if my husband’s company was paying for my kids to go to school there, then of course that’s where they’d go; that’d be a no-brainer. So, rather than telling the truth which was that she couldn’t afford the school, she ripped it to shreds with my daughter sitting right there. Needless to say, I haven’t been back!

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2 farrah May 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Oh my gosh- that’s awful. And embarrassing as an American. I wonder if people realize that they are representing their home countries wherever they go? And how transparent is she, saying she’d go there, but… I’m sorry her petty behavior was exposed to your daughter but what a teachable moment to be sure… Basically never act like that woman and you’ll be ok!

They’re not all like that! Sometimes it’s hit or miss, kind of like where you land as an expat also.

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3 Ann May 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

We don’t have an official expats club where I live. We have different expat groups doing different things, but none is coordinated and none are as cool as what you’re doing. We have a book club, and two social clubs, and then there’s a parents of toddlers clubs in a nearby city. Oh, and the American Women’s Club in that same city. I’ve gone to the book club meetings before, but I have two little ones – I have no time to read anymore! The women’s club is open to anyone interested in joining, not just Americans. They seem to have been picking up on activities lately, so I might consider it again when I have more time.

Throughout Germany, though, I know there are good expat clubs. I have friends in different cities and the expat clubs they belong to do a lot for their members. If someone is moving to Germany, a good place to look is ToytownGermany.com. It’s a forum with information on every city, and all the little things about daily life in Germany, and information on meeting other expats in the area.

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4 farrah May 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm

THANK YOU! I needed a good Germany suggestion in here. Wow- and that’s a ton of clubs and activities! Funny about the book club (no wine jokes! we drink tea!) but our latest selection has been a bit tough you might say. I am still in the first chapter but actually hoping the club night teaches me about the book. I hope!

Great ideas- thanks!

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5 Ann May 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm

What book are you reading? My last local book club book was, I believe, the Stephen King book about John F. Kennedy. I had already read that and liked it… I should’ve gone to the meeting.

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6 farrah May 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm

The Satanic Verses. Ahem. But the previous two were fast paced current thrillers so we needed a change- but woah. That was intense.

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7 Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs May 28, 2013 at 1:31 am

I was going to join one in London, and then something happened (which is a long story to be told in person!) and I realized quickly that it was not for me!

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8 farrah May 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Oh no! What is up with these crazy expat club stories! Now I’m going to go to a meeting and wonder when the crazy is going to happen 🙂

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