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There are many services in this region designed to help expats integrate within their local communities – indeed many of them are listed in our Know-it-all passport guidebook!  Networking groups, for example, provide a wonderful opportunity for people to meet others and make the most of their time living in this region as expats.

One networking organization, which is benefiting from the global popularity of social media platforms is InterNations.  Set up in 2007 with the sole aim of making life easier for expats, InterNations now claims to be the largest expat social media platform in the world. With 1.4 million users, InterNations communities can be found in 390 cities across more than 195 countries – with 9 cities in Switzerland, including Geneva (about 15,000 members) and Lausanne (about 5,600 members). France also has a number of communities of which the two closest are in Lyon and Grenoble.

The best way to capture what InterNations does for expats is to give a brief overview of the services it provides for its members:

Friends – First and foremost, InterNations is a social media platform. It aims to introduce people from different cultures to each other, so they can begin making the most of their lives as expats. To facilitate this, InterNations uses a variety of methods, two of the most prominent are described below.
 
Networking – On the flipside of the social dimension of InterNations is the pronounced networking aspect. A large portion of their member base is constructed from business professionals, leaders in their field, who are always on the lookout for potential business contacts and prospects.

Events – Events are the heart and soul of InterNations. One of the many reasons to join the Swiss expat community, events are the embodiment of the company’s philosophy of bringing the online experience offline. They can range from large parties at exclusive clubs to small and private nights at the opera. With the warm atmosphere and friendly, open-minded guests, it is easy to make life-long friends at these events.

Activity Groups – Activity Groups are like small, private clubs and are one of the best ways to explore your new home, meet other expats, and even locals. InterNations’ groups allow you to start that hobby you have been constantly putting off!

Guide – A constantly updated fountain of information, the Expat Guide provides all you need to know about life in a host of different countries. A great resource for those still in the planning stages, you can find out everything you need to know from national economies to visa processes, before settling on the country of your desire. For those already abroad, the Expat Guide is also a great tool for researching information such as social security regulations or good neighborhoods to move into. Not only is it invaluable when you're living here, but you'll find it particularly useful if and when you have to move on!

Forum – The Forum provides expats with the inside track. Here, you can take advantage of the experience of other expats and find answers to some of the more particular questions of life abroad, such as ‘where can I buy a cheap bike in Geneva?”. The forum also has lively jobs and housing sections for those on the hunt.

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History of the organization
InterNations was founded by three young entrepreneurs who shared a common belief and an inspiring goal that stretched across the continents. Malte Zeeck, Philip von Plato and Christian Leifeld met at university and quickly formed what would become a lifelong friendship.

After some time apart living in different corners of the world, the three reunited in 2007 and discussed the recent developments in their lives, their experiences abroad and what they had come to realize since they last met. It quickly became apparent that, while they all loved living in different countries, certain elements of expat life made the novel experience of immersing oneself in another culture a strenuous and somewhat isolating affair. The endless red-tape, the hardship of settling in and the difficulties of finding new friends all amounted to placing a barrier between the individual and the expat life they had envisioned. Thus, they endeavored to make life easier for expats the world over. InterNations was born and continues to grow with the addition of new cities all around the world.

What makes InterNations different?
Asked what makes InterNations different to other networking organizations, co-founder, Malte, told knowitall.ch, “InterNations is both an online and offline community, a forum and an information guide, a place that brings people together and one that inspires them to leave their homes and travel the globe, to name but a few. What makes us special is that we are both global and local. It is a place where people from different corners of the planet can come together and discuss life abroad and find answers to questions about relocating. But even more, it is a place where global minds can come together on the local level. InterNations is very much a grassroots movement and with the myriad active members acting as the organization's lifeblood, it can never lose the personal touch that makes it exceptional.”

Philip added, “The members of InterNations are what distinguish our organization above all others. Members are carefully selected after they issue their request to join. The review process ensures our members' safety and privacy as well as maintaining the platform’s renowned quality. InterNations is the home of ‘global minds’, people who come from all walks of life, every race, culture, creed, economic and social class.”

He continued, “Global minds are those who have a need to explore more than what is outside their door, they accept that they do not know everything and yearn to learn from other cultures. They are more than happy to share their own experiences and delight in those of others, and, what’s more, they have the courage to go see. These are the kind of likeminded people that new members can expect to meet when they join InterNations!”

InterNationswww.internations.org
Geneva: www.internations.org/geneva-expats
Lausanne: www.internations.org/lausanne-expats