According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belonging and love come right after safety and security. Making sure you have friends is so important, especially for a nomad family like mine.
When we moved to Zadar, Croatia, we knew that we would need to build relationships quickly so we could feel at home in our new city. I connected with a few people online before arrival (such as the Coworking space and the outdoor festival), but was counting on mostly in person meetings and conversation to make the difference.
We wanted to strategically connect with superconnectors first. These are people who are a hub in their social network. Superconnectors can be journalists, restaurant owners, event organizers, politicians, gym owners, taxi drivers, professor – whoever maintains a large network.
We learned that it was going to be hard to find a house to rent for three months in Zadar because everyone was saving space to rent their rooms and houses during high season when prices quadruple. We found a huge stone house to live in a quiet neighborhood, with a garden, patio, wifi, guest bedroom, close to the beach, basically everything we wanted in a house all because of relationships. Here is how we found our house:
I connected with Martina of the Zadar Outdoor Festival through a comment on Instagram before I arrived, and we made a plan to meet up on arrival to potentially collaborate with my podcast, the Art of Adventure Podcast.
We met Martina at a café in our first 24 hours in Croatia, and she became our first friend. Martina introduced us to her colleague Iva, who runs a tour company and rents houses. She manages the house we ended up renting and just wanted it filled long term so she didn’t have to bother showing it all the time.
The next relationship building tool we took advantage of was a Facebook group. Like many cities, there is a Zadar expat group that we joined. I shot a 60 second live video introducing myself and our family, where we were from, what we loved to do, and who we were looking to meet. Thanks to the Facebook’s algorithm preference for video, more than half the people in the group saw the video and dozens of people reached out.
Through that short video:
We met an American whose boyfriend is the star center of the professional basketball team and offered to take us to a playoff game. She’s also a nanny, which we could always use some help with the baby. We had them over for dinner yesterday.
We met the owner of a hostel who lives in our neighborhood who told us how to get internet on our phones, which café was best for coffee on the beach, how we could teach yoga classes, how to organize a Frisbee game, and an offer to use their car.
We met a woman with a new baby the same age as Axel, who is a part time tour guide and lives in our neighborhood. This is perfect for the babies and moms to hang out together.
I messaged with the lone Coworking space a week before our arrival, telling them that I give workshops and talks at coworking spaces around the world, and proposed several topics that might be a good fit.
When we arrived I met with Slavica, the host of the space. She explained to me that the coworking space in Zadar was unique because it was owned by no less than five different government entities that all shared responsibility for the space (they were communists not too long ago after all). She told me how to pitch my speaking topics to all the agencies. In just a couple days my email pitch resulted in an offer to speak at other events in the region.
Slavica also happens to be a gardener, which is perfect, because part of the negotiation for our awesome house is that we would take care of the garden. Heidi wants to grow some vegetables and learn about the local edible and medicinal plants. Slavica is coming over for dinner next Wednesday and bringing another friend to introduce us to.
We often hang out with people in the yoga community, so we made sure to go to the yoga sessions of the Outdoor Festival. They invited us to come to their studio and for Heidi to teach classes there.
I’m a huge fan of cycling, and some of my best business opportunities have come while riding with other people, so I wanted to connect with the cycling team here. On our third day, I went to bike shop to meet the owner. Turns out he is the secretary for the local cycling development team and invited me to come train with the squad.
If you are thinking of going to a new city with your family to move or for a vacation, hopefully this has given you some insight into how you can quickly build a network and make your new location feel just like home!
Photo: Getty Images