"Arriving in a new country felt like the first day of school, exciting but nerve-wracking," shares Herman, an Austrian expat in Portugal. "Finding my community turned that anxiety into anticipation."

In a world where the pursuit of a better, more fulfilling life often means hopping on a plane to a land thousands of miles away, the importance of community has never felt so profound, particularly for us expatriates. You see, humans are inherently social creatures, and every fibre of our being yearns for connection. The stark reality, as backed by mountains of research, is that isolation can be as deadly as a heavy smoking habit or an unchecked penchant for the bottle.

Imagine, if you will, a 32% increased risk of stroke merely from feeling disconnected, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests. Harvard's researchers have gone as far as to link loneliness with early mortality, depression, and a host of other cheery companions like heart disease and substance abuse. And here we were, thinking a bit of solitude could do us some good!

The Reality of Isolation "After moving to Boliqueime, the silence was deafening," recalls Maria, a retiree from Manchester. "I discovered that finding your tribe abroad is not merely a social experience - it's a vital necessity, as essential as our NIF numbers or obtaining a D7 visa." This sentiment is echoed by countless expatriates in Portugal, where building a new social network is both a challenge and a necessity.

The Power of Casual Connections "Chatting with strangers at the local café in Silves turned my week around more times than I can count," says Tom, an American graphic designer. Robert Waldinger, who leads Harvard’s longest-running study on human happiness, supports this, noting that "talking to strangers can actually make us happier." In the darkest days of the pandemic, when the world seemed to huddle away from each other, those in the know were sounding alarms about the dire health consequences of acute loneliness.

Building Networks from Scratch "Creating a community from scratch was daunting," admits Angie, a wine sommelier from Dublin. "But each shared meal (matched with exquisite bottles of Portuguese wine), and each helping hand moved us closer together." For expatriates, these communities become lifelines, offering the warmth, assistance, and companionship essential for not just surviving, but thriving in a foreign land. They remind us that, even thousands of miles away from our home countries, we are not alone; by reaching out and connecting with others, we can find or create a sense of home, no matter where we are in the world.

Credits: Supplied Image;

Well, this situation presents us with a golden opportunity. It's a chance to build our own communities and find our tribe in this vast world. My personal journey, much like many of yours, has been a testament to the power of community. Once I had settled my family into their new school and surroundings, I found myself yearning for the company of like-minded, professional women with a growth mindset - women with whom I could discuss not only business challenges but also parenting, wellness or life's purposes. Unable to find an existing group that fit my needs, I took the initiative to create one from scratch - the Algarve Women’s Network. I’ve also joined Algarve Evolution to deepen my understanding of technology and to surround myself with an inspirational community of individuals dedicated to fostering innovation and growth in the region. Women of Loulé has been my social lifeline, offering workshops and adventurous events ranging from paragliding to cooking classes and zip-wiring from Spain back to Portugal.

Let me tell you, the notion that community is the panacea for all our ills is not an overstatement. Sure, it’s not the sole answer but think of it as a vital ingredient in the elixir of life. It’s right up there with love, passion, and a sense of purpose. Many of us wander through life without the full set, but a dash of community can make the journey all the more bearable.

Even for those of us who revel in solitude, the warmth of a community, the sense of belonging, can be the difference between merely surviving and truly thriving. I remember my mother’s words when I told her I’ve co-founded the Algarve Women’s Network. She said with great sadness, “I never found my tribe.” And it struck me how universal that yearning is - to find people who get us, who welcome us into a fold.

The beauty of expat life is that it throws us into a melting pot of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Here, in this beautifully chaotic mix, we have the chance to create something truly special - a community that transcends geographical boundaries and cultural differences.

In conclusion, my fellow globetrotters, the search for community is not just a quest for survival - it’s a journey towards finding a home away from home. It’s about finding your tribe in the unlikeliest of places and realizing that, no matter where you are in the world, you’re never truly alone. So here’s to us - the adventurers, the dreamers, the community builders. Here’s to finding our tribe and, in doing so, discovering ourselves.


I am an advocate for community development and a champion for women's empowerment. My passion lies in leadership and innovation, and I am dedicated to using my voice and influence to nurture robust, entrepreneurial communities throughout Portugal. My mission is to cultivate a vibrant community of changemakers who are committed to pursuing their dreams and making a significant impact in their new country of residence. 

A multi-award-winning entrepreneur | Bestselling Author | Co-founder of Algarve Women’s Network

Kamila Laura Sitwell