Monday, August 19, 2013

A meeting of nations

Despite what many friends had told me about London and making friends, after hearing about an organization called InterNations more than once in a week I decided it was maybe time to check this thing out.

Basically it's the official expat meetup group of London. I do think it exists in other cities but this is a biggie. Unlike Helsinki, where all expats just sort of know each other, London is big enough where people need to actually organize this business and get people together for interesting things. People don't just come together. And as I've seen from my experiences here...people are just not...together.

Anyway, it took some courage but after some small amount of thought, I decided to jump in with both feet. What was the worst that could happen? I would find out that the world of expats in London was boring, tired, or otherwise about other things (plainly for people trying to find jobs or just to date or whatever) and then I could move on and try to find friends elsewhere. At the very least I would be doing something new, which is more than what I could say for most of my weekends (despite loving the farmers market, sometimes you do need to change things up).

So, I joined the website and took a breath.

Immediately I was bombarded with friend requests and notices about upcoming events. Apparently this organization was big. And actually exceptionally well-organized. It was like a well-oiled machine of people. Constantly moving. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised, given how many people it caters to but still, I was a bit shocked.

The other thing that took me by surprise - there was an event in a few days that actually looked fairly interesting. And was pretty close to my work (just a few stops down the Bakerloo line). So...what the hell.

I registered for the event, was told that it would be 10pounds at the door to pay for admin costs, or I could become a member right then and there and pay a mere 3.95pounds a month to not pay anything at all for any of the events. That's when I knew that this was definitely an organized group. They had monthly subscribers. Real people who were interested in paying real money...every month.

Well alright then.

Friday came around and after several drinks with coworkers I hopped on the Bakerloo line and got to the appointed place with surprising ease. 10pounds at the door and boom, I was in.

They'd rented an entire club for us to mingle and meet each other. Us expats. From all corners of the globe. Of course British people were welcome as well, and as far as I could tell, there were actually a few of them mixed in with us.

We were all given one free welcome drink (really just the cost of admission) and poof, instant mingling. 

As I was getting my drink I was immediately greeted by someone also getting there and we started chatting. Someone from Greece. We chatted for a bit before deciding we should network with other people.

I stopped by a twosome that was talking. As it turned out it was an Irish guy and a Singaporean girl. We chatted about various things before I was pulled into another group and then another group. Lots of talking about various things - the people here had all done so much and were so interesting!

Eventually it got a bit overwhelming. And I was hungry. So I rallied the people around me and we went out for food. We stopped at a delicious Indian restaurant. I have no pictures because conversation continued at a manic pace.

Needless to say I made some good friends that night. I ended up trading contact information with everyone at the table (there were four of us total at the end), but met up with a German girl over the weekend (who I'll call Books) and have kept in close contact with the Irish guy I met when I first arrived (who I'll call Liono).

I guess it just goes to show you never know who you're going to meet and when. The one thing I will say about this versus the way I've met expats in other countries: this is like using a shotgun whereas in other places it's more like using a handgun. Here you try to meet as many as possible all at one time versus other places which have a much more focused approach on getting people with similar interests together. There are other splinter groups within InterNations (there are dinner groups and wine groups, language groups even), but these seemed a lot less popular on their page and I imagine you only get into those once you know what you're looking for.

How interesting. This was definitely worth checking out. Check and check.

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