Updated: Feb 1, 2019
A guide to meeting people in a new city
Guest Blog - Lisette Bellizzi - Expat and Founder of Cibo
I grew up in the United States, New Jersey specifically. I am the product of an English Mom (or should I say, “mum”) and an Italian dad. When you are growing up, making friends is relatively easy for most I believe. There are swim teams to participate with, Brownies or Girl Scout troops with cookies to sell, dance classes, sports, etc. There is also school, which is where most of our social circles come from, straight up to whatever level of education you obtain.
As an adult, making friends and finding a social circle is MUCH harder. I’m a very social person, an extrovert if you will, and chatting people up in line at a coffee shop or just about anywhere has never been a problem for me. But in 2014, I hit the social circles that are nearly impossible to crack: Italians. Italians, and other cultures as I have since learned, often make childhood friends and stay in that group of friends. It’s kind of like mating for life. When that happens, an outsider, no matter how friendly, can rarely make it into the inner circle of these intimate groups. Italians are very outgoing and lively, but they keep their social groups protected and private. Making friends online is a non-starter.
After a couple of relatively isolated years in southern Italy, spending a lot of time with my cats on the weekends, as opposed to my 5 nights-out-a-week social life in the States, I decided to move to Scotland. Knowing that the move was coming up and that I was going to be in a fairly large city, I reached out to people using virtual social networking. I connected with people easily, and since doing that and having successfully relocated, I haven’t spent another weekend brushing my cats’ hair unless I wanted to.
Different social networks exist for different reasons, so I’ll give you an overview of which ones I used, successfully, and for which motives.
As the name suggests, this all women group is ladies only and roots itself in the concepts of female friendship and empowerment. Girls Gone International groups are springing up across the globe, and already exist in many major cities. I have become an organiser for this group, and we have over 150 members in the Aberdeen area. We do everything from dinners to book exchanges, and yoga classes to brunches. You can find this group on Facebook and on the Meetup page. It’s the group in which I’ve met many of my friends in Aberdeen.
Meetup is a general website for anyone looking to get involved in social activities and meet people. The groups are generally, though not exclusively, co-ed. I’ve seen groups for everything from hiking to photography to trivia nights. I joined to practice my Italian in a language group. Meetup.com offers the opportunity to continue or find some hobbies, while meeting other people.
Internations is the largest official ex-pat community in the world. There is a basic membership level, which is free, or you can pay a monthly fee for improved networking opportunities and access to different groups. Our local Internations group has one major event a month, and when I attended, I met two ladies who are now two of my best friends, and who have since joined Girls Gone International. I like to cross-promote social groups. Internations is great for meeting people from all over the world, for networking, and for becoming an organiser if you wish to do so.
You may be shocked that I have mentioned this site, but guess what? I met my husband on Tinder and we are getting married in 5 months. I know another couple that met on Tinder and are now married, and three other couples that met on Tinder and are in long term committed relationships. Tinder is a dating site, sometimes a “hook-up” site, so clearly you have to be careful. My advice is to take time to chat with people with whom you match, and make sure that they have the same intentions that you do. I met Bobby after going on a handful of other dates, so you do have to be willing to put yourself out there. In my case and others, it’s definitely worth it.
In addition to these international networks, there are local groups that are worth looking into in different countries. A great way to meet people, at least virtually, in Italy, is the TEFL, or teaching English as a second language sites. You can connect with other ex-pats and share experiences and advice.
As my impending nuptials approached, my fiancé and I decided to actively get on the road to becoming fit this past month. A UK organisation that we have found, British Military Fitness, has been ideal for our workout needs but also offers a social group via Facebook. There are many work-out groups like this all over the UK and other parts of the world.
So the moral of this story is, if you want to meet people, you should diversify. Different groups are popular in different areas, and you should seek out the group or groups that works for you. Be creative, search the internet, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people via messaging or email. It may take a bit of trial and error, but ultimately you will get out of networking what you put into it. Don’t be afraid to try new things and meet new people. They will enrich and change your life for the better, as mine have done for me.
Good luck and go get ‘em!
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