I moved to London 6 months ago after a 5 year absence swanning around Italy (swanning purposefully I might add) and then basking in the Surrey countryside. London is a scary city if you don’t know many people. For all its 8 million or so inhabitants and frenetic life pace, its damned hard to actually meet people. Facebook, twitter, etc. are all brilliant for following what your ex roommate in New Jersey is doing on her holidays, or knowing what so-and-so you were in Math class with is eating for lunch, but really, how social is it? Not a great deal. I didn’t see my nightlife getting any more glamorous thanks to a status update.
Meetup is the social network with a difference. It recognises that however much time you spend online, the one thing we’re all really looking for is physical company and face-to-face conversation.
By uniting people first of all online and allowing you to tap into groups who share your interests and needs, they then set up the face-to-face encounter, usually with incredible levels of efficiency, organisation and professionalism. Like online dating, this is the try-before-you-buy social network. Narrow down exactly what kind of social/hobby/interest group you are looking for online, then go and find it in person at their next event.
I joined a French language meetup, a life-drawing class meetup, the American Expats Political Discussion meetup and my favourite of all: Tastour – a group for food and wine experiences in London where you learn, taste and mingle. Tastour was set up and is run by Kelly Bayliffe, a thoroughly entertaining host – recently winning an IWC award for wine educator of 2010! – with pots of knowledge and enthusiasm for her subject. A professional wine educator, she also knows how to throw a fun event. I have now been to three tasting evenings – but if I had the time and money, there are weekly events to attend, each with a different twist. It could be wine and cheese pairings, a culinary walking tour of a London neighbourhood, Champagne tasting at Ascot. You name it, she’ll organise it.
Her sit down “learn wine without wasting time” events are a chance to mix with people of all backgrounds and professions in a chilled-out environment, sample about 10 superb quality wines over 6 rounds, play a few tasting games, learn to appreciate new flavours, and of course, have a lot of fun – especially after the 10th glass and we then launch into the “fastest corkscrew in the West” games…
I met my ex through a meetup event, and a best friend through a meetup event. I’ve taken A. to a meetup event. I bumped into a girl who attended the same school as me in France at a meetup event! I’ve sat at tables with on my left an elderly Chilean artist, on my right a US soldier and in front of me a suited and booted City lawyer – people I’d rarely encounter in my day to day life, all with great stories to tell (seriously, the lawyer too, no kidding!)
Best of all, I’ve discovered a range of new interests through Meetup, and can now – crucially – tell the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Malbec. For foodies, there are endless Meetups, from Organic Food Fans, to Vegan socials.
So rather than looking at your friend’s pics of a fab night out on facebook, get onto Meetup, find similar-thinking people in your area, and book yourself for a fun night out!