Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Meet People in Dublin

I've been thinking a lot about the act of meeting people, because my first months here have been pretty focused on this pursuit. Life is pretty crap without other people in it, so naturally, I wanted to avoid having a crappy year. My experience has been about Dublin, but I bet this applies to lots of decently-sized cities that have things going on. If you live in the suburbs or a really small town, I can't help you. I sure someone can, but I haven't been both a)in a small town and b)available to meet new people since I was doing my undergrad. And back then, the town didn't matter, because we were all so navel-gazing about the campus-as-world.

Just recently, I discovered a site called Meetup.com. It is AMAZING! Basically, the site acts as a hub for social groups. Kind of like Facebook, only the main organizing factor is the group, as opposed to the individual. A Marxian Facebook, if you will.

Anyone can start up a group on Meetup, and a quick perusal of the Dublin nexus shows that all sorts of different people have done so; there are groups for cinema-going, naturism a.k.a. nekkidism, restaurant-going, ex-pats of all origins, queers, meditation, spirituality, business networking, and so on. I joined a few groups, and have somehow (twist me rubber arm) been drawn into helping out with one group's organisation. I went to events this past weekend with two different groups; first, an afternoon tea party with the brand new Dublin LGBTQ Women's Social Networking group, and second, an exhibit of New York photography with the New and Not So New in Dublin group, which seems to be one of the most active Dublin groups. Both events were relaxed and the people were delightful. I didn't really know what to expect, because usually I meet like-minded people by going to things I like, and therefore, finding myself amongst other people who like the same thing (ya, I guess I just defined 'like-minded'). But in this case, the group descriptions were quite open, so I had no idea what to expect. Maybe only weirdos attend these events, hahahaha... The art event in particular was good for easy socialising, because if you're shy about jumping into extended conversations, then the activity facilitates a kind of casualness. "Oooh, that's an interesting angle on the Chrysler building; "Wow, that Cindy Sherman is such a chameleon;" "I wonder how they captured that panorama?"

As I said, I only came upon this Meetup thingy last week, but I've been here for months, and thankfully this weekend wasn't the first time I met people. Here are some other ways:

1. Talk to people in airports. I've picked up four people this way! One of them, Carla, has become my go-to gal for all kinds of emotional blubbering here in The Dub. I met her at the gate in Toronto before I actually immigrated. Met some cool folks watching other people's luggage endlessly circle on the belt... Met one more person on the way to the airport - at a bus stop. So it seems that anything to do with air travel works. Perhaps this is because it's so frigging boring, that people are desperate to socialise!


2. Have lunch with your colleagues. Everyone needs to eat. If you don't have any colleagues, get a job so you can have some.

3. Join a yoga class that meets regularly. Often, these classes have the same people attending them every week, so you can chat while rolling up your mat, or unpacking your stretchy clothes. Or, like me, you could follow your yoga teacher from a class in one studio to a class in another studio, joke that you're her yoga stalker, and then hope she wants to become your friend. Now, I suppose you could join other classes if you don't like yoginis, but yoginis are known for being calm, open-minded, and present. What more could you ask for in a friend?

4. Take a workshop on something that extends over a few days. If you do this, you will see the same people everyday! It works.

5. Look like you know where you are going. For some reason, I get asked for directions no matter what city I am in. I don't necessarily know where I am going, but I must look like I know where I am going. And no, I don't carry a map anymore.

6. Do some things by yourself. Now I know that this can suck, and once you've made one friend, you may be tempted to do everything with that friend. But then you talk only to that friend, and miss opportunities for meeting new people.

7. Squeeze every potential contact out of your friends and family at home. I've met some of the most special peeps here in Dublin because someone at home knew someone who knew this person in Dublin... The common connection, no matter how tenuous, somehow breaks down the initial meeting barrier a bit.

And finally, say Yes to everything. Talk to strangers. Ask people out for coffee, even if it feels too soon. Push your own level of discomfort as far as you can - what do you have to lose?


Me and Carla checking out Dun Laoghaire

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