I’ve said it a ton of times over the last 13 months, creating a social life and making friends is imperative to enabling you to settle and feel comfortable in your new surroundings.
Moving to a new country is daunting at best but it can also be hugely exciting. I won’t lie and pretend I wasn’t nervous, scared and screaming in my head ‘what the hell are you doing you crazy man?’! I was all of those things but I was also excited by the challenge and knowing I was doing something so many people talk about doing but then make up every excuse under the sun as to why they can’t do it.
Excuses like having a career, not being near family, and not leaving friends are but a few. And to an extent they are very relevant. But what bothers me about that is living life on ‘what if something happens’ or ‘what if it doesn’t work out’ terms only leads to regrets further down the line. What if something happens? You get off your backside and do something about it. What if it doesn’t work out? You go back home or move somewhere else and start again. Nothing in life is certain except death, it never will be. But not doing things because of fear is not going to get you very far or make you feel very fulfilled. How do I know? Because I was that guy who talked himself out of so many things based on fear. Whether that’s going up to someone and talking to them, going out to a social event where I don’t know anyone, taking a leap into the unknown with a career move. Contrary to what a lot of my recent friends, and my ex-girlfriend, think I have not always been confident, far far from it. So what does this have to do with Meetup and InterNations?
For those that don’t know, Meetup and InterNations are social platforms through which social events are arranged. Meetup in Vancouver has over 280 different groups covering hobbies, religion, special interest groups, self-improvement, and the list goes on and on. It’s really cool and great for getting out and meeting people.
InterNations, however, is totally different. The theme is bringing people together from different cultures including those in the host country who have lived and/or worked internationally. It brings people together, encouraging them to share their stories, encouraging them to network with other people who have also lived or worked in different countries. Why? Because when you pick your entire life up and start again in a new country it is great to know people who know how things work in that new country that you can connect with. It can be stupid everyday things like how does banking work in your new country, how do you enrol kids in school, what’s hydro (it’s what electricity is called in British Columbia because 95% of the electricity comes from hydroelectric power), how do you register for a doctor etc etc. All these things you take for granted in your home country because they’re obvious to you. Trouble is in a new country what seems obvious to a local is completely alien to a newby in that country. That’s where knowing others who have done it can be really helpful because you can ask questions like that without feeling stupid.
It is also hugely valuable for job hunting. What’s worse than arriving in new country knowing the clock is ticking before you run out of money and end up living in a cardboard box on a street corner? And believe me that fear is real, especially when you live in an expensive city where you feel like you’ve applied for every job that ever existed and no-one is getting back to you. It is hugely demoralising and very frustrating. Meeting and connecting with people may not get you a job where they work, but it can certainly help to get you connected with the right people. In the last month I have met 2 people, one from Bulgaria, one from Brazil, whose resumes I have passed on to my employer. Does it guarantee them a job? No. But it gives them a foot in the door which in a city with such a transient community and hundreds of people fighting for every job opportunity makes a huge difference if they come with a personal recommendation.
The big difference between Meetup and InterNations, is InterNations has membership levels, so you have to sign up to them. The first level, Basic, is free and allows you to create a profile and join different groups but you don’t get to see all the events. The second level is Albatros (not sure why it’s called that but hey at least it’s creative). Albatros costs around CA$60 for the year and means you get access to attend all events, some of which have a registration fee of $5 on the door vs $18 for non-members or guests. Personally, I would recommend the Albatros membership because the number of events you can attend increases significantly.
Another thing I have noticed is that InterNations events are made up of a much wider range of age groups. Of the last 5-6 events I have attended I’d say I was one of the youngest and I’m nearly 30. I like it because it means you get to mix with people who have a lot more life and general experience than you. That said nothing feels better than being able to help them with something, be that giving advice on some of the things previously mentioned or generally giving them some words of encouragement when they feel totally like a fish out of water, and anyone can do it, you don’t have to have years and years of experience. I also like being around people who are more mature and clearer about what they want. I find it exciting and it pushes me to make myself a better person.
Overall, I think if you use Meetup or InterNations as a way of meeting people it is incredibly valuable to be able to create meaningful relationships with people from different backgrounds. I encourage you to look at both Meetup and InterNations events in cities near you.