Recently, I moved to Barcelona for a six-month marketing internship at an up-and-coming start-up. The 30 employees and I happily share our office, or should I say room, with another start-up company. Upon arriving, I expected to see bright-eyed entrepreneurial-spirted people like myself. Instead, I found people twice my age or older who were more comfortable slouched in their chairs than engaging in conversation. It was safe to say I would not be finding new friends here. So here I was in an unknown city, oblivious to the culture and language but looking for friends.
I don’t want to sound desperate, but I jokingly thought it would be a great idea to go to the nearby park and wave a “Looking for Friends” sign at passers-by, but then again I would look as desperate as the guy next to me waving a similar sign selling samosas. What was I supposed to do? I can’t wave a sign. I can’t find work friends. Where was I supposed to find people? Three words, one website: Meetup.com.
This fun website was unknown to me until I was casually searching the web for a restaurant (not wanting random street samosa cuisine) and came across an ad advertising English-speaking outings in Barcelona.
Jackpot! Clicking my way through a site that reminded me of a dating website, I found hundreds of events to enjoy all across lively Barcelona, all aimed at locals, expats and tourists. Yes, of course there were some “events” that you could tell were set up by some sketchy bar to attract tourists looking for *ahem* “local fun,” but most events seemed like legitimate events and activities that expats and other English speakers actually attend!
I scrolled past the local nudist party and headed straight to a page advertising a bilingual civil war tour of Barcelona, clue number one. The tour was set to meet near the Hard Rock Café by a professional tour guide with a fee of 5 euros and the promise of a good time and beer afterwards. I saw that there were some younger people on the tour and without thinking, signed up for it.
A week later, arriving a few minutes early, I searched for a group of English-speaking people amongst the Friday crowd. With my heart in my throat, I looked around and found them, except they weren’t speaking English but rather, Spanish. This should have been my second clue. I said “Hello” and introduced myself, but with my awful luck, stuttered and didn’t even get to finish saying my name. Oh well, at least I tried. A few more people showed up and I saw only two people my age as most people were a lot older. The group of us went to a quiet part of les Rambles after the tour guide’s friend took our money.
We all nervously circled around our guide and he asked us a question: “How many of you just speak English” I raised my hand…alone. This was my third and final warning that I would not be having the best time on this tour. The three-hour tour continued with Spanish and a few sentences in English at every stop. I mostly daydreamed about some local attractions and, in between walks, would talk to the people my age. By the end, I had developed a small friendship with a girl from the Ukraine in town for an internship and a scientist who worked on The Large Hadron Collider.
With the promise of beer and conversation soon to begin, I was excited to chat. I chatted with the girl and the local guide for two hours and we really hit it off. I thought to myself how lucky I was to find at least one friend within a week of moving to a new city. Later on, when the rest of the group thinned out, I stayed up late with the scientist who I connected a lot with and chatted about my job too. I gave them each a business card, smiling and knowing I had just started some friendships. Then, tragedy emerged. They never contacted me!
Despite the sad conclusion to what I thought would be great friendships, I am determined more than ever to find some friends. Therefore, I have already signed up for some more events — three this weekend alone.
I guess you could say Meetup.com and Match.com are similar in the sense that you can meet someone, hit it off and then never hear from them again. However, like Match.com, you just have to keep trying and trying until you find the one or in my case, a few “ones.”