Online Dating for Friends: Why Meetup.com matters

There is nothing more exciting than moving to a new city. It’s a chance to start your life fresh with a new perspective, a new job and often times, new friends. When you move away to school, it’s easy to make friends, as you have the opportunity to do so in your classes or in your residence building, but when you move somewhere for work, things tend to be a little different.  Your housemates are great and the people you work with also serve as a source of socialization, but where do you meet the friends outside of these two places? The kinds of friends you might have at home?

Recently, I made the move from Orangeville, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta. For those of you counting, that’s a distance of approximately 3,500 kilometres, a population difference of over one million and a time difference of two hours. I originally moved to be a nanny, but like many great adventures, things changed and I had to roll with the punches. I became a recreation leader for the city, and moved to the northwest, close to the mountains.

Via: http://robmosesphotography.com/.

The photo to the right is a picture from the neighbourhood I live in, it’s hard to believe a community in one of Canada’s largest cities can be so beautiful.

Not only is living in Calgary my first adult adventure, complete with paying rent,  going grocery shopping and learning to cook for myself, but it’s also my first time living with complete strangers. Similar to many people in Calgary, I moved out here for work and don’t have many friends outside of my job. I empathize with others who feel this way and they recommended I check out Meetup.com.  For the past two years, they’ve used it to develop friendships and meet new people, as the name of the website suggests.

Meetup.com is like the Plenty of Fish of friendships. Creating an account is easy, you simply complete your profile by selecting interests that suit you. After this, a list of suggested meet up groups is generated.

Meetup.com currently has has 19.67 million members in 175 countries (Via: http://www.meetup.com/about/).

Some groups are age based and others are interest based. Hiking groups and board game groups were some suggested to me. Users are able to click on a specific group and browse through past events they’ve had to get a better understanding of what kind of adventures the group hosts.

Of some of the people on Meetup, there are hikers, those looking to do something new, people who are into board games, knitting addicts and even those just looking to go to a movie with others so they’re not alone. You can join as many meet up groups as you’d like, but the meet up group that seemed the fit best for me was Calgary’s Awesome Twenties.

As soon as you select to join a group, you’re encouraged to fill out an additional profile to answer some group specific questions. For Calgary’s Awesome Twenties, members have to be approved to join. Once I was accepted, I received an invite to their upcoming tea house event. For anyone who knows me, a good chai tea latte can motivate me to do just about anything, so a quick Google search to see how easy the meet up was to access by transit solidified my RSVP to a “YES!” The organizer of the event, Mahasin, welcomed me online and I felt prepared to meet some strangers who would hopefully become my new friends. Well, as prepared as I could be…

When I got on the train to meet my new friends, I felt nervous and excited at the prospect of engaging with people I didn’t know. I tend to be the shy one in new social situations, but I gave myself a pep talk about stepping out of my shell and showing others that I’m fun to be around before I left. Next, I walked down 10th Street North West, keeping an eye out for Oolong Tea House. When I entered, I found Mahasin sitting there wearing a smile, ready to give me a handshake. He also gave me a run down of the number of people that would be coming and explained to me how to order teas at Oolong. Soon Edi was beside me and Sven across from me and instantly, I felt more socially connected than I had in months.

By the time everyone arrived, eight people were sitting and enjoying tea and everyday conversation. We all came from different backgrounds, none of us were originally from Calgary and we all had a warm beverage and countless laughs to share. The group was welcoming and I never felt like I was intruding in on any cliques (there were no instances that mimicked “Mean Girls,” thankfully). We sat for two hours, watching the sun set outside the tea shop window. This prompted me to explain my love of the mountains to my new buds. When it was time to leave, those who took the train all left together and said our goodbyes to those who were getting home in a different way.

The Meet Up Group!
The Meetup group!

I was expecting my first Meetup adventure to be an evening filled with awkward moments and painful silences, but it wasn’t. Instead, I found Calgary’s Awesome Twenties accurately awesome, welcoming, hilarious and something that lead me to others in the same situation as me.

Soon, I will be checking out other meet up groups as well as staying an active member of this one.

If you’re new to a city be sure to check out a Meetup.com. Using the sight may just be the chance for you to spark some new friendships and make your new home feel a little more home-y (Pinterest and Etsy might help with that, too).

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