Spending two months in a foreign city could get more than a tad lonely all by yourself. My brother being with me for the first few weeks helped me ease into the city, nevertheless, I’m a very social person so I wanted to make at least a few friends, plus this is also a great way to discover authentic sides of a new destination, but where to begin?
I’m very fortunate to have friends all over the world, sometimes in the most obscure corners of the planet, however, before embarking here, the only Argentines I knew live in France and have for a long time so they didn’t have anyone to really connect me. Never mind, I thought, I could make some of my own. As I mentioned in my previous post, my first plan of action was through international groups. I started with the ones I already knew: Meetup and Internations.
Meetup has thousands of thematic groups in cities around the world from yoga to cocktails and from vegan dining to knitting. Looking into my account I’m a member of 36 groups, but up to going to Buenos Aires, I’d hardly logged into the site in years, or well, since I used it to creatively promote the book launches of Je T’Aime, Me Neither. Not because I didn’t think they had good events, but because I have a very full Parisian network of friends and social calendar, both of which were suddenly null and void in Buenos Aires. So I eagerly logged in expecting to find as many cool groups as there are in Paris. Slim pickings. However, on the bright side I found about four which looked potentially appealing so I signed myself up for them. Part of the problem wasn’t just the lack of groups, it was also the season, many people were away on “summer holiday” therefore, a lot of groups were also taking a break.
There did happen to be an event that very night, a meetup for English enthusiasts. I assumed that this would be what it was: a mix of Argentines who wanted to practice their English and some Anglophones who could either not speak Spanish or who craved speaking their month-tongue in this highly espagnol environment. I didn’t have any plans… since I had no other friends, I jumped on the subway across town to the event. Arriving in good Anglo-saxon timing of only 10 minutes late, when I found the group there were only three people. Oh boy, was this such a good idea??
My anxiety quickly dissipated greeted by the wide smile of a friendly American about my age, there with her dad and another member. Success, I now had my first friend! We instantly bonded and spent most of the night predominantly chatting together. Not that there was anything wrong with the rest of the group. There are extremely nice and generous people who welcome anyone and create a homey environment, they were just a little older, average age around 50 or 8 (the adorable sons of some of the members had been busily making bracelets, for sale, yes, I was a sucker and now own a blue and green elastic band creation). I did also talk to a nice Swede who was on the younger side and another Argentine who now lives in Quebec City. I was planning to attend another time but I got busy with my other friends and little romance. I did see my new American friend a few other times and had fun hearing about her own crazy adventures in Argentinian Dating (maybe I can get her to do a guest post!).
Internations, this brings us back to this nice networking-meetup group for internationally minded people in dozens of city groups around the world. In each city, there’s usually one bigger monthly event, then there are subgroups that arrange smaller thematic activities. As I mentioned in my last post, I put a friendly little message on the Buenos Aires forum seeing if anyone wanted to get together. As those messages and replies started pouring in, I was also perusing their events cal, again quite skimpy due to the holidays, however, I did spot a movie group meeting for that end of the afternoon. The Italian Classic The Bicycle Thief was the selected film. I’d never seen it and since there were 10 people signed up, I figured I’d meet at least a few nice people.
And that I did! I now have a good handful of friends and was being invited out to concerts, aperativos, cocktail nights and more! I didn’t have time to do everything, but some highlights were a nice Brazilian Bossa Nova concert with a flirtatious retired judge from Montana, an amazing closed door dinner with a fun IT guy from Baltimore, a few events with an international Italian and was shown around one afternoon by a sweet Colombia who took me a hidden original mini copy of the Statue of Liberty, the lovely rose garden in Palermo Park and BA’s Chinatown. I was very grateful for these new friends and was sad to say goodbye, well, let’s say hasta luego, as I plan to come back and we’ve stayed in touch.
Mundo Lingo, was the last “friend-making” technique that I tried and it also worked well. In fact, I found out about it through my new Baltimorean friend. He was one of the people who’d responded to my Internations forum message and we’d planned to meet during a bigger Internations meetup (the one I’d skipped out on to go out with the Texan!), so he’d suggested an upcoming event with this group. Mundo Lingo is also made up of internationals, however, it’s objective is to practice other languages, something I’d been hoping to find when I’d originally started my friend search, might as well kill two birds with one stone: friends + improving my Spanish.
There are some other groups which have structured language exchanges, this one is fun and relaxed. Everyone gets a flag sticker of the country they are from and of the other languages they can speak so you can mingled around chatting in Spanish, French, Icelandic… Japanese… you name it. The crowd here was slightly on the younger side, with a lot of students though not exclusively, the concept is fun, again the welcome fantastic (one of the organizers kept finding me to introduce me to more and more people) and lucky me, in addition to Mr Baltimore, I made another great new friend, this time an lively Argentine young woman, who invited me to all kinds of things … in addition to a tango class the next week! I couldn’t leave Buenos Aires without taking one!
With all these events, plus my dates, I was busy almost every night, racing from work to my Spanish lessons to one of these activities, my social calendar was even fuller than back in Paris! Fear not if you’re heading to Buenos Aires alone, you won’t be for long! And many of these tactics could work in any major city. If you have some of your own tips – add them to the comments!