I knew New York well but this was the first time I had gone for weeks, possibly months, to focus on writing and take a few classes. I was leaving my cherished network of solid friends behind me so I needed guidance and support. I needed to know the real deal, not the tourist info. I needed friends.
One of my buddies recommended Meetup, a website that allows you to join groups anywhere in the world with whom you have something in common. It’s still relatively new to the UK but in New York, where Meetup HQ is located, there is a fantastic array of suitable groups. It was as simple as popping my favourite things into the search box and before I knew it I was a member of the Expats group, New in Town, New York Brunch club, Live Music group, Jazz club, NY Pubs group, English Premier League Football group, and Cupcake group………Almost immediately I was getting invited to events East Side, West Side and Downtown via my home page.
Initially, I decided on an ‘Expats evening’ and invited my new roommate along as a cushion. We were pleasantly surprised on entering Taj on 21st Street; firstly, because it was full and secondly there was a combination of no less than three other groups besides my fellow expats.
Initially, I was surprised there were no formal introductions or ice breakers, after all, couldn’t I just walk into any bar and make friends? I was, however, thrilled with the numbers of people that were just coming right up and politely introducing themselves. Then it dawned on me, of course, people were here to make new friends so there were self-introductions aplenty. That’s what’s so great about Meetup. We met many new people at this first event and it gave me the confidence to go to more gatherings.
Next, I RSVP-ed to join the Live Music group and hooked up with the organiser, Mike, at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex. I met fellow music fan and Deborah Harry lookalike, Susan from the Bronx and we chatted effortlessly about all the obscure bands that none of our non-music friends have heard of. I loved meeting fellow writers and creative types at the Writing Group which took me all the way to 207th St and therefore has the distinction of the furthest North I have ever been. But the best was Uptown Downtown; Ladies take Manhattan, run by the effervescent Sarah, which was the delightful habitat of a number of animated, sparkling and diverse ladies.
I first met them for afternoon tea, at Alice’s Tea Cup, so I couldn’t help but enjoy what is my best meal to date in the city. I sat between Carol, the Harlem school teacher by day, sex crazed Upper East Side Princess by night and Susan, the straight-laced New Jersey housewife, which made for an interesting afternoon. After the scrumptious meal we all walked out with a box of goodies ‘to go’ and nearly a year later and an ocean apart, Sarah and I are still friends.
Meetup allows you to contact other members safely via the site and then make arrangements to meet up. Whilst browsing members before deciding to join a Cinema group, I was intrigued by the following profile; ‘I miss having close, long-lasting friendships, since this is such a transient city. I’m looking to make friends with amazing, dependable women, who are into more than shopping, bags and hair.’ I was able to contact Katy from New Jersey safely, and we went on to visit the cinema many times and have become firm friends.
I have met loads of folks, been to new places and made some new friends, all of which helped to make my stay in New York full of adventure, fun and camaraderie. I even met my boyfriend at a Meetup Christmas party and we’re presently enjoying a romantic, transatlantic relationship, 10 months after meeting.