When you move to a new country, or a new ‘old country’ – it can be tough making new friends- especially if you are not studying or living in halls of residence. It seems friends are hard to come by in the real world. When you live in an actual apartment, you can’t just go knocking on your neighbour’s door, asking them if they want to join you for some beer pong. You cannot assume your work colleagues will be downing shots with you on a Friday night. So how does one meet new people in a foreign city? When it comes to dating, people no longer go for the ‘high school sweetheart’ or ‘guy next door’. They have moved on to apps. Does the same happen with friendships? Is there an app to help you track down your platonic soulmate? Would this app resemble Tinder – where you meet up with a person for a one-time friendship over beer? Or would it be more like match.com; it helps you find that girl who will become your future bridesmaid? There are actually so many apps out there. It’s kind of too bad actually because I really wanted to be the first to come up with that idea. I would have gotten some techy collaborators-turned-friends to help me develop the app. Then, I would have charmed Bill into investing a few of his millions into it. A few years down the line, I would’ve sold it to Mark for billions of dollars. Then I could have just bougt a few friends to hang out on my yacht with me. Problem solved.
So what kind of apps are out there you ask? There are dozens, each with its own slight variation. For example, Topi connects you professionally; Skout connects you with people all around the world, and PeopleHunt – which sounds like the pastime of a psychopathic billionaire on his private island – promotes spontaneous get togethers. There’s also Meetup. This app introduces you to various groups throughout the city organized around common interests. There are parties, book clubs, hikes and discussion groups you can attend. It’s a great idea if you are an extravert. However, If you are an anxiety-prone introvert who would equate finding herself in a room full of strangers comparable to attending an oral exam where the examiners assess you on social behaviour, it’s far from ideal. I have downloaded Meetup and kept it for braver days. I also downloaded Bumble. It’s a dating app, but you can add a BFF filter. This signals to the rest of the Bumblesphere that you are looking for a sister, not a mister (clearly, they should hire me on their PR team;-)). I tried it and it felt so strange – because it is literally platonic Tinder. You see the girls’ photos and brief information. Then you swipe left or right. It just felt a bit WRONG. I am judging people on the way they look, their age and their profession. The irony is that my criteria are probably the opposite of a guy’s on Tinder. If you are making a duck face or have layers of makeup. Left! (This is rejecting by the way). If you are posing in your bathing suit in half the photos, and fur in the rest. Left! Fake tan? Left! The space is dominated by expats – which might just be ideal thing for me. We will see how Tinderish friendship works and if it helps me build a girl squad à la Taylor Swift.
I am complaining a lot but I am actually pretty lucky. First of all, I happen to be friends with this wonderful Parisian threesome who keep me entertained and fed on many evenings. I also get to work in a company where the average age is 27 years old. As if this wasn’t enough, most of the girls in my office (because my office is 90% girls, I kid you not) grew up with dual cultures. I sit next to a French-American girl and across from a French-German girl. Nearby, there’s a Spanish, a Portuguese and two Italian girls. The cultural composition is literally identical to that of the lab I left two months ago! It’s like I never left …Sweden! I am so grateful that, no matter where I go, I always end up with the most international group imaginable. The banterous lunches are the highlight of my day. Unfortunately for me, many of them have studied and lived in Paris for a few years. They have their social lives all set up. So they are pretty happy with just seeing your face during business hours. It is a bit like when I started at Karolinska Institute in Sweden. All us international students in the class always did everything together. We travelled, we partied, we cooked, we suffered food comas, we hiked, we played Cards Against Humanity, we studied, we saunaed, we threw colour at each other and of course we fikaed together. All the time. We developed a strong bond because we came to rely on each other. The Swedes had their lives in Stockholm. They had their family and friends so I mostly only saw them during class. I find myself in the same situation now, minus my fellow expat crew – whom I miss dearly. I especially miss our heated shouting matches over random games of charades. Such commitment to the art of miming is hard to come by nowadays. But I am hopeful I will find this again – may it be amongst my colleagues, my bumblebees, the person from zumba class, my Uber driver or the friend of a friend of a friend of the cousin of a friend.
On a completely different topic: Here’s a pic of the ‘Arènes de Lutèce’. These arenas were built in the 1st century AD and could seat 15000 gladiators. Those dark square entrances you see built into the walls – that’s where they kept the wild beasts that would fight gladiators to the death. Now, people more or less peacefully play pétanque and Mölkky (I saw it with my own eyes) there.