Settling in a foreign country is never easy. The new language, unfamiliar food and even the paperwork can be fun, in a challenging kind of way, but the thing that gets to everybody in the end is social isolation.
Human beings are social creatures – the mental health of even the most introverted of us depends on having friends. This is where InterNations comes in.
Founded in 2007 by a group of young globetrotters who had faced the problem of finding like-minded friends in new countries many times, the community now has over a million members in 390 cities worldwide.
InterNations became established in Krakow in September 2011. Volunteer organiser, Renata Fryc, said of the first meeting: “I remember it well. We had a dinner for nine people at Scandale Royal. Things have changed a lot since then!”
A recent InterNations meeting. Krakow organiser Renata Fryc second from left (Photo: David McGirr)
A bit more than two years later, InterNations meetings take place every month in Krakow and regularly attract 70 to 80 people.
Tamás Veres, co-organiser of InterNations Krakow, recalled: “When I joined in 2012, the meetings were already bringing in about 40 people. The number has continued to climb and climb as the foreign community in the city has grown.”
Renata was initially attracted to InterNations because she had experienced living and working away from her native Poland, and understood very well how difficult it could be.
Tamás, probably Krakow’s best-known Hungarian, initially attended InterNations meetings because they were a good hunting ground for his job in recruitment. “The business networking opportunities are certainly there,” he said, “but that wasn’t why I got involved. It was the social side that I really enjoyed and found useful.”
InterNations Krakow co-organiser Tamás Veres, right (Photo: David McGirr)
Renata, who remains the guiding light of InterNations Krakow, is also keen to emphasis the opportunities for integration that their meetings represent: “It’s not just expats who come to our events. Lots of Poles who speak foreign languages love meeting our guests from abroad and helping them get to know the city.”
So what can you expect from an InterNations evening? “Basically, an opportunity to meet people like you, and then to have a good party,” said Tamás. “The first hour is all about introductions and getting to know people, then we just have fun,” he added.
There is no formality to the introductions. People wear simple badges with their name and nationality, but there’s no pressure to chat with everyone in the room. Tamás and Renata are always on hand to welcome newcomers, and the regulars are adept at making everyone feel at home.
InterNations is backed by a truly international online community (www.internations.org), but it is at the local level that it excels. “There are lots of online communities,” said Renata, “But InterNations is all about getting people away from their computer screens and into real-life meetings with people.”
Membership of InterNations.org is by invitation only, but anyone can go along to the monthly meetings. The chances of you leaving without an invitation are slim. The online community means you can get in touch with InterNations people before you arrive in a new country, plus access to local special-interest groups, such as book clubs and cooking enthusiasts.
The next InterNations Krakow meeting is on February 20, 8pm, at the Silver Whisky Pub, ul. Grodzka 11. See you there!