When I’m ending up in new places I’m always excited to go and network for the first time. I believe it is one of the best ways to get a feeling of the locale culture and get more out of your stay in that place. Sure you can read and see things on the internet, but talking with people is just more effective.
There are a couple of tools I use to start off when arriving in a new place. First one is LinkedIn. Look for people in that new place, look how you are connected and check if someone can refer you. You can try/do the same with facebook but LinkedIn just works better for me. Second is Google to find local ‘Belgian’, ‘Flemish’ or ‘European’ groups. I’ve noticed that these clubs are very effective if it comes to getting in touch with some nice and interesting people. Almost every major city or area probably has a club of you home country. A third tool I use is meetup.com. For the few who have never heard of it, go ahead and pay a visit to the website and register. Specifically for Dubai I just typed in the city, got a big number of groups and just enrolled in 3 which interest me the most.
So Wednesday I went to this Meetup group. These were the things that I remembered:
- They general way of networking was way more ‘aggressive’ than I expected. People were handing out business cards from the moment you join a table (even without talking for like 2 min). I only had like 8 on me (because that’s the number that I normally hand out). Here they hand out like 25 on one evening. Also adding on LinkedIn afterwards is done pretty ‘aggressive’. I thought US was direct in communication, but this is certainly at least as direct.
- Smoking: Stupid detail, but people were smoking. This is still very tolerated in the UAE. Doesn’t affect the networking that much but felt a little strange in the beginning.
- Super-international: People literally seem to come from everywhere. I knew that Dubai exists 85% of expats, but know I felt that real-life.
- Long stay in Dubai: I thought most of the people would have been here for only a couple of years. Turned out that many of them were already here for 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 or even 18 years. When I said I was here already for 5 days they couldn’t hold their laugh.