Throughout our travels, we have always been fortunate to meet people along the way – we have shared some amazing experiences with strangers, but then never see or hear of each other again. I started to think about this. I could have in-depth conversation with someone that could potentially be a great friend but never knew quite how to convert the moment we shared into trading contacts so that we might cross paths again in the future.
A few times I have missed opportunities in the friendship conversion space – mainly because I am conscious of not appearing as a nosy keen bean who is desperate for a friend – or even worse, being rejected! Both Eldad and I reflected on this topic and decided we would throw our hat in the ring and see what the universe came back with. We agreed the next time we shared an enjoyable conversation or meal or tour with someone we liked, we would attempt to convert the one off meeting into a new friendship.
In support of this new ethos, I signed up to an expat community online. I thought it would be a good way to meet people, experience Milan and get amongst it.
On our second night in Milan we decided to head along to one of these events. The first event was at a club called Byblos. We caught a tram out to the club that was seemingly in the middle of an industrial area of Milan with not too much else around. We were greeted at the door and received a welcome drink. We stood in the bar area watching people arrive and greet each other. The crowd was glamorous and interestingly, for this event most of the attendees were in fact Italian, not expats. It was also a ‘stare-bear affair’ in that everyone was sizing each other up and not really mingling beyond their immediate group.
Feeling more and more on the outer, we tried as hard as we could to look approachable. No one was really forthcoming – perhaps as we were already in a couple as I suspect many attendees were looking for lurve… After some awkward near-greetings, we decided we would have to take a more proactive approach to meeting people.
I noticed two men standing close by so subtly made attempts to listen in to hear what language they were speaking. English! Casually, we edged a bit closer until it was an appropriate time to share an acknowledging smile. First contact was made. One was a chiropractor to the stars and the other worked for a fashion label – that was the start of a fun evening meeting some new people.
We had been mingling for a bit when Eldad offered to shout a round of drinks. One of the guys looked at him and said “If you knew the price of the drinks, you wouldn’t be offering”… It was true, Eldad came back with two glasses of wine for the princely sum of 30 Euros! Ouch.
After the initial contact was made, we found it easier to talk with others and make friends. What started out as a very awkward night that felt like we crashed a pick-up night, ended quite nicely with some potential new friends.
The next event we went to was also in a very up market establishment – a champagne bar. It was a lot smaller and low key than the last event. We were greeted by the organiser, who was very bubbly and welcoming. As we shuffled in the door, a guy motioned us over. “Australian right? I heard the accent – man it’s good to hear an Australian accent” he said.
Funnily enough, this guy we met had also lived in Canberra (something people are strangely reluctant to admit). We again met a variety of people, including and Italian man named Sydney! The prices were high but the conversation was good so we stayed for a while.
Beyond the expat events, we have had some great experiences with chance meetings, whether at a bar, on trains or in the airport. It is an exciting prospect making friends around the world and I realised how easy it can be to make friends if you are open to it. I will write more about our other chance encounters as they happened.