Starting an Initiative: The Dubai Social Group

A few weeks ago, I did something quite out of character: I started a social group. Stay with me for this….

When I moved to Dubai, I joined a few WhatsApp groups and FB groups that were all women. On FB, I was in one or two that were mixed gender. One day, a woman in one of the groups asked if there were any WhatsApp groups for men and women….Crickets. The next day, I asked her if she found any; she had not. In a moment of spontaneity, I created one.

I never thought it would become “something”.

So, I advertised my little group, aptly called Dubai Social Group, on my Instagram and WhatsApp status. A few of my contacts joined. I told others to share the link if they’d like, and I would share it if someone posted about wanting to make new friends. Again, this was about four weeks ago. This “small” group now has over 250 participants in the WhatsApp group. I also started a FB group and Instagram page for us just over a week ago.

What events has the DSG enjoyed? One of our members took a few members to the EXPO 2020 to preview it before it was open to the public. I also planned a dinner at a local Japanese ramen restaurant called Kinoya (delicious, and if you’re ever in Dubai, check it out!). And then this past weekend, I arranged a couple of hours at Hive Boardgame Cafe for 26 of our members. Upcoming events include an afternoon tea, hopefully some paintballing, and a painting party.

What have I learned from this? Great question. First of all, I have learned that there are many people in the same situation: looking for friends or people to connect with so they aren’t alone. I have learned that many people are willing to say they’re lonely, but not so willing to actually do anything about it. In all fairness, I do understand that. There is risk that comes to it, right? You’re putting yourself out there, being vulnerable. It’s scary. I guess I just got fed up, said “fuck it” (sorry, mum, for the saucy language)--there’s a need for this group and I’ll take one for the team.

Heading into the event this past weekend at Hive, I admit, I was super nervous; I was thankful one of the girls I’d connected with a week before from my neighborhood rode with me. After taking a bit to find the actual cafe (my sense of direction has suffered greatly since moving to the UAE and Google Maps is no help to me half the time), we walked in. Already sitting at a table was a teacher I’d gone to brunch with a few weeks prior (I didn’t even know she was in my social group), and with her was a couple I’d met at my Kinoya dinner who I was thrilled had signed up to come. Hive was amazing during the planning process for this (I look forward to working with them again). They had set up an area for us with about 5 tables upstairs. We had a game master on hand to help select games (he took his job quite seriously) and even a waiter to serve us. As members rolled in, they filled the tables. Some new one or two people, but not everyone. The tables were talking, engaging with each other, getting to know everyone.

When planning events for virtual strangers, you just never know what you’ll get showing up. But, at the end of the night, my friend and I were driving home talking about the evening; we both couldn’t get over the fact that everyone in this group was so genuinely friendly and nice. Also when planning events, you wonder if the hassle is worth it at times. This was definitely worth it and now I’m excited to even plan a few more events...though admittedly hoping some take the initiative to plan events as well.

My goal for the future of this little social group is simple: to create an inclusive community of global citizens based in Dubai that offers opportunities for people to socialize and to never feel as if they are alone.

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If you know me, you know I’m not generally a super political person–I try never to say anything political. I usually won’t say negative things about any country if there’s a device anywhere around me.