Archive | meet people RSS feed for this section

Presenting Your Survival Guide to DC

26 Jan

cover of -ebook

I’m so excited to announce the So You’re New to DC e-book!

I got busy with other things and stopped updated the blog awhile ago, but I still wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned after living in DC for 10 years. The e-book has updated, expanded and new information, including 27 ways to meet people in DC (with tons of links), transportation essentials, a neighborhoods chart where I asked friends to give their insights, annual events and more.

The e-book is targeted toward people in their twenties and thirties (since that’s the age range that I’ve lived in DC). That’s not to say that people outside of that age range wouldn’t get anything out of the e-book, but I want to be clear that it doesn’t include advice on topics like buying a house (I focus on renting), school districts, etc. I also decided not to include topics that could be easily found elsewhere, like the region’s restaurants. I wanted to focus on things that either wouldn’t be easy to find info on or that you wouldn’t even know you should Google.

It’s been a labor of love, and I hope you like it!

Eight ways to meet people in DC

5 Jul

Check out my new e-book for 27 ways to meet people in DC in 2017.

Some of these people could be your new friends!

Trying to make friends in DC can be a frustrating and disheartening venture, especially when everyone is telling you how easy it is because so many new people are always moving into the area. The important thing is not to give up! Making friends takes time. Below is a compiled list of suggestions I’ve written about in the past. And remember, it’s a numbers game! Keep putting yourself out there and sooner or later you’ll have success.

  • Try an uncommon sport: The great thing about becoming involved in a less common sport is that the communities tend to be small and members are usually really happy to have new people join. A perfect recipe for new friends!
  • Volunteer: This past spring I began volunteering as an English teacher for LETC. It’s been a fantastic experience and, on top of that, I’ve become friends with my co-teacher. I also met my boyfriend while volunteering at the Natural History Museum. I think in terms of meeting friends, a volunteer activity that allows you to regularly see the same people is ideal.
  • Professionals in the City: This organization has loads of events including speed dating. A few months ago I went to an evening organized by Professionals in the City and the Japanese embassy, and it was just lovely. They also offer trips both locally and internationally.
  • Ultimate Frisbee: My boyfriend has met virtually all of his friends over the last couple years playing Frisbee. And they are a great group of people. They’re the type of friends who throw surprise birthday parties for each other and go as a group to take someone to the airport. They’re super smart too. A lot of his teammates work in international development or are engineers. And you don’t have to be good or experienced to play (though it’s important to note that some teams are much more competitive than others).
  • Kickball: One of my very first posts was encouraging people to check out joining a kickball team. It is one of the easiest ways to meet people and you by no means need to be particularly athletic. A big part of the culture is going to the team’s bar after games, so if that’s not your thing, it might not be a good fit.
  • Take a class: Similarly to regular volunteer opportunities, classes are great because they allow you to get to know a group of people over a period of time. Plus, even if you don’t make new friends, you’ve at least learned something.
  • Join a book club: Again, this is great because you generally see the same people on a regular basis. Sometimes it takes awhile to find a book club that’s the right fit, but don’t get discouraged, there are many in the DC area.
  • Meetup.com: I’ve had a lot of success using Meetup.com. I became friends with a woman at a 20s and 30s ladies going out group, and we became so close I was in her wedding. I’m also involved with a weekly writing group through Meetup.com. It’s a great way to find people with similar interests.

Friends You Haven’t Met: Try an uncommon sport, part II

7 Jun

My post last December on unusual sports continues to get visits, and so I thought I’d add a few more suggestions to the mix.

Paddle boarding: I feel like the popularity of paddle boarding came out of nowhere! If you’ve been curious to try this new trend, you’re in luck as the Potomac River is a great place to learn. Valley Mill Kayak School now offers lessons.

Fencing: Believe it or not, the world’s largest fencing school is in Springfield. Virginia Academy of Fencing offers Olympic Sport Fencing or, if you really want to geek out, you can take a Historical Swordmanship class.

Clay Target Shooting: If you’re unlike me, then you’ve always wanted to try clay target shooting. Well, turns out Prince George’s County is just the place! There are classes, leagues and tournaments.

Sculling: I actually know a couple people who have taken sculling lessons at the Thompson Boat Center and had really good experiences. I’d be interested except that class starts at 6:15 … A.M! I imagine though, that being on the water that early in the morning is a pretty great way to start the day.

Friends You Haven’t Met: DC Film Society

18 Apr

Are you a film fanatic? Then might I suggest joining the DC Film Society. You have to pay to become a member, but then you receive invitations to movies before they are available to the general public. The group gets these opportunities by working with local ad agencies.

There’s no cost to go to the screening; the only catch is that you have to get to the theater pretty early—I’d say at least an hour in advance—to get a seat. It’s entirely possible that if you don’t get there early enough, you’d stand in line only to be turned away once the theater is full. (And getting to the theater right after work can be tough.) But just think of all the friends you can make while standing in line!

There are roughly 100 movie screenings offered each year, many of which are held at E Street Cinema downtown. Some of the screenings include Q&As with directors, actors and writers. As a member you’ll receive a monthly newsletter, which keeps you in the loop about all things film in DC. The DC Film Society also hosts an occasional film discussion group, called Cinema Lounge, at the Barnes and Noble near Metro Center. They discuss topics such as religion in movies, why bad movies get made and Oscar predictions. You don’t need to be a member to go to these meetings.

Friends you haven’t met: Volunteer

1 Feb

Michelle Obama volunteering at Miriam's Kitchen.

With so many non-profits, museums, theaters, monuments, etc., DC is a fantastic place to volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet people, and it looks good on your resume. Some volunteer programs are better than others, so if you find one that’s disorganized and frustrating, don’t give up! Here are just some ideas:

Museums
I volunteered for the Natural History Museum’s Sant Ocean Hall as a docent for about a year and a half. There was an extensive training program: two full Saturday’s and two Tuesday nights. I eventually stopped volunteering because I didn’t feel that useful as a docent, or that good at it, but I’m so happy that I had the experience. Most of the other volunteers were retired, so I didn’t have high hopes for meeting peers, but I actually ended up meeting my boyfriend who was a contractor for the museum at the time, so you never know!

Visit the Smithsonian website to find out more about volunteering. Other museum volunteer programs you might want to check out are The Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Hospitals
I’ve never volunteered at a hospital; I imagine it’s draining but incredibly rewarding. Walter Reed Army Medical Center has recently ended their volunteer program because they’re moving, but they give a list of other organizations on their website. You can also be a Red Cross volunteer at the National Navy Medical Center  in Bethesda.

Animal Shelters
I volunteered for about three years at the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL). It’s a fantastic facility with a pretty organized volunteer program. You can volunteer to walk dogs, socialize the cats or participate in adoption events (a great way to spend one-on-one time with an animal). Other possibilities are the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation, the Washington Humane Society and Alley Cat Allies.

Soup Kitchens
Help DC’s homeless population get a good meal by volunteering at a soup kitchen. Some options are the well-known Miriam’s Kitchen, DC Central Kitchen and Loaves and Fishes.

Hodge Podge
I’ve recently started volunteering for Greater DC Cares, and I LOVE it. Each month they have a calendar of volunteer opportunities on their website. You find one you like and sign up. There’s no long-term commitment and it’s a great way to try different things until you find one that fits you. GDCC also has leadership opportunities: You can take a short-training program to become a Project Coordinator or take a Disaster Preparedness Training. A similar organization is One Brick.

Special Events
DC has loads of special events, and most of them need volunteers to help make them happen. A few examples include the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Passport DC (when all the embassies hold open houses) and the National Book Festival.

Speed Dating Q-and-A

14 Jan

Sports editor Rachel/My roommate recently went speed dating. When I was on the single scene I was never brave enough to try it, so I was eager to get the lowdown.

Why did you decide to go speed dating?
My job doesn’t present me with a lot of opportunities to meet guys, nor do my hobbies. So that means trying to find a date is a lot of work for me! I don’t really go to bars or come across guys in casual settings too often. So when my friend got an email from Professionals in the City about speed dating in Arlington and wanted to go, I thought it was a great idea. I know that I need to put in the effort if I want to date, even if it hard for me, and this was a chance to do that.

Also, I was issued a challenge to go on (or at least arrange) two dates before the end of 2010, and I could count this as one of them!

An awesomely bad single dating promo video by Professionals in the City:

Are you glad you went with a friend?
Yes, for me that helped a lot to get me to commit. I knew that no matter how awkward and out-of-place I felt, I would still have someone to talk to. One guy I talked to during the event who had done a lot of speed dating said that girls often come in pairs. However, I thought the event was well-organized so you wouldn’t really need to go with a friend. As soon as we walked in the door to the bar (Zen in Pentagon Row) the Professionals in the City coordinators immediately asked our names and got us signed in for the event. There was no uncomfortable moment of going up to anyone and asking where the speed dating was, which I think set a good tone for the experience. It also keeps you from being able to chicken out! It was also nice to have someone to chat to before the event started. There was some down time with a lot of solo bar-sitting going on before the dates officially started.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how awkward was it (1 is completely normal, 10 is Michael Scott on The Office?)
My friend and I rate it somewhere between 2 and 4 – not so awkward! They did some great things to help it be organized but not too organized that I think helped everyone along. The girls all sat at different stations (couches, tables, the bar) and then the organizers put a table tent with a number at each station, to indicate the order to rotate in. They didn’t care which girl sat in which spot to start, or what guy sat down there, or exactly where the stations were ahead of time. It was flexible but still structured.

Of course, everyone is a little bit awkward, especially at first, because you’re thrown right into a conversation, maybe with a type of person you’d normally never talk to. But you don’t get too long for any one conversation and everyone seemed to be taking the experience seriously. The fact that everyone was there for the same reason kept it from being higher on the awkward scale.

How many guys did you talk to? How many minutes was each “date”?
There were 11 or 12 guys at this event, which one person told me was a low number. I thought it was a pretty good amount of people, though! For the first few rotations, you think that you’ll easily remember everyone, what you talked about, and who you liked. After you pass 5 or 6 conversations in a whirlwind half-an-hour, you’re not so sure anymore. The dates lasted 5 minutes, and I’ve heard it can be as little as 3 or 4 if there are more people.

At the end of the rotation, the people in charge would say something like “it’s about time to move on” and then give a few extra seconds for you to finish up what you were saying. It wasn’t too pushy or rigid. When I pictured speed dating, I imagined an old woman with a bell on her desk, dinging and demanding complete silence.

Did five minutes feel like a long time?
It definitely can feel that way, but for the most part, it was a good length of time. In five minutes you can definitely tell if someone is just not your type, or if you might be interested in getting to know them a little better. It was also enough time to get past the initial rush of trying to find one thing to talk about, and let you move on to one or two other quick subjects, or find something to talk about more in depth that was of interest to both people.

What did you talk about?
Different guys had really different approaches. I think I can break them down into a few categories.

  • The Observer – asked questions like, “have you been speed dating before?” “How is your evening going?”
  • The Checklist – this guy asked a basic question right away. Things like, “what do you?” “What are your hobbies?” “How long have you lived in DC?”
  • The Inquisitor – has tons of questions for you but won’t answer any back or say anything about himself. How am I supposed to tell if I like you if you’re playing 20 Questions with me? We both need a chance to decide!
  • The Cannonball – One guy jumped right into a conversation mid-stream when he sat down at my table, telling me all about his day. He barreled right through any awkwardness and I will say, that was the conversation where I was least aware of the time. It was fun to be in a conversation that didn’t feel anything like an interview.
  • The Hesitator – he waited for me to start talking, and then I was the one falling into one of these other categories! I didn’t have a consistent strategy but usually went for “observer” or “checklist” questions, usually trying to talk about something different than my previous conversation. It’s hard to get excited to have the same exact conversation 12 times in a row. That’s a high school reunion, not a date.

Score any digits?
After the event, Professionals in the City sends out a link where you log-in to your event. From there, you can message people directly, or use their “mutual match” feature where you give a check mark to anyone who you were interested in, and then the system lets you know if you both liked each other. So there’s not any pressure to make a future date in those 5 minutes, because you’ll have another chance later.

I did have a couple people ask for my number right then!

Would you go speed dating again?
Now that I’ve done it once, I would feel comfortable going by myself, and I would definitely give speed dating another try. I thought it was a fun and effective way to meet potential dates. I will definitely recommend it!

Any tips for future speed daters?
Taking notes may not seem important at first because you think you’ll remember everyone. After the first 5 or 6 guys they all seem to blend together. Take notes!

Getting asked the same questions over and over allows you to rethink your answers, so you might notice yourself phrasing things better after a few tries. Everything gets better with practice, including speed dating skills.

Make sure your nametag is stuck on somewhere that your date can read it.

Friends You Haven’t Met: Try an uncommon sport

24 Dec

Don't worry, speedos aren't mandatory. © Hu Totya at Creative Commons

I’ve already gone over popular sports in DC—kickball and ultimate Frisbee—but there are plenty of other options. And while uncommon sports might not have as many people who participate, those that do tend to be really close-knit. Here are a few suggestions:

Flying Trapeze: It’s not cheap, but it is fun. When I took a one-time beginner class a couple years ago the closest location was outside by the Baltimore Inner Harbor, but since then the Trapeze School has opened a location (inside) near the Navy Yard Metro (Green Line). And that’s not all! They offer other classes too: Silks & Rope, Static Trapeze & Lyra, Trampoline, Acrobatics, Juggling and even Jestering.

Underwater hockey: DC has its own underwater hockey team: the Beltway Bottom Feeders. The team practices in Northern Virginia at several different pools. The other players welcome newcomers and are very friendly.  It is played on the bottom of a 6-8 feet swimming pool by two teams of six who use snorkels, fins and short sticks.

Parkour: The surest way to feel like a badass is to try Parkour. If you don’t already know what it is, I suggest YouTubeing it because it’s too hard to describe. Primal Fitness in DC offers Parkour classes at its facility near the New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U Metro station (Red Line). They also offer Crossfit classes.

Whitewater kayaking: The Potomac is one of the best places to learn whitewater kayaking. But, you say, it’s wintertime! Why would I want to start whitewater kayaking now? For whitewater kayaking to be any fun, you really need to know how to roll the kayak. So I suggest taking pool rolling classes with Valley Mill Kayak School in the winter, so when spring rolls around you’ll be ready to roll (hahaha, get it?). Sessions are Saturday evenings at the Rockville Municipal Swim Center (not easily Metro accessible).

Friends You Haven’t Met: Ultimate Frisbee

14 Dec

© Patrick Everson

Ultimate Frisbee: Not just for college campuses anymore. The sport is popular among DCers and therefore a super-fantastic way to meet people in the area. My boyfriend has met most of his current friends through Frisbee, and a lot of his teammates have met their significant others through Frisbee as well (teams are co-ed). Don’t worry if you’ve never played before, there are teams for all levels of skill and competitiveness.

The main meetup is a pickup game Saturdays at 1pm on the Mall by the American Indian Museum. You can RSVP at Meetup.com but most people just show up. This is a great way to get started; you can meet other people who might need more players on their competitive teams, which will have practices and competitions on other local fields. If you go to the Saturday pickup game, you’ll want to bring light and dark shirts, so you can switch sides and even teams out as needed. If you don’t know the rules, just take some time to watch what’s going on and then get out there and try your best. The other players are very friendly and approachable, so don’t feel intimidated to show up by yourself.

Of course the sport is more popular during nicer weather, but die-hards play all year long. The spirit of the game is very important; meetup groups don’t keep score and there aren’t any referees during tournaments—honesty is the name of the game. To find out more information, I suggest checking out the Washington Area Frisbee Club (WAFC – pronounced waf-C).

Friends You Haven’t Met: Take a class

20 Nov

DC is filled with overachievers and since you’ve moved here, chances are you’re one of them. So a great way to both meet new people and learn something new is by taking a non-credit class.

First Class, Inc.: I highly recommend First Class, Inc., which offers one-time classes in everything from soap-making to selling stuff on eBay to becoming a DC tour guide. Classes are reasonably priced and usually take place in a building right off of Dupont Circle. Sometimes you’ll find discounted prices for classes on Goldstar.com.  First Class also offers some online, 6-week classes too, but that would defeat the purpose of getting out and meeting people.

USDA Graduate School: Why the USDA offers classes in things like Conversational Turkish and Screenwriting is beyond me, but they do and I think they’re pretty popular. The number of weeks a class meets depends on the specific course, but it’s usually one to two months. Unfortunately, I’ve never taken any classes with the Graduate School because they’re expensive: between $300 and $600 give or take.

Glen Echo Park: This one-time amusement park is an awesome location, though for many people it might not be terribly convenient. They offer art and dance classes (west coast swing, anyone?) that vary in price and length.

Continuing Education: Another option is taking a class through your county’s Adult and Continuing Education program. I’ve had varying results with classes I’ve taken through Fairfax County—the teachers aren’t always very good. But there are some great options and I’d suggest giving it a try. Both one-time classes and more formal courses are offered.

Of course, the list goes on and on. You could take a hip hop class at Joy of Motion, a knitting class at Stitch DC, a fiction writing class at The Writer’s Center or a photography class at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. The point is to get our of your comfort zone (and out of your house), try something new and meet new people.

Friends You Haven’t Met: Join a book club

4 Nov

There’s a lot of smartie pants in the DC area, so it’s fair to reason that there are a lot of book clubs. Finding the right book club, however, might take more than one try. My advice: don’t give up! It’s like a good therapist–it’s got to be the right fit or you’re not going to want to go and it’s not going to be a good experience.

I went to a book club a couple years ago that met at a restaurant. The members were not very friendly to me UNTIL I mentioned that I had driven from Virginia (the meeting was in Maryland). Turns out two people lived sort of near me and took the Metro to the meeting, so they asked if I could give them a ride. So after this terrible book club meeting I had to drive to two separate houses to drop off these two rude strangers. Obviously, I never went back. But with that said, there’s plenty of great book clubs and it’s a potentially great way to meet new friends. Here’s some places to look for groups:

  • Reader’s Circle is a national website. You just type in your zip code and it comes up with loads of DC area groups. I emailed one group awhile back and never heard back, but hopefully that’s not a common occurrence.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love Meetup.com, which has a separate section just for book clubs. I found a book club on here once and it was going pretty well but then I think the group disbanded. Either that or they  just stopped inviting me.
  • l’Alliance Française de Washington is a French cultural center and it has a European Book Club that discusses European literature in English. It costs $5 to attend but–get this–the next meeting is sold out! How does a book club sell out? It actually makes me want to go to a future meeting so that I can see what all the fuss is about. If I do go, I’ll report back.
  • Most book stores have book clubs. The iconic store Politics and Prose, for example, had loads of different book groups, but so do chains like Barnes & Noble.

Happy reading!