The cringe-free guide to making new friends in Dubai
Ways to meet new people, make friends and expand your social circle in Dubai
Melanie Smith and Emma Pearson
Connect with expats through InterNations Looking for the Fred to your Ginger, the Ant to your Dec or maybe even the Katy to your Taylor (ouch)? InterNations links up expats with similar interests, so whether you’re looking for a companion to take part in the activities you love – or a bitter rival to ramp up some competiton – it’s a great place to meet said friend/foe/sworn enemy. But it’s not just about putting a bunch of people in a room and leaving them to it – InterNations puts on a range of events to bring people together. The organisation also offers targeted meet-ups such as salsa lessons, squash, movie nights, pool, bowling and more. Pay to attend an individual event or sign up for a three-month membership for Dhs99 a month, six months for Dhs79 a month or 12 months at Dhs69 a month.
Do say: You can’t beat a healthy competition. Don’t say: You will wish you had never been born. www.internations.org.
Embark on an adventure with Adventurati In the UK, a lone venture means a four-hour coach trip to Scarborough alongside a few musty-smelling bus-mates and 12 hours of solid rain. In the UAE, a solo escapade means careering through white water rapids, exploring vast expanses of desert and scaling breathtaking mountains with a load of new mates. Check out upcoming trips online and simply sign up. The day canyoning trip in Wadi Showka, Ras Al Khaimah, takes place from 8am to 2pm every Sunday and Tuesday, with the same trip also offered at night from 6pm to 11pm every Monday and Wednesday. Weekend trips include scaling Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, and there are international trips, including skiing in Georgia, scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and trekking and rafting in Nepal.
Do say: I think it’s liberating to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t say: Have you seen Vertical Limit? www.adventurati-outdoor.com.
Find people who share your hobbies on Meetup.com Whether you’re learning Spanish, writing a novel, or annihilating an online mythical universe in the World of Warcraft, you are bound to find like-minded (and equally power-hungry) individuals in this ginormous community of groups. With pretty much every interest covered, from languages, writing and reading to games, careers and social events, this should perhaps be your first port of call for establishing new connections. With Meetup.com, there’s really no excuse for zoning out in front of the TV – unless doing that is part of a meet-up, of course. Sign up online and join some groups near you. And if you can’t find one you’re interested in, start one yourself.
Do say: Hola! ¿Cómo se llama? Don’t say: Prepare for total domination. www.meetup.com.
Get fit in the great outdoors At best, you’ll meet your new BFF, at worst you can work on your winter body/progressing tan.Float UAE (www.floatuae.com) is essentially fitness on, well, floats. It takes place in the outdoor pool at Fitness First in The Meadows and is a low-impact aquatic class combining dynamic flowing movements with high-intensity exercise. You’ll improve your balance and co-ordination, too, and if you fall into the water, it’ll provide a fun talking point for everyone taking part. Check the website for the schedule. Talise Spa (www.jumeirah.com), meanwhile, hosts sunset hatha yoga classes on the beach daily, with a full moon version once a month. Sessions cost from Dhs90. And Yoga Joy (056 448 0814) holds vinyasa flow classes in JLT Park for Dhs30 per hour class on Saturdays at 5.30pm and Tuesdays at 6.30pm. Just be sure to invite some of your comrades for a nice green juice afterwards…
Do say: Seeing the sunrise from downward dog position really sets me up for the day. Don’t say: Would you believe I haven’t got out of this pool once in six hours?
Go for drinks with the tasting class What better way to meet people than with your nose poking into an oversized goblet? For a bit of an alternative evening out, where you can connect with people while learning something new, book in for an event organised by The Tasting Class. Sign up for a session on your own and force yourself outside of your comfort zone as you discuss the nuances of different terroirs. Lost for worlds? Just smile and swirl. Upcoming sessions include sparkling grape 101, which costs Dhs250 to join and takes place at BOCA on Monday November 13 from 7.30pm to 10pm, and the Cucina Grape and Cheese 101, which takes place at Cucina Italian Kitchen, Courtyard by Marriott Dubai, Green Community, on Tuesday December 12 from 7pm to 9pm. This event costs Dhs195.
Do say: What a refreshing taste, the swirl on this vintage is just fabulous. Don’t say: Can I have some lemonade in this? www.thetastingclass.com.
Indulge your creativity with Rags to Riches No, this is not a story about your new life in Dubai. Run by British expat Barbara Evans, Rags to Riches is a group of ladies with time on their hands whose hobby is sewing. They collect unwanted dress fabrics and bed linens, use their skills and creativity to transform them into new clothes for kids and then pass them on to charities to be distributed to the needy. Join them to create something truly impressive and become part of a passionate, talented group who let absolutely nothing goes to waste.
Learn a language at Eton Institute Hola, bonjoir, ciao! Never have you had more phrases in which to greet your new pals. Taking language classes is a double whammy of self-improvement. You’ll learn a highly coveted life skill, as well as becoming a more impressive person and thus attracting even more admirers. Eton Institute offers a huge number of courses in pretty much all of the world’s major languages. Whether you want to become fluent in Arabic, Swahili, Spanish or French, take up Mandarin, Japanese, Urdu or Hindi, or even learn Xhosa, you can here. Book in and increase your worldliness as well as your contacts list.
Do say: Bonjour, comment ça va? Don’t say: How do you ask for a doner kebab in Italian? Block 3, Dubai Knowledge Village, www.etoninstitute.com.
Overcome your inhibitions with a performance Throw caution well and truly to the wind and improvise your way through a stand-up comedy set at The Courtyard Playhouse. Or recite your best verse at a PUNCH open mic poetry night. Or sign up to play a live set at Tr!beca Kitchen + Bar. You’ll either get heckled through your performance or you might surprise the audience (and yourself) with a stunning gig. Either way, you’ll be properly hyped up to talk about it all with your fellow performers afterwards.
Pursue a team sport through Duplays What’s the point in playing a sport if you haven’t got a team to share in victories, losses, and wind-ups? Duplays started out as a small community of 400 members back in 2007, and in the ten years since, has grown to more than 100,000 members. The recreational leagues see 5,000 players take part each week, giving you the chance to meet a whole bunch of people who are just as serious about any given sport as you are.
Do say: Do you play football/netball/frisbee professionally? Don’t say: I was first reserve on my school badminton team. www.duplays.com.
Sign up for We Love Art’s Paint & Grape Nights Get the creative (and the grape) juices flowing as La Ville Hotel & Suites hosts paint and grape evenings, run by We Love Art, to get you out and socialising. The next event takes place on Sunday November 12 from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, and all equipment is provided, as are two glasses of grape or soft drink. Email email@example.com to book in advance.
Swipe your way to friendship with the Hey! VINA app Started in 2015 as a way to connect women across the globe, the Hey! VINA app offers a quick and easy way to get meeting people – especially if the thought of talking in real life to someone you’ve never met before fills you with dread. Swipe to meet new friends, join different communities and more.
Do say: Fancy a coffee? Don’t say: I actually have an extensive collection of other people’s hair. Free. Available for download on iPhone and Android, www.vina.io.
Take a course with Gulf Photo Plus In a fancy new city like Dubai you’re bound to be taking a few snaps to inspire some jealousy in your mates back home. And while an Instagram selfie does the job, imagine their unfathonable envy when professional-quality photos of you and your new mates pop up on their feed. Learning a new skill in a subject that you’re passionate about is a great way to network. Not only will you have a common interest to discuss, but you’ll also have someone to critique your work and vice versa. Best of all, if you turn out to be rubbish, you can at least get your more talented peers to take some nice pictures of you. Gulf Photo Plus runs a number of courses throughout the year. Upcoming programmes include Photography Level 1 on Friday November 24 to Saturday 25 at 10am to 3pm for Dhs750, and Introduction to Mobile Photography on Wednesday December 6 at 9am to noon for Dhs250. Check the website for more.
Do say: Oh wow, the camera loves you! Don’t say: Can you just breathe in a bit more, and smile a bit less? Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, www.gulfphotoplus.com.
Try out cooking classes Learn to whip up some excellent restaurant-grade fare at the last of the sessions being held at Solo Italian Restaurant in Raffles Dubai, by the restaurant’s executive chef Doxis Bekris. It takes place on Saturday November 11 from 11.30am to 2pm. Meanwhile, Scafa, the school of culinary and finishing arts, offers a Fundamentals of Cuisine or Pasty course for amateurs. Mingle and discuss your dishes, taste each other’s and pretend you’re as good as Michelin-starred with your new master chef mates.
Do say: Gordon Ramsay, eat your heart out. Don’t say: I don’t eat nightshade veg. Solo Italian Restaurant: Dhs300 per person (including soft drinks). Sat Nov 11, 11.30am-2pm. Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha, www.solodubai.ae/cookingclasses; Scafa: Fundamentals of Cuisine: Dhs4,500 (ten classes), Dhs500 (individual classes). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for upcoming sessions. Cluster I, JLT, www.scafa.ae.
Volunteer during your free time Use your new-found loneliness to inspire some charitable behaviour. There are a number of organisations in Dubai that you can lend a helping hand to. Al Noor Training Centre (www.alnoorspneeds.ae) specialises in the teaching of children with special needs. Work within the classroom supporting teachers, or get involved with fundraising or organising events. Animal-lovers, meanwhile, could help out one of Dubai’s many rescue groups. Foster a homeless pet through 38 Smiles (www.38smiles.com) or volunteer your time to dog-walking with K9 Friends (www.k9friends.com). And if you still don’t make any mates, you can console youself with the warm fuzzy feeling inside, or take comfort in that fact that a dog won’t judge you for the five hours you spent watching re-runs of Come Dine With Me in your pyjamas.
Do say: I’ve always been a dog-lover. Don’t say: I don’t have to pick up after it though, right?