For certain, I’m part of a tiny minority of expat men in Beijing who have placed their wives’ career paths over their own. Consequently, I occasionally venture into social circles during the daytime where men are few and far between, if represented at all. Somehow, this makes me a feminist white male minority in the ‘Jing. But I digress. On a previous outing, I checked out the British Club, but that really wasn’t my cup of tea. So despite living in Beijing for over five years, this week I attended an International Newcomers Network meeting. Thankfully their acronym, INN, is much easier to remember.
The deal with INN is simple; they are a resource of information and a support network for expats living in Beijing. Okay, on first glance it appears to be mainly expat wives trying to navigate their way through the quirks of living and supporting their families in the capital. Besides monthly informational Coffee Meetings in Shunyi and Sanlitun, INN also organizes fun outings called “trekkies” around the city. Although they do charge RMB 50 per meeting to recoup costs, the payoff in information and help to real problems is definitely worth it. I myself discovered a wealth of food options at the meeting that I had not heard of before: Beijing Sausages, Big Bear Baked Goods, and Shared Harvest Community Supported Agriculture to name three standouts.
The group of women and the vendors in attendance were a lively bunch. They bestowed a prize to the newest newbie in the bunch, and there was also a raffle for prizes donated by the attending vendors. Although I was tempted to buy tickets, I decided to spend the money directly with the vendors to ensure I got some cookies and other goodies to take home.
Not satisfied with just tea, coffee and pastries, about a dozen of the attendees and volunteers opted to join Theresa Ahdieh (INN vice president and organizer extraordinaire) for lunch at Al Safir, a fantastic Middle Eastern restaurant. Theresa told me that after each meeting they head for lunch so that people can socialize and strengthen the bonds of friendship while enjoying a great meal. Despite being the only guy present, the ladies didn’t give a hoot and they even invited me to join a mahjong group and a Bollywood dancing workout too. Theresa assured me that other men and even kids do show up at INN meetings and that all are welcome, trailing spouse or otherwise.
For more on INN and to get connected, visit www.innbeijing.org.
Photos by Christopher Lay