By Morgan Fagg
An Englishman, a Frenchman and an Irishman walked into a bar. You may be expecting a 1970s-style joke at this point, but in fact they were three of more than four hundred people who walked into the bar of the five-star Silken Puerta América hotel for a celebratory event of InterNations, the international meeting group. The group has now been active in Madrid for nine years, and those attending originated from almost seventy different countries.
The bar is located on the thirteenth floor of the Puerta América, offering spectacular views of Madrid, and the hotel’s website states that it is “a meeting space which brings together different cultures and ways of understanding architecture and design”. It was not just the views of the city, but also with a view of meeting other people that attracted the large number of guests, including newcomers to Madrid, visitors, existing InterNations members and first-timers.
The idea for InterNations goes back to 1997 when two German students, Malte Zeeck and Philipp von Plato, met while enrolled on an MBA programme in Switzerland. Ten years later, they reunited in Germany and discussed how their lives had developed. Both men had always been interested in meeting other expatriates and agreed that when living in other countries this could often be difficult. Every time someone arrives in a new city, they have to start again with regards to making new friends and new business contacts.
Zeeck and von Plato decided a platform was needed to make expat life easier, and started InterNations in 2007. Nine years later, with almost two and half million members in 390 cities, Zeeck, who married a madrileña, travelled to Madrid to support the city celebration.
“Madrid is much more than just another city in which you can communicate with expatiates and go to events,” he says, “it is a city full of expats, enjoying the sun and also the nightlife when the sun goes down.”
While the Madrid city lights presented a sparkling display from the thirteenth-floor bar, those inside enjoyed the music and warm atmosphere. As Irish poet, W B Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met”. It was a philosophy that was exemplified by the event invitations, which reminded members not to be shy, to welcome newcomers and introduce them to others.
Contact information: InterNations website is www.internations.org