Integrating into a new country and culture can be a bumpy process—you probably know all too well the difficulty of the transition.
When you first move to somewhere new, it’s easy to stay in your comfort zone of immediate family members when living in an unfamiliar place. However, if you don’t venture out to meet new people, then becoming an American (in more than just paperwork) will seem incredibly out of reach.
There’s a whole world out there, full of new friends to meet, new experiences to have, and great places in OKC to discover.
And you don’t have to do it alone—you can take advantage of the many free resources that can help you on your quest to get out and expand your social circle, even while you’re still conquering conversational English.
In this article, we’ll focus on one of our favorite resources: Meetup.
We bet that by the end of this article you’ll join a Meetup group or two, and maybe even start thinking about organizing your own group.
What is Meetup?
Let’s start with the basics. Meetup is a social networking type of website and mobile app that helps organize events. According to their website, “A Meetup group is a local community of people. Meetup groups are sustained through Meetup events, which are face-to-face gatherings that happen in real life between members and organizers.”
When you first visit Meetup.com, you will be asked to create a free account and select some categories that you may be interested in. You won’t be asked for your address or any personal information beyond your email address and the city you live in.
From there, you’ll be shown some suggested groups and events in your area that fit your interests. Most groups are free, but some charge a nominal fee to be a member.
The categories of Meetup groups range from family, health and fitness, culture and language, tech, and so much more. From groups to help better your English, to book clubs and dinner groups, here are some groups that may be of interest to you.
Language and Cultural Groups
These groups mostly focus on helping you improve your grasp of the English language, or giving you the opportunity to teach others your native language. By joining these groups, you will meet other people who are new to the United States, or people who want to learn more about your culture.
This meetup started in January of this year with the purpose of teaching English to new learners. The description of the group reads, “We have English classes every Wednesday. There are two levels – basic and advanced. The basic class is taught in Spanish, and the advanced class is in English. Students can start any week.”
Kimberly Collins, the organizer of the Meetup, had this to say about the group: “We started as a Hispanic ministry of my church in 2008, and almost all of the students were Spanish speakers until recently. We have a group of Brazilian students who have been coming regularly, and we’ve also had a few lately who are from other countries, like Egypt, Turkey, and Ukraine.
“So our focus isn’t just on Spanish speakers anymore, even though our original goal was to help the people in the neighborhood who speak Spanish. It works well with the students who speak Portuguese, since it’s so similar to Spanish, but people who speak other languages would need to know English relatively well and go to the advanced class, which is taught in English. Meetup is great, but the students don’t have to RSVP to attend.”
Details: Free to join, 68 members, meets once each week.
This group welcomes all “Spanish-language enthusiasts” and “provides a friendly and inviting environment for you to improve and maintain what you have learned at home, in school, or abroad.”
We spoke with Addie, one of the organizers of the Meetup group. She had this to say about her goals for the group: “The overall goal of the OKC Spanish group is to encourage the acquisition of Spanish as a second language.
“Native Spanish speakers make a huge impact on our angloparlante-majority group, as many of our members have goals of traveling the Spanish-speaking world and benefit from native slang and important differences in regional word choices (for instance, you can say ‘coger’ in Spain but not in Nicaragua!).
“We have more than a few members who want to become fluent due to their desire to help immigrant families succeed, in professions such as doctors, educators, and social workers.
“I want to create camaraderie through the mutual understanding that learning a language is difficult. Immigrants can come to the group with confidence that we want to help them, and we want them to help us—we all are making mistakes, we all sound stupid because learning a language is hard! But you have to be courageous enough to sound stupid in the beginning if you want to sound smart eventually.
“A ‘walk before you run’ kind of thing that none of us are too proud to give up on. I hope that ESL learners would be comforted by the dual-language environment of our group.
“My personal hope is that through the elimination of the language barrier, our cultural differences will be more appreciated and respected as we learn more about each other as people, instead of as stereotypes and statistics.”
Details: Free to join, 208 members, meets several times each month.
Not a Spanish-speaking newcomer? Consider starting your own group to encourage other people from your home country to get together. Your events could be as simple as visiting new restaurants together.
Lifestyle Groups OKC
Meetup is not just about language and culture—it’s also a great platform to connect with Americans who share similar interests to you. Popular groups range from religion to technology to book clubs, restaurant clubs, and more. You’re sure to find something that you’re interested in.
Check out these popular groups to give you a feel for what’s out there.
If your passion is cooking, there’s a group for that! The Edmond & OKC Cooking Club boasts that they are “Tastier than a book club! We are a group of lively and diverse women who live and meet up in Edmond (some of our members also live in Oklahoma City) for a monthly Sunday evening dinner party. We enjoy great food, wine, and company.”
Details: Free to join, 41 members, meets once each month.
If you’re into socializing, having drinks with friends, and enjoying the OKC nightlife, this group is for you. “OKC Social is about getting out, being social and enjoying all that our great city has to offer. The meetups include happy hours at local hot spots, art walks, festivals, and just about anything our members can have fun doing.”
Details: Free to join but some activities may cost money, 3707 members, meets several times each month.
Meetup hosts many types of dance groups. One of the more popular dance groups in OKC specializes in salsa. They offer beginner dance lessons for adults and kids, as well as classes on the different styles of salsa. Activities include social events, dance outings, dance parties, and more.
Details: Free to join but some activities may cost money, 1667 members, meets several times each month.
If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, this group can help you network with other local idea-makers. “1 Million Cups OKC is for local entrepreneurs wanting to share ideas, grow their start-up and connect with like-minded, creative individuals. 1 Million Cups is a free, weekly program that first and foremost educates, but also engages and connects, local entrepreneurs.”
Details: Free to join, 771 members, meets once each week.
If nature and the outdoors is where you want to be, then this group can help get you there. The events “range from outdoor adventures including hiking, camping, and biking and indoor adventures such as dinners and museums, as well as other unique events as they come up.”
Details: $3.75 per year to join, 168 members, meets several times each month.
This book club is the Oklahoma chapter of a worldwide book club. The description reads, “We’re a global book club for like minded women to discuss great books! All members of the book club read the same book over the same period; members then meet up in their respective cities at the end of each month to discuss the book and exchange views.”
Details: $5 per meeting, 1003 members, meets once each month.
How to create your own successful Meetup Group
If you check out Meetup.com and can’t find just the right group for you, then start one yourself! How about a group to encourage dialogue and friendships between different cultures and ethnicities? OKC is definitely in need of more culturally diverse Meetup groups.
If you could create any club or group, what would it be about? Would it be about connecting with others from your native country? How about a way to kick off your own Supper club? Pick any topic you feel passionate about; we’re sure you’ll find plenty of people in OKC who share your passions and interests.
If you’re thinking about organizing your own group, here are some tips and information to get you started:
- Organizers on Meetup pay for an organizer subscription plan to operate their groups.
- Organizers are responsible for adding events to the group’s calendar to keep the members informed of what’s going on with each meeting.
- It’s up to you as the organizer to decide how your Meetup group is run, what it’s all about, and what your membership policies are.
- Many organizers appoint a leadership team of co-organizers or assistant organizers to help run the group.
- Make sure your group description is clear about what your intent is for the event, what you hope members might learn or take away from joining, what kind of people they may meet, and how many people usually attend a meeting.
- Have a manageable and regular schedule in mind. You could start out with one event per month to ensure that the members stay engaged.
- Encourage members to have a part in future events, and help to foster dialogue between members so they can get to know each other.
- Don’t get overwhelmed by the numbers. Some groups may have thousands of members, but you can limit the numbers of each event by how many your space or activity can accommodate.
- While some groups are free for members, charging a membership fee will encourage attendance and give you the opportunity to provide snacks or a cool event space that may charge a rental fee.
Check out this video on best practices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRn5rPP950E
What Other Cities Are Doing
Get inspired by what other cities are doing to welcome cultural diversity. We believe that positive social interaction is so important in finding happiness in your new country.
Here are some of our favorite Meetups that provide a forum for different ethnicities to meet, talk about their experiences, and make new friends. Check out what they’re doing and feel free to model some of their meetup events in your own group.
- Dallas Haitian Americans: https://www.meetup.com/Dallas-Haitian-Americans/
- DFW Pakistani and Indian Professionals and Friends: https://www.meetup.com/DFW-PAKISTANI-PROFESSIONALS/
- Denversity: https://www.meetup.com/Denversity/
- Taiwanese Community in Toronto: https://www.meetup.com/Toronto-Taiwanese/
- Languages, Culture and Travel NYC: https://www.meetup.com/Languages-Culture-and-Travel-NYC/
We hope we got you thinking about your next Meetup group. Meeting new people is just one part of integrating into American culture successfully. For more tips and tricks, check out the rest of our blog: https://usvisagroup.com/blog/.