InterNations founder Malte Zeeck has been travelling again! This time, he visited our thriving expat community in London, where the local InterNations Ambassador Rosa had organised a splendid event in a truly exquisite venue for the occasion!
In the evening of Thursday, 26 April, I set out from Munich airport on a plane bound for London. I hadn’t been to London for over a year, so it was definitely high time to pay this exciting, ever-transforming metropolis another visit.
My enthusiasm only waned slightly when I realized that I had chosen precisely the moment when summer finally broke out in Munich to visit a city that greeted me with a freezing 11°C and non-stop rain. But you can’t have it all, and while London can be an overwhelming experience at any time and in any weather, this spring seemed like a particular good moment to visit: London is getting ready for the Olympics, and you can feel it. The pace of change in a city where new venues, restaurants, shops and art spaces pop up on a daily basis seems to have accelerated even more. Given all this, I must say I expected to find London a lot busier than I did!
Never mind the London Olympics, however. The real reason of my visit was of course our London expat community! With over 21,000 members, London is the biggest InterNations Community and therefore one of the most diverse, too. And Friday night was party time for InterNations members in London! Our London Ambassador Rosa had picked a truly special venue for that night’s event: the Kensington Roof Gardens, owned by Virgin’s very own Sir Richard Branson! Rumour has it that Sir Richard was once refused entry to the club by the bouncer and therefore decided to buy the whole establishment. I was very much looking forward to the evening!
So after spending Friday daytime talking to several business partners, I made my way to Kensington High Street in the evening. The location was truly spectacular: Kensington Roof Gardens consist of three themed gardens sprawling over 6,000 m² and a restaurant and club house. The Spanish Garden with its distinct Moorish flavour is based on the Alhambra in Granada. The Tudor Garden is filled with evergreen shrubs surrounded by fragrant lilies, roses and lavender, and is characterised by its archways, secret corners and hanging wisteria. Last but not least, the English Woodland garden has over 100 species of trees, a stream, and a garden pond that is the home to pintail ducks and four resident flamingos called Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks. It’s like a secret parallel world, situated on the roof top of a huge former department store and barely visible from street level!
As if by magic, the skies cleared and allowed us a glimpse of the sun just in time for the event. Rosa, our InterNations Ambassador in London who organised the evening, and her co-Ambassador and co-host Alex did a truly great job there. They were assisted by a wonderful team of volunteers helping with the hosting and at the welcome desk: Adrienn, Alecsandra, Anita, Anuja, Augustina, Cecilia, Khaled, Lisa, Mahmood, Melanie, Pedro, Robbie and Zoltan. After a short welcome speech by Rosa and Alex, I said a few words too to thank this passionate Ambassador team for their enthusiasm and commitment – and for the warm welcome I received: I even got some presents, for which I would like to thank everyone again on this occasion!
All in all, the event was a great success and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. I tried to talk to as many people as possible but with 796 people of 89 different nationalities on the guest list, I only managed to get to know a small fraction of this huge international crowd. I am however particularly glad I managed to talk to one couple who just got married this year, as they told me that they met at the very first InterNations event in London back in 2008! It’s moments like this one that make running InterNations such an incredibly rewarding experience sometimes – when you feel that you are really touching people’s lives and making a difference.
As for the rest of my weekend, it was somewhat tarnished by the incessant rain. Saturday turned out to be the wettest day of the year so far, while I received reports from back home in Munich of scorching hot 29°C and sunshine. Oh well … I suppose that’s when one could use some of the famous British “keep calm and carry on” attitude… Anyways, I won’t let a little bit of rain ruin my London experience: I’ll definitely keep coming back to this amazing city with its wonderful InterNations Community!
All photos courtesy Carina Barbosa except Thames by Daniel J Maxwell