In the series “Off Duty”, various members of the InterNations team share their personal stories about a global lifestyle and the international experience.
For this blog entry, we’ve talked to Conor, a British expat, who also acts as one of the moderators for our Munich Pub Quiz Explorers Group.
What brought you to Munich and, more specifically, to InterNations?
Coming to Munich was a happy accident for me. I hadn’t actually considered it as a destination, but I came here in July 2016 for my girlfriend, a true Münchner Kindl (local resident of Munich), whom I met while studying for my master’s degree at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. I decided to move here to see what it was like and ended up never leaving.
I started out working in Munich with a six-month internship in CSR — corporate social responsibility — at Allianz SE and found InterNations more or less immediately afterwards, which worked out quite nicely. I joined the InterNations team a little over two years ago, as part of what used to be called the Community Management Department. We’ve just been renamed into Community Experience, and I’m now an engagement specialist, working with our communities in sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt, though my portfolio may be changing soon.
I support the InterNations Ambassadors with organizing their large, monthly events for the whole community and our Consuls with hosting regular activities for the members of their interest-based groups. A lot of what I do is communicating with and encouraging them, but I work strategically, too, in order to broaden the spectrum of what’s available on InterNations. Together with my colleagues Valentina and Ildiko, I’m also responsible for the Changemakers Groups, our community outreach program and CSR initiative at InterNations.
How did the Munich Pub Quiz Explorers Group get started?
I’ve always been a big fan of trivia quizzes. Back in the UK, I used to watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? religiously, as well as other quiz shows like Eggheads or The Chase, and Trivial Pursuit is probably my go-to board game.
While doing my bachelor’s degree at the London School of Economics, I used to attend pub quizzes fairly often with friends, and even before that, in Yorkshire, I would actually go most weeks: I was a regular at the One-Eyed Rat, a traditional pub right in the center of a small northern town called Ripon.
Pub quizzes are something of a British institution: Every pub probably has one going, and they often vary by format and skill level. Some are fiendishly difficult, others less so, but most will have established teams who show up regularly. I really missed that in Germany. However, I found out that quite a few Irish pubs in Munich organize weekly quiz nights, so I wanted to go and check them out.
At the same time, we started doing impromptu quizzes for each other during our lunch breaks in the InterNations Team Lodge. I don’t recall exactly how it all began, but people would just take turns at asking trivia questions and challenging each other. It seemed a logical next step to take this to InterNations and add it to our activities. There was nothing similar in the Munich Community yet, so we thought, “Well, why don’t we do it ourselves?”
In the beginning, we’d simply attend quiz nights at the Irish pubs I’d heard about, and our group consisted mostly of InterNations employees. Occasionally, the odd InterNations member would show up, too. That’s when we decided it would be a great idea to host our own quizzes and get more members from the Munich Community involved. We weren’t really getting to know anyone from outside the InterNations team, which kind of defeats the purpose of the pub quiz as a social institution.
I brought my colleague Elena onboard, as she had years of experience with the InterNations Groups, our Consuls and InterNations Activities and, of course, also loves trivia quizzes. Between us, we’ve accumulated so much useless knowledge that we wanted to become quizmasters ourselves! The first quiz we came up with was the one in honor of the FIFA World Cup 2018. It all snowballed from there.
What are your quizzes like?
By now, we have a typical British pub quiz format going, though ironically, we host it at Salon Irkutsk, a Russian bar in Maxvorstadt, Munich’s popular student quarter, once a month. Attendance is always limited, as it tends to get a bit claustrophobic otherwise. Our record so far is 28 participants, which was great, but rather cramped. Usually, we have four or five teams with 20 people in total, give or take. By now, the share of InterNations employees has declined to about one in four attendees, on average.
We even have regulars by now, and we’ve got to know some very well, so we can tell how good they are and what they are good at. So, we can assign them to a team with other people whose general knowledge will probably complement theirs and with whom they’ll get along socially. We also try to mix up the genders, age groups, and nationalities to achieve a nice balance. Ideally, our guests should have the chance to meet new people every time.
When they walk in, they already see their team and know where to sit. As soon as they get to their table, there’s already the first round of questions. This one is always a picture round. In April, for example, it was pictures of famous bridges round the world, from the Tower Bridge in London to the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge, which I don’t think anybody recognized. After that, there are several normal question rounds and a final music round. We bring along a Bluetooth speaker and play the intro to a song before any lyrics come on and see who can tell us which tune it is.
That’s more or less how it goes. It takes about two hours, with time for breaks in between, before we read out the answers and announce the winners. At the start, we collect a fee of two euros from everyone who’d like to participate, and we use the money from this bucket to fund the prizes for the winning team, such as movie tickets or gift cards for a local bookstore. I think that’s a pretty good deal!
What kind of questions do you normally feature?
Usually, Elena and I come up with the categories for the various rounds first, such as explorers or vegetables, football or philosophers. Then we have to work backwards from the category name and do a lot of internet research and fact-checking as to what is potentially interesting and what our participants may or may not know. There’ll be around 50 questions in a quiz, so preparing them can be rather time-consuming.
Sometimes, people share good questions from other quizzes with me. For example, the first man at the South Pole — that often works as a trick question for Brits in particular. We tend to think it was Captain Robert Scott, while he was actually beaten by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
My bachelor’s degree was in international history. I also hold a master’s in socio-ecological economics, and I read quite a lot of philosophy at university. I’d say that I’m pretty solid at these topics. I still have more than a passing interest in history, as I read mostly non-fiction about history nowadays, with a particular focus on Austria, the Habsburgs, and the early modern period in general. I just like exploring how ideas and perceptions have changed over time.
My biggest weakness is probably science, though. I don’t think this is one of Elena’s fortes, either. There aren’t too many science-y topics in our quizzes, I’m afraid. We do feature some, like space, but we normally put them in just to make other people happy.
Occasionally, we’ll also organize a quiz with a special theme, such as the Oscars special. Elena hosted one dedicated to the sit com Friends, where I think I could answer exactly one question all night long.
How has your experience with this group changed your perception of your job?
Starting the Pub Quiz Explorers Group and hosting regular activities really reinforces what we do in our department to offer our members a fun experience. Based on what we’re doing here in Munich, I can imagine far more easily what it must be like for people attending such activities all over the world.
It also enables me to empathize a lot more with how InterNations Consuls in particular share their hobbies with our members and the challenges they might face, for example, the dreaded no-shows: people signing up for an activity and then failing to show up without canceling officially, which can mess up your plans in a worst-case scenario. Also, it can be quite difficult to be a good host, create a welcoming environment, and make sure that everyone feels included. This is why we had the idea of arranging the various quiz teams to get people to mix and mingle.
By now, I’ve also got a good sense of the different people who attend our activities — by and large, all lovely folks, open and friendly and looking to socialize. It’s interesting to discover how they see InterNations and the Munich Community, how these fit into their lives. Some of our regulars go to official events and activities every week, and they really do know everyone in the community, which is rather impressive. It’s always great to talk to them about how InterNations has developed.
Which local pub quizzes would you especially recommend, and why?
Obviously, you should drop by at one of our own quizzes some time. We hope to take them outside in the summer months and have a picnic in the park rather than sit in a stuffy bar. For example, we are planning to host some in the Englischer Garten or the Alter Botanischer Garten. We’re always looking forward to welcoming new participants.
I can also really recommend the one at Shamrock. It’s a bilingual pub quiz, where the questions are read out in both English and German; it has lots of different rounds, and there are some excellent teams who go there every week. So, you can see for yourself what hardened pub quiz veterans look like!
Photo Credits: InterNations / iStockphoto