From: Yahoo UK News

By: Deborah Haines, AFP

September 20, 2004

In staid Geneva, foreigners & locals learn to party

Sweaty bodies grind to the thumping dance music at a popular party venue in Geneva that is challenging the city’s reputation as a quaint but dull destination.

“The nightlife here is dreadful with the exception of these parties,” said Christopher Tietze, a 26-year-old project manager from Sweden, at one of the so-called “Sindy” events earlier this month. “They are great fun and bring together an international crowd. Sindy has made my life in Geneva bearable,” Tietze shouted over the pounding music.

Despite the city’s unique blend of international organizations, notably the United Nations, big corporations and the local Swiss, people here often appear reluctant to mix and let their hair down. “Unless you know it well, Geneva seems like a very dead place. You go out and there is no main street jumping at you with things to do,” said 33-year-old Nir Ofek from Israel and one of the founding members of the Geneva Social Syndicate, now known as Sindy.

Ofek, who arrived here six years ago to work for Proctor and Gamble, spent a lonely first 12-months only socialising with people from work.

Determined to break out of this circle and meet new faces, he gathered together a group of about 20 people — about two-thirds expat, one third Swiss, each working for a different company — to organize a party.

They hoped to attract about 200 people to the venue on a beach bordering Lake Geneva, but were astonished when more than 2,000 rocked up. “It just showed us how much of a need there is for these expats to get to meet more people and feel like they belong,” Ofek recalled.

Buoyed by their first triumph, Sindy decided to organize three or four big parties per year to bring more people, aged 25 and over, together. The only group of its kind in Geneva, Sindy soon built up an e-mail list of more than 6,000 expats and Swiss locals who were desperate for a social lifeline.

“Sindy is a plus for my life,” said Denis Braun, 28, a banker from Geneva. “It helps me meet others of my own age who are open and happy to talk, as it is hard to find such people in Geneva,” he said at the latest Sindy event — a fancy dress party where everyone had to wear something white. But not all are impressed, with some arguing that Sindy fails to offer a true Geneva experience and is only geared towards English-speaking expatriates. “I am rather against Sindy,” said Pank Patel, 24, a British IT consultant for the International Labour Organisation who has lived here for 11 months.

“If you want Sindy you might as well stay at home as all you meet is random English, Australians and Germans. You can meet them in London,” Patel said, noting that he preferred to explore Geneva’s nocturnal spots himself and make his own contacts. For many newcomers, however, the group is a springboard to finding friends.

“It has improved people’s lives because it was not easy to break through to the Genevans who are a bit cold,” said Gloria Chinebuah, 38, who works at the UN’s refugee agency and has lived here for 12 years.

“Before, my contacts were mainly from my office environment, very international organization-based. Now I have got to know people in the private sector and it is thanks to Sindy that this cross-over was made possible.” afp