Are you too busy to plan a trip to Europe, but still craving the culture of the Continent? Or is your next jaunt to Paris years away?
If so, then there's another way to get there -- international parties, held in a city near you.
By tonight, you could be mingling with a fascinatingly diverse crowd, brushing up on your Italian or sipping a fine Bordeaux without any of the hassle of traveling.
Just ask Pierre Battu, a Paris native who founded the festive French Tuesdays four years ago.
The concept stemmed from his desire to get a group of friends together at Ava Lounge, a trendy bar in midtown Manhattan. "There was no strategic vision. It was just for me to boost my social life," says Battu.
A few months later, when 500 people showed up at a party he planned for Bastille Day, Battu realized that socializing might prove to be a successful business idea.
And it has. Along with French Tuesdays co-founder Gilles Amsallem, Battu has spread the concept across the U.S., from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Miami. The party takes place every other Tuesday and on special events including Halloween and New Year's Eve.
You don't need to be French to attend; the festivities attract all different nationalities. In general, "30% are French, 40% are American, and 30% are other nationalities," says Battu.
You do need to be a member, though. Joining is free, but you must be recommended by two existing members. There is also a fee-based, preferred membership ($40 for the registration fee and $35 annually), which includes perks such as priority entry, monthly promotions, and discounts in shops.
French Tuesdays is designed to get participants interested in other cultures as well. Themed events include Brazilian night, a Moroccan feast and a flamenco night.
There is a strict dress code, however. Attire is formal -- men must wear a suit jacket. "We want our parties to be special, and dressing well puts people in the mood," Battu explains. Even in San Francisco, a city known for its casual appearance, partygoers adhere to the well-dressed rule.
Above all, French Tuesdays events are designed to promote socializing. For the first part of the evening, the music is kept low to give people a chance to network. "Some even do business," says Battu.
The second half of the evening is when the real partying begins, as guests loosen up and get into the music, which often includes live drummers.
The formula is successful. "It exceeds in a real and genuine way," says frequent guest Keith Yazmir, 40. "These guys have managed to put together a group of people who are very friendly. There is a real feeling of openness. Everyone there is attractive, smart and successful, which doesn't hurt," adds Yazmir, who first heard of the party when he was working in New York for the French government.
The high-class event is also very appealing to sponsors. The average guest is 32 years old with an income of $120,000, which has attracted
and champagne giant
, which is a partner of the organization.
So what's the next city on the list? Battu hasn't officially decided, but he says that he's leaning toward Chicago. Many other cities might be given a chance to experience the event, though. "We are also thinking of doing a tour around the U.S., which might include New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington," says Battu, probably next year.
La Dolce Vita
If you're seeking a different sort of energy and music, look to Manhattan's
Made in Italy parties, which give Americans a chance to socialize and dance with Italians.
The event was founded by engineer Francesco Mo and market research analyst Francesco Belcaro in 2004. Mo was already well versed in the world of party planning, as he had been promoting events since 1999.
Made in Italy parties take place in the latest popular nightclubs throughout the city, such as Cain, Marquee, Nikki Beach, Guest House and Glo. The two Francescos have drawn 1,000 partygoers at one time.
The event is very different from the French Tuesdays, however, as it is very casual and caters to a younger crowd. There is no membership requirement and the parties have a laid-back atmosphere with no dress code.
The next party is tonight, April 13, at the trendy nightclub
Room Service in midtown Manhattan.
The social networking community
EuroCircle is designed for Europeans (and Europhiles) who want to mingle in cities all around the world, including Frankfurt, Rome, Paris, New York and Atlanta.
The organization was started in 1999 by Kaisa Kokkonen, a lawyer from Finland. When she moved to New York City and realized she didn't know many fellow Europeans there, Kokkonen decided to get a group of 30 people together. Through word of mouth, 180 people showed up, and now the group has nearly 50,000 members worldwide.
EuroCircle is very inclusive -- it does not have any religious, political or ethnic affiliations -- and it hosts many resources and forums on its Web site. It is free to become a member, which enables you to register for events in advance, contact fellow members and create a profile so others can contact you.
EuroCircle features several different types of events, all offering unique opportunities to socialize and party -- a Mediterranean night in New York City, a margarita night in Madrid and a theatre night in Milan.
So instead of just hitting up your neighborhood bar and lamenting that you're not jetting off to Europe, try out some of these international parties. You'll find yourself surrounded by an eclectic, entertaining mix of people.
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