How to find friends fast in Dubai

A new group aims to welcome people to the Emirates, and help people expand their social circle.

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DUBAI // A networking organisation has been set up to help expatriates who are fresh off the plane meet new people.

The members-only group, called Gooseberry, has been in existence for less than a month and aims to match - based on their interests and ages - a group of at least six strangers to meet over dinner.

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"Sometimes you can feel out on a limb in Dubai," said Michelle McDonald, the 39-year-old British founder of Gooseberry, which is so named because in British English, a "gooseberry" can refer to someone who does not fit in to a certain social setting.

"A lot of people come here to work in small companies and their colleagues may not necessarily be interested in meeting up outside of work."

She added that Gooseberry has also attracted long-term expatriates whose social circles have dwindled over the years.

After paying a membership fee of Dh1,500 - reduced to Dh1,000 for June - Gooseberry members can attend eight organised social events ranging from a dinner for six to a desert safari.

So far there are 35 members, but Ms McDonald hopes to build that up to 200. She hopes to have an equal split between men and women, but stresses her company is not a dating service.

"There's no prerequisite to be single at all," she said. "But if people meet and they get along, then so much the better."