There is no networking culture here
Most of the time, in any new city, this is how it will work. Slovakia, however, does not have a networking culture, in the way that Western countries do. There are no industry or networking events. And asking to meet people for a brief chat about their company or just for my own information about the local IT / Tech industries is very strange to those I’ve contacted.
There are also only two Meetup groups here. Internations is about as active here as I’ve experienced in Belgium, unfortunately. Interestingly, I’ve met a number of people quite regularly as they also make it out to all of these activities. Sadly, they’re mostly as foreign as I am.
Though people are quite willing to have coffee
Luckily, a recruiter I did get a chance to meet provided a bit of a hint when he suggested we could have coffee, though he did not have anything in the pipeline suitable for me. Hmm. And indeed, in the last few weeks, coffee has been the key. No one wants to ‘meet’ you, but most people are up for an informal coffee. I think this explains why so many of the coffee houses here are so busy, nearly all the time, mainly with people who are obviously working. Only a few places tend to cater to students.
This bodes well. I also dislike meetings, and rather enjoy coffee. The game changes when there are many, many people around.
For actual events, don’t go alone.
The Start-Up awards really brought this point home to me. I met a few people, but most are not from around Slovakia. The many entrepreneurs brought their own entourages, and if you don’t speak fluent Slovak, joining a conversation is a bit strange. I did learn that next time, I need to bring at least one person with me. In Western countries, one could attend alone, and often the advice is to do so to force you to go and talk to people. Here, it is a bit strange. Even congratulating the winners or trying to chat with some other companies about their work almost seems shocking. Perhaps I need an introduction? This part I shall have to work on figuring out.
Overall, I’m pleased with how my networking has improved, though clearly I’m still learning. Some of what I have here may not apply to a native Slovak, who could likely have more coffees than I have been able to arrange. I’m not the only one here who finds a city full of elusive people. One incredibly talented young entrepreneur I met did confirm this. He spent a few months in Texas on an internship, and got a taste for Western-style networking events. He’s working now with some people from Prague who have successfully launched a series of networking events, ranging in size and activities, looking to launch elsewhere in Central Europe.