Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's Wrong With My Social Networking? Nothing Much Happened (XVI) In München Today

Aktion, Xing,  Munich,  West Hollywood, Wolfgang Puck, P1, David Bowie, Tengleman's, Ai WeiWei, Christmas Party, LinkedIn,  Facebook,  PayPal, Social Networking, I had gone through the day wandering between a headache and a toothache, a chicken and egg scenario possibly, but on further investigation the toothache has been more of a molar sensitivity that's come over the last couple of months and the headache I'm sure, was brought on with just a few glasses of truly wretched wine the night before procured at my local Tengleman's at a now understood why special Aktion! price. In Germany, the word Aktion! is used all over stores to denote 'on sale' items. Germans like Aktion! I could have used a little less Aktion! yesterday. But I nursed the alternating pains all day long in preparation for my first real networking foray into the Munich business community, a night sponsored by Xing, the social networking community I had not so favourably reviewed in my previous post.

Being new to Xing I had taken care the night before to have sent out 'hellos' to my measly 26 friends on the new service to let them know I would be attending the Christmas Party that night in hopes that I would meet a few real people and take myself out of the digital social network that has been my respite since winter set in a few weeks ago. Munich is now a snowy wonderland and that's only nice if you have a sled or cross country skis - otherwise it just makes you want to stay inside, stay warm and fret over the number of Twitter followers you've lost.

For those not familiar with Xing, Xing, founded in Hamburg and the largest social network in Europe, is the primary competitor to LinkedIn with 5-7 million subscribers vs. LinkedIn's 20 million or so but where Xing seems to shine particularly is in that they take great care to cultivate local networks and stage events that get the networking out of the computer and into a real context. This is particularly valuable to me having moved to a new country and needing real friends as opposed to just virtual ones and old college pals.

Sure, I have over 350 'friends' on Facebook and a similar number of 'contacts' on LinkedIn, but how often do I ever see any of those people? Almost never. Meeting just one of my 26 new Xing contacts would be better than not meeting anyone at all. The Christmas party was promoted to me by a few folks on Xing and came at a quite reasonable €10 price with a free drink and pizza. Why not?

I filled out the handy order form at home the night before and paid by PayPal. Confirmation happened in less than a minute and I printed out my e-ticket right there at the desk. Positively painless - quite unlike my tooth and my head would be the next day.

Ready to rock. Of to the party at P1, whatever P1 would turn out to be. P1 is located at Prinzregentenstrasse 1, which when you walk down the street, you won't find. What you will find is a huge building that is the Haus der Kunst museum, currently housing an Ai WeiWei exhibit and decorated in a hanging mural made of Chinese backpacks that spell out sometAktion, Xing,  Munich,  West Hollywood, Wolfgang Puck, P1, David Bowie, Tengleman's, Ai WeiWei, Christmas Party, LinkedIn,  Facebook,  PayPal, Social Networking, hing in Chinese that sure looks nice but we have no idea what it means. It means it's an art museum, I suppose. Ai WeiWei is most well known for his inspiration for the main Olympic stadium in Beijing nicknamed 'the Birdsnest' and this collection seems to be piles of wood based on a similar thinking. So I enter the museum to figure out where I am. I am told that I am indeed at Prinzregentenstrasse 1 but need to go around back and down underneath the place. Which I do. The picture here is not P1 or the museum. It's just a picture of a nice building that typifies much of Munich.

Black velvet ropes and big bouncers decorate the opening and point around yet another corner to the special entrance for this event. My e-ticket is scanned and I am welcomed. No sloppy stamps on my hand, no hospital bracelets.

Once inside I realize that this place is huge. 380 people had confirmed attendance on the Xing invitation page and there seemed to be even more than that. Room #1 sported 2 bars, with the main room, 2 storeys high, housing a DJ and no less than 6 bars, all working. The third and fourth rooms turned out to be more intimate and the last one condusive to smoking. All nice, but thematically boring. Big, but I've been to more interesting clubs in Saigon and Seoul.

Nothing interesting here. Back to the main hall. 6 giant video screens show the Xing logo and no video whatsoever. The expansive lighting system hung far above our heads with the obligatory Gothic chandelier at one end seems to have the capability of launching missiles but it is not used - just the dead thud thud of house versions of some of the worst of what the eighties had to offer. Huh, the eighties? Yup complete with Sade segues to remixes of Eye of the Tiger and Footloose. I'm not shitting you. Sade was real, I do remember, but the rest of it was so horribly dated or forgettable that I think I needed to forget it just to get back to that headache that had a better beat than whatever they were playing.

Time for pizza. The pizza by Hugo's of Munich was nice but a bit thin with just a slathering of tomato sauce, cheese and a little prosciutto and arugula on top. I killed four pieces, easy.

Walking back to the lounge area 3 girls with the look and feel of the Andrew Sisters were setting up on the stage and it seemed worth the time to have a smoke in back and wait for their start. Have I mentioned that I was bored shitless and not meeting anybody at all? What's that all about? Well I suppose it's all about age. And that's something I had not really accounted for in moving to Europe from Asia at this point in time. Sure,Aktion, Xing,  Munich,  Things White People Like, West Hollywood, Wolfgang Puck, P1, David Bowie, Tengleman's, Ai WeiWei, Christmas Party, LinkedIn,  Facebook,  PayPal, Social Networking, I'm fifty three, but for the past 15 years I've been living in countries where the average age is 26 in Vietnam and 34 in Korea. Geez. It's 45 plus here in Germany. That means it's full of me. Icky. This crowd was forty to fifty something with thirtysomethings in the minority and white as the interior of the bar we were in. A white club? Yep. For white people. Lots and lots of old white people. Oh, impeccably dressed and not a person of colour in the place. Seriously. I saw three or four Asians but aside from that it was like a page from that wretched book 'Things White People Like' - all bad. And I'm white. The Andrew Sisters got going and whilst their harmonies were perfect and charming, watching old white people thrill to the sounds of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear and Silent Night was not exactly what I had had in mind for the evening.

Back in the club room, men of my age, but in much worse shape than I, were starting to shed their coats and pull out their shirttails. I knew it was just a matter of time before they started using their ties as bandanas.

Time for a drink. Using my free drink ticket I was handed a Vodka tonic that I must say was heavy on the Vodka. I was going to need to be completely plastered for any of this to have been any fun. But that was not to happen. Thank gawd.
I spent the rest of my time looking for anybody who looked remotely like the photos they had posted on the Xing website but to no avail. They all looked the same. And they danced horribly. By 10:30 the light show had still not materialized and I had arrived around eight.

Time to go. One thing I had not been prepared for in this move from East to West was the sheer wall that the lack of German language would present to me. You might think that a wall like that is much higher in Asia, but I assure you it is not. Even Ai WeiWei writes in English on the museum's blog. So it works like this: In Asia I look western so nobody expects me to speak Vietnamese, Chinese or Korean - although I do stumble through a bit of Korean when I need to. But here in Germany I could just as well be German, so they expect that I speak German. And I don't. This has made me oddly shy in public situations. I never felt like this in Asia because I knew, that they knew, that I did not speak the language. Here I don't have that advantage - so I am at a disadvantage from the get-go. Yes, many Germans speak English, but this is not Berlin, this is Bavaria. You rarely hear much English on the street.

Going home I was almost relieved to be heading towards a social network that I could communicate with - my computer. Something sad about that, isn't there?

As far as Xing and their conspicuous lack of visual fun on the site or at the club, they would do well to take a look at
P1's website, it's a whole lot more fun than I found the club itself and Xing could use a little zing on their site.

Once home, and back at the computer I did a little research into the club and found that I had just spent an evening at Munich's premier nightclub - the place where famous personalities and football players go. Paris Hilton has been there. And Princess Stephanie of Monaco, reportedly turned away. Who knew? And the rap on the place is that it's impossibly expensive (€15 for a Coke) and impossible to get into - the bouncers shooing away anybody who doesn't look like they belong on the cover of a magazine or in a porn video.

Yes, I do look like David Bowie, but that doesn't hardly get you into a club these days. now does it? Any self-respecting bouncer at a really hot club in Asia would say
'Who's David Bowie' and he'd be dead right. It got me into Spago once, Wolfgang Puck's infamous West Hollywood eatery that was perched above Sunset. They weren't sure so they let me in anyway when I replied, 'David' to the maitre d' in an English accent. when asked my name. I sat next to Timothy Hutton and two phenomenally hot Brazilian models. I ate something good.

Guess those days are over. Now I get into really old Xing parties in Munich with an e-ticket. Sometimes technology just takes all the fun out of things. I need more
Aktion! Less Xing.

For more on digital marketing and social networking see:

Xing vs. LinkedIn: Round II
Trial and Error: The New Normal
What's Wrong With My Social Networking? Xing vs. LinkedIn I
Low Tech Germany. Who Knew?
Advertising People and Blogs
How to Write the Best Blog in the World
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If Blogs Are Free Does That Make Them Worthless?
Detri-Viral Marketing II: The Top 10 Social Media Blunders
Bright Lights, Big Internet and the WWED
Saigon Digital Marketing Conference Successfully Avoids Plumbers Convention
A Tale of Many Marketing Conferences
Detri-Viral Marketing I: How Web 2.0 Can Go Against A Brand
Marketing Predictions for 2009
Barcamp Saigon 2008
"Ignore Everybody" is Born: A Plug for Hugh MacLeod
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market? Asia has Risen,
Into the Gapinvoid - Web 2.0 Social Networking Born 20 Years Ago


  1. "Any self-respecting bouncer at a really hot club in Asia would say 'Who's David Bowie' and he'd be dead right."

    No, anyone working in the entertainment business who's never heard of David Bowie should be ashamed of themselves, Asia or elsewhere!

  2. Yeah, right Tim. But they don't exactly have an IQ test for bouncers. Not even a cultural IQ test. They should... ;-)

  3. Everybody should know who David Bowie is, but he's older that either of us. So why would a hot Asian club want him around?

    The next time you go to P1 ask if they give a senior discount.

  4. Now, I realise that P1 can be very little fun unless youre a footballer, a WAG or trying to be one of those but even so, Xing parties, like all parties, are about the people who attend them. If all the other attendees were wandering around cloaked in faux-world-traveller-ennui like you were ("Oh noo, like, the last time I was in a RALLY hot club, like, it was Asia, Okaaay? And there they were just like totally cooool, okay? And here, its like, so provincial, oookaaay?" - Im sure you can imagine the accent Im doing while I say that) and/or hitting the free vodkas then its no surprise you didnt meet anyone, How many people did you *try* and talk to?

  5. Got your accent. Funny. But here's your key point "parties, are about the people who attend them". Exactly.

    I was at P1 later in January where I knew lots of people and it was way fun - had a blast and stayed till 5am.
    I did 'try' to talk to people the first time but found English a little limiting.


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