People who pay to eat with strangers to fight loneliness

People who pay to eat with strangers to fight loneliness

Image source, Getty Images

At 37 years old, Vinicius Ogawa has adopted a new routine.

He devotes Wednesday and Friday nights to dining with strangers at different restaurants in São Paulo.

He does not choose his companions, let alone the type of restaurant, but these meetings have become special for him.

“They have become moments where I can connect with others. It's always a surprise, with new people and new stories,” Vinicius told BBC News Brazil.

The idea caught his attention after seeing a post on social media.

“love them New experiences, meeting new people and eating. That's why I signed up.”

At these dinner parties, the first step is to introduce yourself and talk about your profession, age, where you live, and any other information you consider relevant.

Vinicius says he has attended 41 such dinner parties in recent months.

“This has become my ritual,” he explains.

Dinners with strangers are offered through platforms such as Confra, which was created in Brazil last year, and TimeLeft, which originated in Portugal and has expanded around the world, including several countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay.

It is sold as an alternative to combat “urban loneliness”.

Dinner with “friends you don't know yet”

“Eat dinner with six strangers, or better yet, six friends you haven’t met yet,” Confara announces.

The company invites you to seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in “Magical chance encounters“, have conversations you might otherwise miss, and meet people you “would never have met.”

For its part, Timeleft offers “safe moments to interact with the people around you” and “so you become more involved in the world you live in.”

Image source, CONFRA

caption, Eating with strangers helps many people fight loneliness.

It also has a presence in other cities such as: Barcelona, ​​London, Lisbon, New York, Madrid, Miami and Paris.

Business is booming all over the world.

How it works

Groups of strangers are defined based on their affiliations, which is reflected in the answers that platform users give when filling out a questionnaire about their interests.

This data is used by An algorithm connects the six strangers In a place he considers ideal for that group.

In this report, we attend one of these dinner parties in a restaurant in São Paulo, Brazil.

The meeting location was revealed on the same day of the experiment.

In the restaurant, located in an exclusive area of ​​the city, there were four tables at which four groups of strangers were sitting.

Each one accommodates six people Some of them did not attend.

Confra does not usually provide advance information about strangers.

But Timeleft reveals data like zodiac signs and professions.

When you arrive at the restaurant, all you have to do is say that you are having dinner with strangers and give your table number, which the platform sends to you along with the name of the restaurant.

Image source, Profile personly

caption, Vinicius attended nearly 40 dinner parties with strangers

As a security measure, restaurants with good reviews are selected and the platforms ask establishments to be alert in case any kind of problem arises among diners.

There are safety tips typically given during dinner, such as letting friends or family know they can find you there Keep your drinks and belongings in sight You do not transfer money or give details about your money to anyone.

Who attends these banquets?

According to the platforms in general, the majority of them are between 25 and 50 years old.

Women were in the majority at most tables, but there was one mixed table.

Confra says a large portion of its audience (60% to 65%) is female.

In the remaining time, Men and women enjoy approximately proportional representation.

Throughout the night, some groups were louder, while others were more reserved.

Some tables came together to interact.

Many attendees had already participated previously and became subscribers.

Image source, Getty Images

caption, The platforms use algorithms to match people with similar connections.

Users can choose to attend a single dinner or purchase a subscription. Prices and number of dinners vary depending on the package The selected country.

Restaurant fees are not included. Each participant must pay for everything he consumes.

At the dinner our journalist attended, strangers were curious and wanted to know more about their table companions.

Various topics were discussed, from Trips and parties in São Paulo, motherhood dilemmas and even abusive relationships.

Some talked a lot about themselves, while others preferred to listen to others.

When someone makes a comment or joke that causes upset, someone else always tries to change the subject, and the night continues.

To facilitate interaction, platforms are provided Quiz games on different topicsSome are light or comedic while others are more serious.

But the conversation can flow naturally, too.

The balance of experience usually takes into account factors such as: Closeness between participants, quality of the restaurant And the extent to which a person is willing to surrender to the experience.

At the end of the dinner, participants receive suggestions for places where they can continue the night, such as bars and clubs.

While Confra was launched in São Paulo by Lucas Tugas and Guilherme Ovalle, both 23 years old, in July last year. Since then, nearly 10,000 people have attended the dinners, the company says.

Positive and negative experiences

Among those who attend these banquets are people who have recently moved to the city and want to make friends, or travelers who are passing through.

There are even people who recently ended their relationship and want to Start a new life cycle.

As well as those who find it difficult to socialize, which experts say has become especially common after the pandemic quarantine period.

Of course, there are people who are single and see this as a way to meet someone.

Participants say so It is not uncommon for couples to appear On tables, whether for one night or for something longer lasting.

Image source, Profile personly.

caption, Andreza says he had a bad experience on the platform and doesn't want to repeat it.

Vinicius Ogawa, who had attended dozens of dinner parties with strangers, had been dating a woman he met during one of these experiences for a month.

“We met at the 33rd dinner,” he says.

He says he didn't go to dinner expecting to find a girlfriend, but he didn't rule out the possibility either.

Vinicius was born in São Paulo, lived in Fortaleza for a few years and returned to his hometown shortly before the pandemic struck.

It is stated that his main goal was Meet new people in a post-pandemic world.

He continues, “The first dinner was strange, because everything was so new, and people, including me, didn't know how it went (…) but I thought: 'Well, at least I met five people.'”

“Things got better (at subsequent dinners) and I never stopped.”

He confirms that in some of those meetings Make friends for life.

But not all interviewees had a positive experience. Some told BBC News Brazil they had no intention of doing so again.

“I will continue to meet people using the traditional method,” concluded hypnotherapist Andreza Soares, 52, who attended a dinner party with women, she says.

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Aygen Marsh

"Certified introvert. Extreme coffee specialist. Total zombie defender. Booze fanatic. Web geek."

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