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August 3, 2011 9:03 PM   Subscribe

What communities have you known or been part of that have been uncommonly welcoming?

Recently I've heard a number of people recommend contradancing as an example of a vibrant and extra-friendly community of people. They really go out of their way to invite you to dances, teach you the moves, and make you feel welcome even if you're a beginner. And this guy's biking blog, Between the Ends of America, has me convinced that bike tourers are an awesome bunch who will always be happy to share with you whatever food or shelter they may have while trading crazy stories.

What other communities do you know that are uncommonly welcoming like this? What has your experience with them, if any, been like?

All kinds of communities (activity-based, location-based, lifestyle-based) are relevant here, but extra-special bonus points for groups I could potentially join as a twenty-something moving soon to the Boston area. I like outdoorsy things, artsy things, and adventure travel/exploration. And I already contradance :)
posted by danceswithlight to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (38 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was going to say churches before I noticed that you were asking about things you may want to join. Although, who knows, maybe you're looking to join a church?

Although, I've found hiking clubs to be pretty uncommonly welcoming as well, so you may want to look into them.
posted by General Malaise at 9:19 PM on August 3, 2011


Most martial arts groups I've heard of are very welcoming and generally made up of well adjusted, kind people. Look into e.g. local judo centers.
posted by spiderskull at 9:20 PM on August 3, 2011


Personally, I've found that the most welcoming groups are for vaguely obscure activities. All the accordionists I've met have been very friendly, because "OMG you play as well?!" [exception: bagpipers, who are a condescending bunch because of the vast number of competitive pipers].

For sporty, I would go with rock climbers or boulderers. Every time I'm at a wall I've been welcomed, with random people giving me good-natured advice and just being awesome.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:21 PM on August 3, 2011


knitters seem to be incredibly welcoming. if you're a knitter, you can basically go to almost any knitting circle or stitch n bitch and be welcomed. you at least have your knitting projects to talk about and then can move on to other topics and often friendship. even if you're on vacation but know of a local circle at a shop or something, they're happy to have you.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:23 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Re: churches- Even if you're not religious, you'll be in Boston, aka UU-Mecca. Not for everyone, religious or non-, but I've always found folks to be extremely welcoming, almost to the point of being overbearing. Doubly so if you're under 30.
posted by supercres at 9:25 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ravers and burners.
posted by Arbac at 9:34 PM on August 3, 2011


Seconding Burners. If I'm in any city with a Burner population and I make my presence known, I've immediately got places to crash, parties to go to, people to call on. For all the scorn people pile on the Burning Man culture, this is its single best feature.
posted by mykescipark at 9:52 PM on August 3, 2011


City churches. The more culturally and ethnically diverse the congregation, the more welcoming it is. UUs and UCCs in particular, but really, any Main Line Protestant city congregation. In the suburbs, they tend to be more whitebread and clique-ish. First Unitarian Church in Chicago (in Hyde Park, on the South Side) became our adopted family when we were very young, newly married, and far from home.
posted by tully_monster at 10:03 PM on August 3, 2011


Board game* people. I joined a Euro board game Meetup group and well, I haven't actually gone to an event yet (hermit tendencies hard to shake), but I am pretty sure it's a super nice buncha folks.

*Euro-Board games like Settlers of Catan - I don't know about groups for other types of board games like Monopoly or Risk that tend to be much more competitive in my experience.
posted by Glinn at 10:05 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


some geeks and some punks
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:07 PM on August 3, 2011


Hackerspaces
posted by finite at 10:41 PM on August 3, 2011


Yup, Unitarian Universalists, especially the young adults, are extremely welcoming.

And a lot of them contra dance...
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:46 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


pagans!
posted by woodvine at 10:51 PM on August 3, 2011


I've read lots of stories about the sense of community fostered in people hiking the Appalachian Trail, a quick google of app trail near Boston turned up just one heck of a lot of interesting links.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:16 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jugglers and unicyclists tend to be very welcoming.
posted by embrangled at 12:05 AM on August 4, 2011


Runners tend to be really nice and supportive. After cross country meets we'd usually go to eat somewhere with other teams and talk. Aside from a few people who took it way too seriously, everyone was really just there to hang out and have a good time running. You could try signing up for a 5K. Races are often more like parties than competitions.
posted by Gymnopedist at 1:17 AM on August 4, 2011


Motorcyclists are generally friendly. (Harley guys can have an attitude and be snobby, but who needs those particular guys?)

In particular, I've found that vintage motorcyclists (and enthusiasts) are some of the best people on the planet. You have to have a sense of humor, a sense of whimsy, be able to deal with embarrassing social situations (your bike won't start or falls over), willing to endure the elements, etc., etc. This doesn't leave a ton of room for being a jerk. I have more friendly conversations when I'm out on my bike than any other activity I do.
posted by maxwelton at 2:53 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Alcoholics Anonymous - they are there specifically to help each other.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:20 AM on August 4, 2011


The Orthodox Jewish community is generally very friendly. I used to travel a lot for work and knew that if I could make it to synagogue on Saturday, wherever I was, I could get an automatic invitation to someone's home for lunch. Had some amazing experiences as a result, getting to know people in places like Liverpool, Rio de Janeiro and Zurich who I never would have met otherwise.

The flip side, though, is I now live in a community with such a huge OJ community that there's almost no outreach to strangers, because people assume that you're there with someone else and just a stranger to them. It's a problem (though one which my husband and I are fighting as best we can).

I've also found stepmom (and second-wives) groups to be very welcoming.
posted by Mchelly at 4:43 AM on August 4, 2011


Old Time musicians. Really, almost any folk musicians that are real folk musicians part of the community that's doing it from a place of folk ethic. I've met "folk" musicians that are doing it for profit, and that's a whole different story.

Quilters.

Apiarists (bee keepers).

Really, I've experienced that everyone involved in doing things the Old Way is incredibly welcoming and kind. There are so few people who want to learn the old ways that if you show even the tiniest bit of interest you're instantly in the circle.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:40 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Possible problems with the folks who started it aside, all the couchsurfers I've met have been uncommonly friendly and welcoming with (generally speaking, there have certainly been exceptions) a complete lack of creepiness.
posted by dubitable at 5:51 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and ditto what spiderskull says about martial artists too. There tends to be a general vibe that is related to the students that have been there the longest and the teacher(s, often one and the same depending on the seniority of the students), and if they are cool the group will be pretty cool too. Obviously it depends, but look for ones that have a fairly high percentage of women, especially if they are senior students...seems to be a good litmus test for the vibe of a martial arts group, at least in my experience.
posted by dubitable at 5:55 AM on August 4, 2011


Related to burners, but not quite the same: there are a lot of fire circles in New England, and the people involved with them are by far the most welcoming and open community I've ever experienced. See also drum circles, spin jams, "circus arts" (e.g. trapeze, silks, jugglers, hoopers).

Basically if you're willing to take up a weird or obscure hobby that's best done in groups, you're going to find a group of people doing that hobby who will be more than happy to start chanting "one of us. one of us" at you. But as a contradancer, you already know this :)
posted by ook at 6:08 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Swing dancing, but especially in Boston. Boston has a really vibrant and active swing dance community. Here's Swing City, a weekly dance that attracts hundreds of nice people, and here's DanceNet, the comprehensive resource.

The local food community - search on "eat local" or "Slow Food" or "locavores" for whatever area you're after. Boston Local Food produces an amazing new food festival which debuted, I think, last year, and the volunteer community it built contains wonderful people.
posted by Miko at 6:15 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and people in the Appalachian Mountain Club, of course. They have events constantly and lots of nice people do them - and a lot of youngish and single people do them. You can sign up for everything from short evening hikes to weekend programs to weeklong trips in a wide variety of outdoor sports.
posted by Miko at 6:17 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since you'll be around Boston, if you're interested in any sort of craft involving yarn or fabric, check out Gather Here in Cambridge. They have a million classes and a regular knitters' brunch. It can be a little intimidating to stop in and see a bunch of people sitting around looking like they're already BFFs, but it's a very welcoming crowd.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:44 AM on August 4, 2011


n'thing churches and decent (read: not strip mall rex-kwan-do type joints) martial arts practices.

And, for the international expat twist: ultimate frisbee. Seriously - if you're working overseas in a major city, chances are it has a decent ultimate community.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:46 AM on August 4, 2011


These are awesome! Thank you!
posted by danceswithlight at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2011


For 20-something, Boston and outdoorsy I'd suggest you look into the Boston Chapter AMC's Young member's Committee. They do all sorts of outdoor events from hard hikes in the White Mountains to more local bike rides and social gatherings.

The AMC literally changed my life when I was in my 20s and it's where I met a lot of great friends, including my wife.. The YM group was pretty much started by people who were new to town and wanted to meet like-minded outdoorsy folks in their 20s.
posted by bondcliff at 7:47 AM on August 4, 2011


For about two and a half years I dated a guy who did improv comedy, first at a small Southern club and then in Chicago. So, I wasn't even actually the one doing the improvising. But the people I met through him were absolutely some of the most welcoming, friendly, enthusiastic, amazing people I have ever met. I've just moved to a new place and am thinking about taking some improv classes just so I can meet more people like that.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:47 AM on August 4, 2011


The Orthodox Jewish community is generally very friendly. I used to travel a lot for work and knew that if I could make it to synagogue on Saturday, wherever I was, I could get an automatic invitation to someone's home for lunch. Had some amazing experiences as a result, getting to know people in places like Liverpool, Rio de Janeiro and Zurich who I never would have met otherwise.

Orthodox Jews can really be a mixed bag. They are welcoming, but welcoming in the sense that you are expected to participate. So it really only works if: a) You're Jewish and b) You're moderately observant. If you aren't either of those things, you're pretty much out of luck. Also, although friendly most interaction is about the ritual and observation, and less about social interaction. That will happen, but the religious observance comes first.

That said, if you are Jewish and in a strange area, Orthodox Jews are your go-to for seders, holiday services, etc.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:43 AM on August 4, 2011


Orthodox Jews can really be a mixed bag. They are welcoming, but welcoming in the sense that you are expected to participate. So it really only works if: a) You're Jewish and b) You're moderately observant. If you aren't either of those things, you're pretty much out of luck.

I actually hesitated posting my comment because I knew someone would be quick to jump on this issue. But this Askme is asking about communities that are welcoming to other people who are part of their community (even if only beginners - if they are interested in the basis of the community). If I join a group of jugglers or knitters or Harley riders without any interest in juggling or knitting or motorcycles, I'd be just as much out of luck in terms of gaining instant acceptance, no matter how welcoming the community is claimed to be here.
posted by Mchelly at 10:16 AM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Belly dancers, especially American Tribal Style. Welcoming to all ages, shapes, and sizes.

Storytellers (echoing the "old ways" effect that someone else mentioned).

Amanda Palmer fans (oddly specific, I know, but you will be in Boston after all, and I have never ever been to a friendlier show than hers).
posted by missrachael at 10:36 AM on August 4, 2011


Ultimate players (see my nickname). Specifically mixed (co-ed) players. All the Spirit of the Game with little of the agro athlete vibe that has infiltrated the men's game. Lots of outdoorsy travelers.
posted by huckit at 5:10 PM on August 4, 2011


Crossfitters. And nthing boardgame people and knitters.
posted by telegraph at 6:47 PM on August 4, 2011


Free improvisation (music)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:41 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only thing I miss about bicycling is bicyclists. Bicycle clubs tend to be willing to help newbies - you have to budget for there being about 5-10% assholes, and another 10% that will seem like assholes but once you learn the ropes you'll just realize they are in that class that are serious enough that going below their pace feels like a complete waste of time. But most every bicycle group sponsors rides for people who are just starting out. There's a lot to learn, and there are a lot of people who come to it a bit later in life because bicycling is where you go after you've been running and your knees start complaining.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2011


Following up on my previous comment, Artisan’s Asylum is a hackerspace in the Boston area (which seems to be somehow omitted from the Boston page on the hackerspaces wiki!) which is very active and worth checking out.
posted by finite at 12:03 AM on August 26, 2011


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