Joining the Nanking Nation in Nanjing

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Featured photo by Yanjing Li

Loving (and hating) Nanjing

A few months back, a few of my friends and I were out for a random and surprisingly fun night out in Nanjing. I say surprisingly because, for the better part of eighteen months here, I’d felt like my social life consisted of just two things:

  • Friday drinks at Talking 2 with my co-workers
  • Sunday cricket sessions

While this certainly wasn’t a bad social life to have, it was sorely lacking in both variety and girls. The latter hadn’t been a problem while I’d been coupled up with Nomadic American, but in my newfound state of singledom I found myself yearning for something a bit more… ahem… stimulating than discussions of boundaries and bad catches with the boys.

Cricket was my social highlight for two years in Nanjing.
Cricket was my social highlight for two years in Nanjing.

I’ve drifted off topic. The point is, it was a surprisingly fun night out and my path had crossed with that of a group of foreigners I’m not sure I’ve seen since. At one point, one of them came up and asked:

“Hey, strange question, but are you Aussie on the Road?”

Having never been recognized from my blog before, I was taken aback. He went on to confess that he’d chosen Nanjing over Hong Kong after reading my article about loving life in Nanjing.

I apologized profusely for this. While Nanjing is certainly not downtown Fallujah, it’s a far cry from the cosmopolitan wonder that is Hong Kong.

While I certainly wasn’t hating my life in Nanjing, it was safe to say it had fallen into a kind of disappointing lull that was only interrupted by the occasional road trip (such as the trip to the Qingdao Beer Festival) or boozy night out.

Enter Nanking Nation

October rolled around with me counting down until my March contract expiry and whatever adventure would come next. As I was scrolling through Facebook I saw an ad for a ‘party bus’ in Nanjing.

The entire NKN party crew ready to celebrate Mardi Gras.
The entire NKN party crew ready to celebrate Mardi Gras.

My one big complaint with the city had always been its difficult to crack social scene, so the prospect of being crammed onto a bus full of fellow drunk foreigners was one I was immediately keen on. Could I finally expand my circle of friends beyond my co-workers, my brother, and his girlfriend? Surely not!

The party bus – which has since become a monthly Nanjing institution – saw us visiting four different bars about town, drinking tequila and whiskey right from the bottle on a too crowded bus, and staggering down darkened streets between our venues. Drunken friendships were made, selfies were taken, and my mate and I both managed to snog the same lucky lass before our alcohol addled brains decided to desert us for the night.

Hanging with new friends in a Nanjing night club in 1912.
Hanging with new friends in a Nanjing night club in 1912.

I woke the next day with a bunch of new numbers in my phone, a splitting headache, and a nasty bump on my leg.

Injuring myself on the party bus has become something of a habit. I’ve now destroyed my knee twice and my shin once. Totally worth it.

Joining the Nation

Nanking Nation isn’t just about boozy party pub crawls, though. The service extends to a discount card that gets its holder discounts at a number of bars, restaurants, and venues around the city. Suddenly it’s not just the same bakery and Italian restaurant featuring on my weekly menu. Nanjing has Spanish and Thai and Indian and French restaurants that I’d never even know existed.

Shots with the cool kids.
Shots with the cool kids.

It was around January this year that I got to talking with the company’s founder and offered to help out in any way I could. It seemed only fair. In three months of events I’d made more friends than in the previous two years in Nanjing, I’d met girls who inexplicably found the ginger beard attractive, and I started to actually like Nanjing. Shock! Horror!

It was last month that I came on board as the company’s social media and PR guy, but my role quickly became more hands on as I took the lead on our recent St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl. Instead of just drinking myself into oblivion, I was collecting money for tickets, negotiating with venues, and making sure everybody got on and off the bus in one piece.

It was a whole other experience, but even without my vital liquid courage, I still came out of the night with a few new friends and plenty of amusing stories.

I'm no better at foosball sober.
I’m no better at foosball sober.

We’re now in the process of planning a whole slew of other initiatives such as venue parties, tours, a survival guide for Nanjing newcomers, sports leagues, and even a dedicated blog based on expat life here in China. Exciting times lay ahead!

It’s an Expat Thing

Maybe the above doesn’t sound all that interesting to the long term travelers out there. Life on the road is filled with new faces and good times. Expat life, while it’s definitely exciting at first as you settle into a new country and culture, can quickly become every bit as humdrum as the life at home we left behind.

It’s initiatives like Nanking Nation that turn a big, ‘scary’ city into something that more closely resembles home.

My brother, his girlfriend, and my mates on a New Year's Booze Cruise.
My brother, his girlfriend, and my mates on a New Year’s Booze Cruise.

When I renewed my contract for an extra six months a few weeks ago, I wasn’t dreading another six months in China like I had been a few months earlier; I was excited for the good times that lay ahead.

Interested in Joining the Nation?

If you’re an expat in Nanjing and you’re looking for new faces or new places, visit out the Nanking Nation website or our Facebook page (run by yours truly).

If you’re just breezing through town and looking for a place to party, get in touch and we’ll sort you out!

 

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