Journal: This social group started as an informal dinner out for friends. But now things have really steamed up.
The club Young & China was set up by a Danish native, Mikkel Stroerup, who was born and raised in Luxembourg and has spent some time working and studying in China and is fluent in Mandarin. After his studies in Beijing, Stroerup worked for the Luxembourg pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
He then came back to Luxembourg, with a new insight. “Chinese new year is so prestigious for Chinese people, it’s the equivalent of Christmas.” When he found out that there was no celebration for this festive time of year, he thought about the people who lived here without people to celebrate with and decided to organise a dinner.
“It started in 2012. I sent seven emails to friends who may have wanted to celebrate and in the end 35 of us had dinner at a hotpot restaurant.” Thus Young & China was born. Don’t be fooled by the name, Stroerup warned. “When I started it, it was intended for those living and working in Luxembourg, without their families.” Nowadays the term is relative; “you’re as young as you feel!” As for the term China, he welcomes anyone who has had any interest in anything Chinese. “Whether you have worked in China or that it’s the food you like or have Chinese heritage, I’ll leave it to you to decide how ‘China’ you feel. I feel very ‘China’!”
The Young & China group now has around 40 people attending each event and Stroerup aims to run about four get-togethers annually. Using nothing more than a mailing list, he uses word-of-mouth to promote the group. “I wanted it to be organic. In Chinese culture, organised and structured networking events rarely work. The idea of gathering over a meal of hotpot is much more enticing and naturally people start talking about it.”
Huddled over a big bowl of hot water where one side is filled with broth and the other is filled with spices, the hotpot dinner is without a doubt a sociable experience. “That’s one of the reasons why I chose it as the dinner activity. I call it an activity because it literally lasts about two hours. You cook the meat and vegetables yourself and you make your own sauce to compliment what you have cooked. It’s really interactive and breaks the ice too.”
But it’s not the only event that Young & China organises; they have been to laser tag and walked 100 minutes for 1,000 years of history through the old city of Luxembourg. “The whole point of the group is just to meet more people who also have an interest in China. That was my only intention behind it, and sure, there’s some great business connections to be made too but that definitely was not my goal.”
Tao Ren has attended every event: “You don’t just find good friends, you also find business partners too. I’ve had a lot of fun rubbing shoulders with other enthusiasts, discussing all the great changes that are happening for China and Luxembourg.”