Since we have moved here, I can't even guess how many emails I have received from people looking for guidance on how to make friends in London. Whether they have a move on the horizon or have been here for a few years without making meaningful relationships, the situation is not uncommon. (So if you are in the same friend-bare situation- you're not alone!) I thought it was good topic to discuss here- I'll share what I know, but I know many of you out there can add valuable thoughts to this, too. Please do!
Personally, I was lucky in that I moved over and started working right away in a job that captivated me. I wasn't sitting around the house feeling alone. We were also plugged into a program full of other people in a similar situation who had uprooted their life to move to Oxford. They were just as friendless as we were, so it made for an easy social pool. Finally, I was blogging. Between getting to meet bloggers I had been "friends" with online before leaving and the social connection of being online with them- it kept me busy.
But with even those options, somedays you just crave a relationship with someone that isn't forced. You just want to have a friend to hang out with that you actually have a lot in common with... rather than just another lonely person to hang out with. So here are a few ways that I can suggest to help you find those people when you move to a new place. (Complete with some throwback photos from early awkward days with friends that I have grown to love like family!)
MAKING FRIENDS IN LONDON
1. ONLINE DATING | Fine, not really dating, but get online! I have a bunch of my best friends from blogging. It gave us each a feel for what the other person was like, where we enjoyed hanging out, and a way to communicate before actually meeting in person. Some of my best friends came as a result of comments that turned to emails that turned to coffee that turned to double dates... that today are the best friendships I have here.
Look for bloggers or Instagrammers at a similar stage to you in the expat process, they'll probably be looking for the same types of relationships!
2. GO TO CHURCH | While many of my American friends may have other friends, they often aren't British. Every person has a different theory as to why Americans have a hard time breaking into British social circles, but I can tell you a cheaters way in- get plugged into a local church. (We have a great one that I'm happy to share more details on, if you're looking Just email me!)
3. HAVE A BABY | Again, joking, but kinda not. While some people may think it would be the loneliest thing in the world to have a baby away from your family back home, I think it is a great way to connect with people. Lady alone on the bus? No one looks at you. Lady with a bump or baby? No one will not talk to you.
NCT classes are prime friend hunting ground. So many of my friends spend a lot of their weekdays with people from their NCT classes (a pregnancy/couples course that is really popular here).
After the baby is born, you'll find endless options of playgroups for little ones. Moms there are always friendly and eager to have new people around. Holy Trinity Brompton has a great MOLO playgroup each week that I used to go to, and it's awesome for meeting other moms.
4. JOIN THE CLUB | There are several clubs that cater to American expats- American Womens Club is one and Junior League. American Womens Club is a bit fancy and fun- think afternoon teas and visits to the Wallace Collection. Now, I'm not in Junior League so I can't speak officially, BUT from my friends that have been in it, it requires a bit of effort to join and participate in. (All for a good cause!) But it is a great way to connect with other American women, if that's your goal. (If you're in either and I've misrepresented either- please chime in. I'm repeating what I've been told, so i could be wrong.)
5. GO LOCAL | You've moved to Europe and now you want to travel everywhere every weekend to see it all. Great. Just expect to never feel 100% settled until you commit to spending a good amount of your weekends and down time here. This is a conversation every expat has a year or two into their life overseas, but it's true... until you are willing to sit still for a bit,
you'll never feel settled. You can't just expect to swan in to a social setting once a quarter and make meaningful relationships. If you want to make roots in your new home, you've got to give yourself enough time sitting there to grow them.
Maybe all of this advice is obvious. I'm not sure it was to me when we first arrived. A couple of years after we got here, an older/wiser expat said something that changed the way I was looking at life... He told me to fully live here, I had to give up the 3 C's: Comparing ("Well, back in Texas..."), Converting (Stop thinking in dollars. It's a loosing game and I'm living in the land of GBP now. Embrace it.) Complaining (Stop complaining. Deal with the hassles or go home.)
So wherever you are (or are about to be!), I hope this is helpful. I still have so much to learn about life overseas, but hopefully- this saves you some of the learning curve that we had.
What is something that helped you adjust to life overseas? How did you connect with people around you and develop meaningful relationships?
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy