I am originally from Mexico City and moved to London last year. Moving to a different country isn’t easy, in fact I can tell you that it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I found myself in a city that was different to my own in every single sense; different language, different food, different transport system and completely different people.
After a short while of being in London, I started to miss absolutely everything from back home. It was cold and the sun was setting at 3:30pm – this was the British winter! My brain kept telling my body to put on my pyjamas and hibernate. I really needed to go out and meet new people, but I had never been faced with having to make new friends. I had always had the friends that I grew up with and now I was all alone in a new country without my friends.
One day I decided that enough was enough! That day I would go out and I would make a new friend. I headed to my local pub and started talking with a woman that was my mom’s age. She didn’t become my first friend, but talking to her was the stepping stone that encouraged me to always try to make a new friend and after that it just got easier.
Hectic class schedules, gym sessions, and just getting from one place to another can make meeting new friends in London one of the most challenging tasks during your stay in the city. We can blame it on technology, the millennials or even the weather, but it’s a miracle we get any time to meet people in London and make friends who actually do and like the things we actually like. So, if like me you find yourself wanting to meet new people, here are some things you can do that might help.
Talk to everybody
I know that this is probably something that your mom or your aunts do, but why not try having a conversation with someone that looks interesting? You never know where your future best friend is going to come from. Wherever you happen to be – queuing at the coffee shop, browsing the grocery store, waiting for an available washing machine, or dancing at a concert, start a conversation with someone around you. Trust your instincts on who to talk to and pick the right moment so that it doesn’t get creepy. It might be hard at the beginning, especially if you’re shy or not used to putting yourself out there, but like everything else in life, it gets easier with practice.
Don’t get discouraged if the other person is unresponsive or as cold as a penguin. After all, this is London and people here are used to keeping themselves to themselves. Here are a few conversation starters that could come in handy so you always have something to say to kick off a conversation:
The weather (yes, the British love to talk about the weather), complementing an item of someone’s clothing, recommending something relevant to the place where you are, randomly asking “where are you from?” (and asking follow up questions) and if you are very brave just go up to someone and say “You look like a very interesting and relatable person, I am new to this city and I was just wondering if you’d like to be friends.” Seriously, it’s just how kids do it!
Take a London tour
Get to know this city and find out everything it has to offer. Walking is the best way to truly get a sense of your new home and fall in love with it. There are free walking tours all over London, where groups of people are guided around the city. The people that you might meet here may be tourists, but it will give you the opportunity to practice and boost your confidence when talking to strangers.
Take a new class
One of the most amazing things about living in a huge and multicultural city is that classes for almost everything are available. Some of them are even free! You just need to go online and book. From pottery and cooking classes, to first aid and hair colouring, whatever you’re willing to learn, London is willing to teach and I can guarantee you’ll meet some of the most interesting and memorable people.
Join a sports club
Find a group or club who shares a physical activity you enjoy and become a regular member. Strike up conversations with other members and suggest meeting for coffee, wine, or beer after an event or meeting. For runners, for example, they have races that end up in social events like The Colour Run.
Why not make great friends and save the world at the same time? From dogs, kids, grannies or the homeless, there will always be a place in London that needs a helping hand. The hours can adjust to fit around your study commitments and whatever time you are willing to provide.
Talk to your neighbours
Have you introduced yourself to the people around you when you moved in? Sometimes the people we’re looking for are just next door. Have you reached out to your neighbours lately? If you see your neighbour walking in the corridor or courtyard, walk over and start a conversation. It’s always nice to know that there’s someone just around the corner that knows how you are. Why not make a little extra soup or an extra dozen cookies and walk them to the flat next door? The odds are that person is in the same situation that you.
Reach out on Facebook or other social media
When I first moved to London, I looked on Facebook for other people from Mexico. I remember I posted something about missing the tacos and missing my family. People reached out to me and gave me advice, restaurant recommendations and basically let me know that there is a whole community of people that look out for and understand each other. Through Facebook, you may discover some old friends or acquaintances that you didn’t know live nearby.
Eat dinner at the bar of your favourite restaurant
It can be intimidating to go to a restaurant by yourself, but try dining out and sitting at the bar instead. Chat to the bartender (if he/she isn’t too busy) and make conversation with the people around you. Whatever you do, don’t put your head in a book or your iPhone. Try to appear approachable and friendly.
Attend social events at The Hive
Throughout the year, there are a number of social events organised at The Hive, so that everybody can get to know each other. There will be reminders in the common areas so just pop by and start making new friends.
By extending yourself just a little, you might meet some wonderful new friends within a short walk of your home. Having fun with strangers can be a totally normal and fantastically pleasurable experience. Life is all about who you share your journey with. The memories and friends you make today will truly be a treasure when you’re older.
If you’d like to find out more about our student accommodation at The Hive for academic year 2017/18, please contact the onsite management team who will be happy to help.
I’ve always found it hard to make friends!