Recently I have been speaking to a few friends who are relatively new in London, where I have lived for 8 years. They have said the same thing; it can be hard getting to know new people and make new friends. This is particularly true for foreigners who find English people hard to get ‘matey’ with.
Perhaps it’s because I have been here for 8 years and I had a small clique of mates when I arrived, ready made social. But my social dynamic has changed quite a bit over the past few years, from being work based and then friends of friends based and now, to a degree, of my own making. It’s not all been plain sailing and occasionally I’ve felt quite alone when I’ve needed someone to hang with, but I have built an enduring social group that I feel (and hope) that I will still be in touch with years from now.
Building a good set of friends is important wherever you are in the world. Even if you can’t really speak the language it helps to have someone you can have a bit of non verbal communication with (as I found in a few places I set up camp on my travels). And if you’re really putting down roots you will need someone you can go for a drink with or have a whinge with about the state of your life/the world/work etc.
I’m sure you, dear reader, don’t need telling how to make friends as I’m sure you’re extremely charming company and very good looking too. But for the record, here’s how I’ve found some good ways of expanding your social scene somewhere new.
Probably the number one place to meet new people is your workplace. It can take time to build a relationship with a work buddy or two and often (at least in the early days) your bonding is built around whinging about work or workmates. But it can be good to have someone who can go straight from the office to the pub (or the art gallery of course, as you’re obviously very cultured if you’re reading this blog).
Some people may find themselves in the kind of workplace which is social heavy anyway – bars, pubs, city workers etc. In which case at the end of the day you might always be in the pub and at the weekend you’re sick of the sight of your work buddies and you just need a dark room to sit in. Either way, it’s a good place to start.
Sports and Gym
This might be obvious to most people but it’s surprising how many people overlook this. Joining a running club is an obvious and easy one, there are usually running clubs in most medium sized towns. The same with football teams, touch rugby, volleyball… OK, there are a lot of sports and your new town probably has a few clubs for at least a few of them which are often worth a punt for some social.
The gym has always mystified me, personally, as a social place as I tend to use it as a place to go in, work hard while listening to music and get out as soon as possible. But there is a whole set of people who clearly love the whole gym scene and use it partly as a bit of an excuse for a catch up.
That Hobby You’ve Got
I’ve got a few hobbies that are quite social by nature; language learning, film production and drinking beer. This means I tend to search out groups where like-minded people gather so that we can exchange ideas, network, improve our world outlook and… Well… Drink beer.
If you are a budding actor, you love knitting or you’ve always wanted to be the top of a human pyramid there is probably a random hobby group for you in your new town. If there isn’t, find a new hobby. If there are no groups and you’re a keen human pyramidder, make a group and see how big you can make that pyramid.
Sex is one of those things that most of us (not all of us, weirdly) quite like and finding someone you can have it with on a regular basis, or better still several people, is a great social activity. With apps such as Tinder and Bumble, it is much easier to find a partner, although these apps tend to be geared to hook ups. The old fashioned way of talking to people in bars still works, or so I’m told. If you’re trying to go for building a social group then playing it cool and not going all out like a horny teenager can help you develop a good social group in the long run.
There’s a bit of a stigma about being on your own in the pub, but I have found myself on numerous occasions joining a group of people just by virtue of being on my own. This has happened to me in my hometown in the UK, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic. Simply by being friendly and direct to someone else in a group – not ‘coming on’ to them, I have ended up on random nights out with strangers. OK, few if any of these have ended up being long term mates but it was fun at the time.
Turning up at the same place regularly and being friendly and engaging with a few regulars is the old classic way of making friends. It could be a pub, it could be a shop, it could be the library, it could be that part of town where all those nice ladies hang out after dark. Be genuine and friendly and you never know what might happen.
Enjoy Your Own Company
Who needs other people anyway? The great thing about being on your own is you get all that stuff done that you’ve been meaning to. Writing that novel you meant to write eventually, doing your laundry, clearing through your collection of Elvis plates – you know, quality ‘you’ time. It’s also classic sods law that just when you’re getting into being all on your lonesome someone will turn up and ruin it by being all social and demanding. Urgh!