My Expat Experience, Four

Posted in SummerMy Expat Experience
My Expat Experience, Four

What I Wore

dress c/o SUGARHILL BOUTIQUE purse JOULES sandals BODEN sunnies ILLESTEVA

Making Friends

In grade school and through college I was always a floater. I had friends of all types and backgrounds. My groups of friends ranged from people who I academically/politically aligned with, had similar cultural background and so on. It was easy to place myself in a group of friends depending on what I wanted and needed. Grade school and university also seem like controlled situations, you’re almost guaranteed to find a group that aligned with the same interests as you. There were the Indian friends, the international/out-of-state folks, my peers and colleagues who were politically driven. When I moved to DC, it was the same controlled situation. Everyone, or most of the people who are there, all had a very similar strand of passion. The same underlying motive brought us to DC and DC had just that particular passion to offer. London, much like NYC, is a great big melting pot. There are lots of people of drastically different backgrounds, moving in and out of the city and so on. Essentially, there’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to meeting people and making friends. Luckily for me, considering I had moved a LOT in my life, I was pretty good at sifting out the bad very early and sticking with people who not only engaged me, but encouraged me and played a hand in my growth. Those sort of people are multi-dynamic, which is what I sought after.

Since moving to London, I realized I was going to have to be ruthless and shameless when it came to making friends. If someone wasn’t worth my time, I couldn’t labor that relationship as I didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with it. If I wanted to be introduced to someone, I would have to do it on my own. I came to London knowing a handful of people {the family that I mentioned from the first installment of this series and a guy I went to St. Andrews with who had a questionable crush on me}. Slim pickings. I’m also a firm believer that “people make places” and thus feeling lonely was going to be inevitable as I walk into a world I barely know.

A few things to keep in mind before diving into this post: First, this is my own experience and I am not speaking out to others and their experiences. Second, I do think I’m in a better place now {not perfect} and thus have shared some of my tips on making friends in London below.

My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four

The Issues

As mentioned, London is just a cluster-fuck of random types and amounts of people. There is just so much going on and equally not so much going on. If you don’t find your place immediately, it seems like you can be swept in a tide and will struggle to find your feet on the ground. This, I can confirm, is very much true to NYC too. London and NYC, I will admit, are cities you should move to if you have roots or you’re bringing people. Most of the Americans I met and still meet today usually move with their significant other. They have each other and can experience every nuance together. A move is a bit easier that way. They never have to experience crazy flatmates, all the stuff you’re trying to figure out is cut in half because it’s shared with their significant other. I was mostly swimming the same tide as them, but with only my own strength. So things were just a bit more tricky.

Second issue that I ran into has to do with the people already here. Most people are quite comfortable in their circles. I say “most” because of all the people I’ve met only 1% seem to have the social skills to connect that “hey, she’s new! Let me invite her to my birthday party and introduce her to some of my friends.” This happened to me on countless occasions with Indian girls. They would individually meet with me for dinner or drinks and didn’t take the effort to possibly invite me over, invite me to an event or introduce me to some of their friends {read about my experience with the Indian community here}. These girls were not malicious at all, actually extremely nice, but just set in their own ways. I saw stuff like this happen mostly among people who grew up in or around London. I’m sure this happens in various parts of America too (cough: Chicago), so I’m not surprised I would experience this in London.

My Expat Experience, Four

The Types

I’m sure we all have had our fair share of crazy people in our lives and equally very encouraging. One thing I want to point out is that I found the people who I thought I wouldn’t get along with on paper are the best type of friends. I’m sure you all know Kristabel of I Want You To Know. A lot of her interests and hobbies don’t completely go hand-in-hand with mine, but I find her friendship to be the most exciting. We plan outings to places I’ve never been or thought of, her care-free personality can be quite infectious and with that she’s very passionate about her craft. So rule #1 on how to make friends in London: don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Give everyone a chance.

Now onto the types I had to deal with. This isn’t an exhaustive list of people I didn’t end up liking, but just general types. Am I friends with people like the personalities listed below? Most likely yes, but I keep them at an arms length. I do find that everyone has some unique quality that I can learn from. {Note: These are not the real names}

  • ‘Drops You Dora’ - I think we all can agree that we’ve known those people who will ask for you, your skills, your attention, your time and then the second they have everything they need, they end up just dropping you. Stops answering calls, texts, messages and just resurfaces when they’re back to the original status quo. How I deal with Dora? I answer when she texts, answer when she calls, advise when she needs it. I don’t, however, use her as someone to rely on anymore though. I put the ball in her court, since that is essentially what she wants, and enjoy the time she does reach out to me.
  • ‘Attention Hungry Annie’ - Lucky for me, I went through most of my life not meeting someone like this. I did in London. This person wants to be the centre of attention. Organizes everything, invites everyone over, micro-manages everything, even invites her boyfriend to a “girls night,” and carefully does all of that so she is in the middle of it all. Any deviation, like change of plans or something happening where the conversation is redirected at someone else, means she will throw a temper tantrum. She even uses her boyfriend as a pawn to keep everything on her side. This was a hard “break up” for me as I trusted this person, but when I observed the situation from a birds-eye view, it was actually quite intolerable. How I deal with Annie? I only meet with her if it’s a 1-on-1 coffee date that doesn’t surpass more than 90 minutes. She’s the person you want to have on speed dial when you’re looking for a cake date on a Sunday afternoon.
My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four
  • ‘Debbie Downer’ - Debbie is that person who really cares for you, covers dinner when you meet up and just need a cry or vent. She looks out for all your wellbeing needs. She is a REALLY good friend, but she’s also quite a downer. When you offer the service back, she sulks and makes you feel as if your friendship isn’t adequate. I’ll just say that I had a friend who was going through a tough breakup. We all go through it, but her way of dealing with it was sitting in her flat and letting the world know her problems through social media. As much as I tried to help her, she made it harder and harder to approach her and it affected my self-esteem and how I felt about the effectiveness of my friendship towards her and everyone around me. How I deal with Debbie? I actually cut things off temporarily. I am honest and let Debbie know how the friendship is affecting me and then revisit after a few months or when I’m ready.
  • ‘All Talk Tracy’ - The first ever friend I made in London was Tracy, a friend of a friend, and we hit it off instantly. Her ambitions and my plans had aligned and it seemed that we would be able to work on something together where she could benefit me and I could benefit her. We set goals and plans. Unfortunately, I slowly realized that she actually was just all talk. She spoke highly of herself, name dropped some big people and would exclaim with very empty statements. Tracy was a turning point for me to wear a helmet when I rode a bike and so I started “pre-screening” people when I engaged with them. How I deal with Tracy? I actually cut it off. I wasn’t really gaining much from these relationships and had nothing in common with Tracy. I also find Tracy really boring.
  • ‘Married Meghan’ - Disclaimer: not all Married Megan’s are the same. This is a hard one. I have a few married friends. Some are older than me and they have children and are settled into their family life. They’re great! I don’t see them as often, but when I do, I can tell their attention is mostly on the “we time.” I can say that Jules and Xanthe are these people! The other “Married Meghan’s” are the newly weds {less than 5 years} are the ones who are really caught up in their married life things. They are the ones that only do couple things, always has some family thing going on and when it’s “we time” it’s exhausting… This Megan truly sucks your soul dry as she tries to re-live her pre-marital days and comes off as a bit too enthusiastic. How I deal with this type of Megan? Be friendly when I see her and let her do all the talking. The moment I speak up about my stuff, she falls into a trance of being a Pre-Marital Patty.
  • ‘Late Laurie’ - Laurie is ALWAYS late. I don’t mind 5-10 minutes, but I mean 45 minutes to an hour. This, at the ripe age of mid-20s and 30s, is really unacceptable. How I deal with Laurie? I still plan my day, and if we plan on hanging out from 2-4pm and she arrives at 3pm, I will only spend until 4pm with her. I won’t let time run over. You do this a few times and Laurie will get the point. Also, I always take a book when meeting with Laurie to kill time if necessary.
My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four
My Expat Experience, Four

How I {Make} Friends in London

You notice the tense for make/made in the title? Yup, just under 5 years in and I’m still making friends in London. I know I have lots of people in my life who come and go mostly because my life has been evolving and changing rapidly over the last few years. The pace I work, think and blink is sometimes too fast for me to handle at times—so if someone can’t keep up, it’s not my fault. Insert: ruthless.

  • Blog & Social Media: If it wasn’t for my blog, I don’t know if I would have stayed much in London. I’m not even kidding. Six months into having a boring social life in an exciting city, I ended up reaching out to blog followers to see if they wanted to catch up. I’m also part of an affiliate program called RewardStyle, who opened their London office not too long before I moved. I had followers that turned into friends and RewardStyle was kind enough to introduce me to other influencers in the area!
  • MeetUp: A platform similar to Eventbrite where you can create and/or join events. This is more catered towards people who are interested in engaging their other hobbies, meeting new people, and it’s great for expats! You do have to weed out of the crazies {mostly All Talk Tracy’s}, but I ended up finding my first client at one of these events and even made a few really close friends!
  • Friends of Friends: Fortunately at St. Andrews many of my peers were British. They may not have lived in London, but they knew people in London. One of my St. Andrews friends would have her friend from grade-school visiting often. Her school friend was spending the summer in London the year I moved and lucky for me she introduced me to quite a few people. Of the handful of new friends, I’m still close to one of them! If you have personal Facebook, I would suggest you ask your friends and have people tag their friends who live in London or the city you’re moving to. It’s a great place to start!
  • Eventbrite: Yes, my life the first 6 months of living in London was evening MeetUp and Eventbrite events. I would go to seminars, exhibitions, meals and talks. People don’t really socialize at these events, but if you make the effort, it will most definitely work out.
  • Be Shameless: And that brings me to my last point, just speak up. I would go to these events and be shameless and speak to anyone and everyone around me. If I was waiting for a seminar to begin, I would speak to the person sitting closest to me. I would even go to the cinema alone during the afternoon or early on the weekends. It’s when all the singletons would come out!

Overall, I would say that the whole trial-and-error process of meeting, befriending and weeding through people with my move has been gratifying. I’ve met some incredible people, but through it all I am extremely confident in almost any social situation. My emotions do get in the way at times when I’m dealing with nonsensical drama or things, but I’ve learned to cope, move on and stick to what I’m really passionate about.