Disclosure: There's a good chance this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through my blog helps me stay on the road! So, thank you!(Last Updated On: January 16, 2018)
No one told me how hard making friends in London would be. When I moved there alone, I figured I could, you know, TALK to people to get the ball rolling on making new friends. But, as I soon figured out… people don’t to that here. Talking to people, especially ones you don’t know/on public transport, is basically social suicide. And, coming from the US (where we talk to anyone, anywhere, all the time) this came as a bit of a shock. But anyway, here’s my awkward and hilarious experience making new friends in London, the most anti-social city in the world, after moving there solo.
Making Friends in London: Harder than it Should Be
When I arrived in London and unpacked my things, got settled into my flat, and took a little breather, one thought immediately struck me: ‘Shit… I have no friends.’
I mean, of course I have FRIENDS, but like, not here. I just moved to a new city… by myself. There’s no one whose house I can decide to show up at to lounge on their couch, and no group message to which I can send an entirely emoji-comprised text to signify that we should all go and yet froyo. Not here, anyway.
It is SO much easier to meet friends while traveling, because everyone is already in the same state of mind: traveling and wanting to meet people. This is true in hostels (small ones especially) where is it so normal to meet everyone you encounter and hear their unique story. You meet other travelers in groups, on tours, and of course in the hostels/hotels, and it comes about so naturally and you make friends exponentially.
But, this time, I moved here. I am no longer a traveler, I am a resident. I have an apartment (a flat… still getting used to that), not a tiny bed in a room full of people who want to explore. If I stay in here nothing will happen; I need to get out there and MAKE things happen: friends, jobs, memories, etc. It doesn’t help that (although I do think it’s the most exciting city in the world), I am in a city where no one really talks to each other if they don’t know each other already. Londoners are the most anti social people I have ever encountered (I remember at one point thinking to strike up conversation with someone on the tube… HA! That would have been the worst.) But anyway, this is new territory for me: a new personal challenge to find my footing in a new city, alone. And experience is always better shared, so, along with setting out to find jobs, I set out to find friends too.
When you have no friends, you can always take your camera and wander around at night 😛
First Night Out in London: Making Friends Over Instagram
My first experience making friends in London to share experience with was in my first few days in the city. Before I arrived, I saw that one of my favorite DJ’s whose show I missed in LA (Dillon Francis) had announced a show in London, and naturally I HAD to go. I bought a ticket on a whim, and began brainstorming ways to find a group to join for the show. I figured social media would probably be a good way to find other attendees, given that most young people today are on them for hours a day. I searched on Facebook for London EDM interest groups, and posted in a couple to see if anyone was going to the show. No luck. I tried tweeting at Dillon Francis to let him know my situation, in hopes that maybe he would retweet me out of pity to help me find other kind souls attending the show who wouldn’t mind having a tagalong. He didn’t retweet me. Ugh. I thought maybe his Facebook page would have some clues or possibly some posts I could reply to. Not really.
The day before the show came along, and I was completely prepared to go on my own.
“Whatever,” I thought. “I’ll find friends there, or just dance on my own. Its not like I haven’t done that before.”
I was scrolling through my instagram (per usual) and saw a post by Dillon. As a last resort, I commented on it:
@kimmconn: Just moved to London and have tix but no one to go with! Any Londoners want an extra addition to their crew? or I’m going by myself for real haha :/
To my surprise, I got two replies. One was from a boy whose instagram was private and whose bio included interest in ‘music and attractive women.’ Hmm. Not sure about that one. The other was from a quite normal/fun looking girl who offered for me to come with her and her friend if I wanted. Alright. That’s more like it. I replied to both, and slowly trailed off with the creepy boy, and added this girl on Facebook. We exchanged numbers and arranged to meet outside the Camden tube station, and I was already SO thankful for this amazingly kind girl offering for a random girl off of Instagram to go with her to a concert… that’s not something you see every day.
To keep my story short, I’ll cut to the end: we all successfully met up and had an AMAZING night. We got pre-drinks at a cool bar and had a great time eating fries, talking about music festivals, and sharing 2-for-1 drinks. We ended up squeezed at the very front for a bit, and all got along really well. You never know who you can meet or what can happen if you just put yourself out there a little or think outside the box! I am so thankful to have met my new ‘instagram comment friend’ (Hi Rachael!) and to have had a spectacular first night out in London – not spent alone after all!
First flatmate outing to the Sky Garden!
Flatmates: Important to Befriend
Another obvious friend source is, well, the people you live with. I am pretty dang lucky to have been randomly put into a flat with four young, like-minded people who I get along with. They are all French and went to school together, which is sometimes hard because I obviously do not speak French and am often the odd one out. Picture me sitting there smiling awkwardly as they all laugh at a joke, until one of them sees me, feels bad, and re-explains it in English… this is a classic night in the Datchet House.
The language barrier is too real, and the misunderstandings we get into are actually quite hilarious at times (most recent example: me in the kitchen asking them if they ‘want some’ of the food I made. They all say “yes” so I go into the room to give them some. They all stare at me awkwardly. “Oh, I thought you asked if I have Whatsapp. I don’t want any, thanks! …Meep.)
It’s also hard because our flat doesn’t have a living room, leading us to often be shut in our own rooms since there is no common space to hang out in without crowding up the tiny kitchen. But, still, it works out. I have taken the opportunity to try and start learning French, and we have all had some really fun nights out together. I’ve learned a lot about the French culture and it is interesting to see what our cultures do differently. We enjoy meals together where they help me with my French and I help them with their English, and it’s all in all a fun and pretty fascinating situation.
Having great flatmates is huge for making friends in London, and I am so thankful for that. But, I still of course wanted to make more friends. I missed my group from home and would walk by the pubs and parks and see people all having fun together sharing a picnic lunch or an after-work pint. I wished to also have people to go to the pub with on Friday afternoons, to do touristy things with, and just to hang out at home with. So I set out to find even more ways to meet people. I surfed the internet thinking of ways to get myself out there.
People in London are for some reason especially anti-social and don’t tend to talk randomly to strangers like I am used to at home. Even if you do strike up conversation with strangers here, they often see it as weird; here, you don’t have the random small talk with people behind you in line for coffee or while shopping. I don’t even know my neighbors here, which is also normal for London! I think it is kind of sad really… But, I had no other options ut to push past the curious unsocial norms of London to continue making friends in London.
My friends took this when they came to visit me. You have to get to a special level to ask a new friend to take insta pics for you 😛
Making Friends in London on a Pub Crawl
By myself blogging in a coffee shop, I saw an ad for a pub crawl.
“Hm. Well, I still don’t really have any friends…”
I narrowed my eyes and thought critically about whether or not I thought I would be able to pull it off. I saw that it started at a bar within walking distance of my house, and it started in a few hours. “Well, F*** it. Why not..” I’m decently good at doing things by myself and trying to put myself out there to meet people, so I figured it may be worthwhile just showing up to this thing in hopes that a few people might want to hang out with me and that I wouldn’t be too incredibly awkward.
So, later that night, I showed up, got my wristband, and was told that the rest of the people on the pub crawl were inside. “Alright…” I thought. “Here we go then.” I walked in the door and went up to the bar by myself.
Hmmm, okay. How should I start conversation in here? Everyone is talking in tightly knit groups. Well umm… I guess I’ll walk up to a group.
“Hey, are you on the pub crawl?”
“No. What pub crawl?”
“Oh, sorry, I signed up for this… pub crawl that … starts here. ha-ha. Anyways.”
“Hey, are you on the pub crawl?”
“What pub crawl? I wish!”
“Ha, ohh yeah, there’s a pub crawl in here. They told me everyone was at the bar. Ha!”
Should I keep walking around by myself? Should I go to the bathroom? Where even is the bathroom here. Maybe back there. Shit, nope, fire exit. Casually walk away. I just went in a circle. Ok well I’m heading back to the bar apparently… Shoot ummm,
“Oh hi, are you on the pub crawl? No?”
Oh, okay. Let me pretend to be seriously looking at the drink menu with you, caught in an extremely tough decision about what I should get. Except hell no am I buying these drinks for 10 pounds.
“Yeah wow, that looks good. I might get that too!”
Share a laugh. Not getting that. Small talk. Her group comes over.
“Oh, it’s your birthday? Ohhh, happy birthday! That is so great. So great!”
Happy birthday, whatever-the-hell-your-name-is. Quick escape.
I mean, I would have carried on conversation with these people but that would have made it even more awkward. Feeling defeated, I thought I would have one more go. Some new people had appeared on the other side of the bar, so I went up to them.
“Hey, are you guys on the pub crawl?”
“Yeah, we are!”
Oh thank god.
“Me too!!!! What are you guys getting?”
I low-key latched onto this little crew at the beginning, but it turned out great. A few drinks and a few pubs later, we were all good friends, including the pub crawl leader and another friendly solo straggler like me also making friends in London. We met the others on the pub crawl and shared a bottle of wine and stories from our home towns in Manchester, California, New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and France. We danced on the stage at the last pub until the early hours, and shared contact information so we could all meet up again. Despite the slow start, going on the pub crawl alone ended up being a pretty good decision 🙂
Liverpool street by night!
Making Friends in London: At a Run Club!
The run club I signed up for very coincidentally and unfortunately began the morning after I signed up for this pub crawl. It was rough, but again, worth it for making friends in London. I walked in and smiled, slightly hung over and awkward, and joined the circle of girls clad in spandex who were standing inside the store.
“Hey, I’m Kimmie!” I met all the other girls, naturally forgetting their names as soon as I heard them, and joined in the conversation about what we did last night and where we wanted to run. We settled on doing a loop across the Tower Bridge and London Bridge, and set out at a nice easy pace. (Side note – I still can’t get over how these huge landmarks are within running distance of where I live. What a dream!)
We took turns running with different people, and I got to hear the unique story of each girl there. The leader of the group was incredibly inspirational and had granola bars for each of us when we got back, and a few of us who really clicked got together and decided that we wanted to go get coffee afterwards. We ended up hanging out a bit after the run and meeting up the next day for a free yoga class one of the girls knew about as well. It’s crazy how athletics really brings people together, and helping each other push through a tough run can make strangers into friends. So, just like that, I made some new friends and gained an amazing and supportive group of girls to work out with on the weekend!
Pastel colors in Notting Hill
Going to More Pubs By Myself to Make Friends in London
Last story for this month:
I saw that one of the pubs really close to my house always advertised this event they have each week called ‘Deep Sundays,’ where they have a DJ play deep house and tech. Being (one of) the kinds of music I am into, I immediately really wanted to go. I tried to get my flatmates to come with me a few times, but they were busy. I asked a few other friends I met, on the pub crawl and elsewhere, and they either lived too far away or were busy on the days I wanted to go. So, one Sunday came up, and after exhausting my options of people to go with, I decided that I would simply just go by myself, since I have apparently become pretty good at just up and going to things alone these days. So, I did.
It said it started at 10, so I waited until about 10:30 to go, which I thought was late enough. Except, it wasn’t. I walked into the bar… to see 4 people inside. Great. I strongly debated just walking straight out again, maybe walking into the bathroom, or pretending to look for someone before getting my phone out and pretending to text someone. But I stopped myself. I had come this far, and I was damn well going to as least try to have a good time and enjoy the music whether I ended up making friends in London or not. Worried the guys at the bar, who probably saw this whole thought process go down in my head, would think I was even weirder than you usually think of a girl who goes to a bar by herself, I just waltzed straight up to them and introduced myself.
“Slow night huh? Yeah, I really wanted to come to this and no one would go with me so.. I just came anyways.”
The guys there ended up being the DJ’s friends, there to support him. Classic. I met the DJ too, and talked a bit to the girls behind the bar. As it usually does, my accent sparked conversation about where I am from, and over a few drinks we talked some small talk about that kind of thing. I figured I would give it an hour or so to become fun, and slowly more people trickled in. Somehow I got some more drinks bought for me, and I took advantage of my enhanced sociability and began meeting more people coming in. I ended up rather integrated into the scene rather than the loner I was when I came in, which was the goal really, and by the end of the night I was hanging out with a group celebrating a birthday. Long story short, I really got along with a few people in this group at the end – Australians, Latvians, and Russians. We talked and made plans to go to a show together, and laughed about the feeble attempts of some men in the bar to pick on up women. We exchanged contact information and… just like that, some new friends in London!
The moral of the story is, all it really takes is for you to put yourself out there a little bit; push yourself past your comfort zone and gather up the courage to just do it. Whatever it is. If you find someone you get along with, get their Facebook or their number. As easy as that, you have a new person to call to plan a fun outing with or invite to the bar. It could be the beginning of a great friendship!
Don’t be afraid to feel awkward or weird at times, because, who cares what random people think of you? If I went to the bar alone and met a friend, great. If I didn’t, fine. I don’t care if people I don’t know think I am weird for showing up somewhere by myself. I’ll probably never see them again and they probably aren’t the kind of person I want to be friends with, anyway. Most people would see it as courageous, to be honest; a lot of people wouldn’t go out or join a club by themselves. But I’m here as proof that it’s fine to be by yourself and do things by yourself, and do what you have to to make friends in London. It’s all about confidence in yourself and who you are. The worst that can happen putting yourself out there is that some people you don’t know might look at you funny. But that is absolutely the least important thing in the world. <>