It’s almost six years since I moved to London. Time flies in this city. Six years ago I stared at the empty walls in my new room and worried about how to fill the space with a life. My new room had a bed and a worn brown carpet. It was cold, abandoned by its previous occupiers, waiting for things, furniture, clothes, postcards, photos, dirty laundry, memories, dust under the bed, duvet covers that need to be changed, a computer whirring away in the corner. I had none of those things. I didn’t even have any friends in the city.
That first night I fought against loneliness and fear. The thoughts and worries followed me around for my first months in London; would I ever make friends, would I ever find my place, would I ever settle, would I make this place my home?
If I could go back in time I would tell myself not to worry, because things have a way of working themselves out if you know what you want and work to get it. But sometimes I wonder if there wasn’t also a bit of luck involved in it all. Was it not luck and fate that pushed me in the direction of people who became good friends? Was it luck and fate that put me and Gerry in the same pub on a warm August night? Life is filled with randomness, but whatever happens we can always act, the more people we speak to, the more likely we are to make friends after all.
Some of you have expressed your worry about making friends after moving to London. Here are a couple of things that worked for me.
Let your fears drive your forward
I had moments of fear and loneliness after I first moved to the city, but these feelings pushed me out there, they helped me out of my comfort zone and forced me to make friends. During my first six months in London I was more socially active than I have ever before been in my life. Being in a new city gave me energy and getting to know new people gave me even more energy. I went to different networking events (mainly in the technology industry) several times a week and met people who would become friends and people who would employ me.
The energy I got from being new in the city and having to put myself out there was unexpected, because normally I’m a bit of an introvert, I prefer a night at home to going out. But somehow the knowledge that I had to make friends and had to create a life for myself in the city if I wanted to stay made it easy and enjoyable to go out and meet lots of strangers.
Find good flatmates
I was lucky to move into a friendly and interesting flat share when I first arrived in the city. My flatmates were helpful and welcoming, they invited me to parties and I got to know their friends (which is how I met Gerry).
Since I moved here to work as a freelance journalist I wasn’t able to make friends through work or by studying so my flatmates became very important for my social life. If you live with people you get on with and if you like their group of friends that can be a great way to start settling into life in the city. Take your time (if you can) to find a flat and flatmates you really like.
Take short courses
I’ve made a some of my closest friends through a few writing courses I’ve taken in the city. There are so many different short courses on offer in London. If you’re not studying already, a good way to meet people is to go on a short course in a subject you’re interested in. You’ll meet likeminded people and sometimes those people might become friends. Good places to start to browse for courses are sites like Hotcourses and Citylit.
Social media and the internet
I used to think I was the sort of person who couldn’t really make friends on the internet, there is something about witty conversations in only 140 characters that make me feel strangely tongue tied. But I have made a few friends thanks to the internet since I moved to the UK. Although most of those either contacted me or were contacted by me through email. Never underestimate the power of a short and friendly email to someone you’ve found online.
Image by Eli DeFaria.