Having spent six years in Manchester, the longest stretch of time my family has ever stayed put, I consider myself Mancunian to the core. I thought of myself as a temporary Londoner throughout my whole six year degree and was shocked to realise that despite being told again and again how unfriendly Londoners are, there were a lot of people I was going to miss. As it’s such an easy place to feel isolated in I wanted to write a little about how I met people, kept busy and felt at home.
Flat share. Unless you are considering selling your grandmother for the next lot of rent, put the effort in to find people you click with as flat sharing can be the best or worst thing you do to your social life. I thought I was doing well to meet an Irish nurse I still keep in touch with but Matt’s housemate ended up being his best man and spends Christmas with us each year. Come home to someone you like and you’re 90% there.
Talk to the people around you. By the time I was leaving the corner shop people had met and exchanged email addresses with my grandad, Lou the chip-shop man asked Matt to take some wedding photos over so he could see them and the pizza guys gave me a free pizza to celebrate my graduation. Londoners are much more amenable to small talk than rumour would have you believe and nothing makes you feel part of a community more than recognizing and interacting with the people you see every day. (Obviously public transport is a different realm with different rules.)
Just say yes! Networking was a much bigger thing in London than I’m used to. Drinks after work was the norm and I got introduced to people I didn’t cross paths with that often. The same goes for meeting the friend of a friend of a friend. I have never been to a party or event where I was ignored because people didn’t know me. Get stuck in or you’ll never get the most out of your time in London.
Embrace the internet! No matter how fish-out-of-water you feel remember that London is full of bright young people who enjoy every hobby under the sun and many people end up feeling isolated. Websites like Meetup.com have introduced me to friends I ended up having a regular pub quiz night with. The internet even helped me meet a fellow young married book lover (hi Steph!) in the cultural wasteland I’d pegged Tooting as. From my friend’s gay swim team to my husband’s Sci-Fi film club I am now convinced you can find not just one buddy to share in any activity you enjoy but a whole group who’ll embrace you.
While I can look back and am fond of all the friendships that I made over the six years I spent living there, my only regret is that. I spent too long feeling sad and lonely before really diving into all the opportunities available to me. I hope this helps anybody else feel that London is a lonely city to live in get out there and really enjoy everything it has to offer!