8 February 2014

Expat Friends, and how I managed not to make them.

One of the most elusive aspects of life I've found as an expat has been making a decent network of those 'call at 2am because I've broken something/am really drunk and just want to chat/ripped a button off my dress/call at 7am because there is a tube strike on and I need advice/indulge in my brunch addiction' friends.


London is a behemoth sprawling city chock-a-block with people, but there was just that connection missing, that way of breaking the ice with people of the same interests, the same outlook.

  
 
Growing up in your home country you have years and years worth of family, school friends, uni friends, work friends, random drinking friends, no good friends, and people that buck all definitions. When you move to a new country, denuded of these established connections it can be pretty tough and at times intimidating. This is even before you add the reserved English into the mix who don't really know how to classify us Kiwis.


This is hard to admit, but making mates is probably the element that I've struggled the most whilst living 12,000 miles from home. The British versions of Vegemite is something I've learned to adapt to. Warm beer I'm beginning to enjoy. The complete lack of road signs is still a bug bear, but can be coped through with GPS and GoogleMaps. Friends are a little harder to coax (without becoming the next Dr Frankenstein). Let's not go there.


Reading blogs, a time consuming hobby, actually clued me in a lot. It's not just me, I'm not a weirdo loser who was struggling because of bad breath and foreign ways or something. Everyone that I've subsequently spoken to feels the same at one time or another, especially in the sprawling metropolis of London.


Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a loner that didn't know anyone, sitting at home planning how big I could get my cat empire (just fyi our cat flap that reads the cat's microchip keeping other cats out? It can take up to 31 more cats, yes 32 cats) crying about being lonely, because I'm not. I'm very lucky to have some awesome (adopted) family and found some really wonderful friends here, but I found out that bar that nucleus, it's taken me a long time to begin to develop an extended network. I couldn't work out how to change it either. Turns out it wasn't rocket science, just a little advanced IT.

 
Brunching with good, and new friends at Ben's Canteen.

 Exploring the nooks of the British Museum - because of a new blog friend.

I haven't really ever written about this phenomena because my family read this (hi Dad!) and I didn't want to worry them, but I'm really a very sociable animal and this was a brick missing in my wall for a long time. I guess I also didn't want to look a bit like a loser but I have to keep things fo' real homies.

 An afternoon tea blate at the Intercontinental...


All the haters (sorry, I'll stop that now) say that our addictions to the screens in our lives are removing us from human interaction. Ever a rebel, I disagree. Since starting Adventures of a London Kiwi, my social diary has snowballed. It all started with Twitter and happening to chat to some lovely Kiwi lasses who suggested we meet up for a coffee. God it was nerve-wracking, and god I'm glad I did. They were blimmin lovely, a tiny bit crazy (you know who you are) and from there life had been pretty awesome. Since then I've travelled to France & America with my new mates, taken in an eight hour birthday breakfast and met some of the loveliest expats who understand. I've also met so many more awesome people. Bloggers, Tweeters, random friends.

#teamcake 

So take it from me - be brave, take a risk, say yes to that random invite. It can be hard to go on your OE (overseas experience), as London can be a demanding mistress, but so rewarding so push out of your comfort zone. It might be what's needed to beat those lonely expat blues.

What have you got to lose?

(Ps. Linking up with the expat diaries)
 

35 comments :

  1. I've been living in Ireland for 4 years and still have yet to make any solid friends since I moved from the UK, Plus I live in a small fishing town. When you move somewhere where everyone a;ready has their friends and have known them for years it's hard to 'muscle in'. Fingers crossed this is my year haha

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    1. It is hard, isn't it - and I live in a massive city, not a smaller place like you do. It's funny though, once you've managed to muscle in with one person often it's like dominoes!
      Fingers crossed! If not, Twitter!!

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  2. I agree with you, Emma, that that is one of the most difficult parts of moving to a new country. It's hard to be brave and make the first step to meet up with people you don't know, but in the end, I realised that everyone feels like that, and generally people are incredibly grateful that someone asked them to have a coffee as they are as lonely as you are!

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    1. This is the tough thing - it was that extended network of people you know & can stop and have a cuppa with, that's what I was missing.

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  3. I think stepping out of your comfort zone is probably one of these most rewarding things in life, and travelling alone / moving to a foreign country definitely fits the bill. I've had some of my best days while living in London-town.
    Claire xx | somewhere... beyond the sea

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  4. Hi Emma. I really like this post and I'm so glad I took the plunge and came to the bloggers tea where I met you! X

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    1. I am, it was so, so lovely to meet you!

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  5. An expat blogging friend became my best friend in Vienna (we had met online over a year before we moved there) and I have met countless people since then through blogging and it's definitely exploded since moving to England!
    Such good advice to step out of that comfort zone! I haven't been sorry by any blog friends I've met IRL, including you!!! =)

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    1. I think it's wonderful because with bloggers you tend to have an ice-breaker (your blog), something in common (obsession & exploring) and a tendancy to love tea and cake.
      It was so lovely to meet you too!

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  6. This is such a wonderful post for so many of us still struggling to find those friends.

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    1. It's heartening I think because you feel a little less alone sharing a story like this. I must say, it was one of the hardest posts I've had to write - admitting to the world at large that I struggled, especially being such a social butterfly.
      We definitely must have tea when you in London.

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  7. For a while there I was worried from the title of this post that I wouldn't get to meet you now that I am finally in London. Phew was so glad the post is totally about one of my greatest concerns. I am lucky I think as Hubby was here first and has made some solid friendships already with people I can see myself hanging out with. But I also want to make friends of my own too so your post is great encouragement!

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    1. Nope, don't worry I'm here, and here to stay!
      It does help to have an advance party making those initial connections. I just wanted to kind of say it's a total expat problem. Now I've got the problem that I'm never home enough :D

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  8. I think a lot of expats have this problem. It's hard making friends, because you're the New Kid and everyone else already has their close group of friends. It takes time, but eventually you find great people to surround you with. When I was living in Bangkok I thought I as a complete retard for not having a huge group of friends right from the start - until I realized that a lot of people struggle with this. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. It is wonderful to feel less like it's just you, isn't it!

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  9. I've made some of my best friends thanks to the internet - blogging has only bought me amazing friends who I automatically have something in common with - I think it's the creative spirit that other bloggers have and the willingness to put their life out there online. I'm not afraid of moving to new places, having done it all my life, but it has definitely gotten much harder to make friends as the years go by. Cheers to many more spots of afternoon tea my dear!

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    1. I think this is it, isn't it!
      Cheers to many more!

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  10. I love this post Emma. I was just saying to my expat friend last night that when I first arrived it was so hard to feel settled without a good group of friends. Now I have found my people here, life is much happier x

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  11. OH I totally agree! London is so difficult to make friends in, and as you say a lot of people close themselves off to new ones due to old childhood/uni friends. I'm so glad I started my blog too, I definitely wouldn't have met people that I have done!

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    1. It's definitely true, and after a while you stop trying becuase you'll only be knocked back. I've slowly worked my way into getting to know people. It's quite strange to me though, I've always had large groups of friends - some closer than others - but would never ever knock someone back anyway!

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  12. I couldn't agree more Emma. I was lucky when I moved to Ireland I worked in a place that hired a lot of expats and we stuck together. It really saved me in those early days and although I found myself an Irish husband my nearest and dearest here still are for the most part expats!

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    1. It makes such a difference, and fellow expats understand, don't they!

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  13. Making that first move and putting yourself out there is the hardest and most rewarding things - you are spot on Emma. Ive made some lovely friends in London who i am always grateful for.

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    1. It was really hard to write about it - it's taken me almost 6 months to assemble the words, and I'm still not happy with them.
      As have I, what a place!

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  14. I felt the same way, like I was a loser just because it was so hard to meet people! I made friends with my bf's friends, but it's not the same as having your own network. Making friends when you are older is HARD! I think blogging has really helped me understand I'm not alone or any different than anyone else.

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    1. Most definitely. Almost as bonus, blogigng is such a rewarding hobby!!

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  15. I understand where you're coming from - London is really not as easy as other places I've lived in in term of making new friends. After 2 years, I'm happy to see that I can pull out a plan whenever I want one - but it's a good old GROUP of friends that I miss the most - being 4, 5 or even 6! It's something that was so easy during Uni but very hard when you get older... specially if you add the foreign factor!

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    1. I think that's a better way of expressing my need too - it was that bigger, wider network.
      Why is it just so hard now? We're better educated, wiser and have more experience.

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  16. We move so often that I can relate to this incredibly well. I feel like I have to start all over again every 3 years and it's NOT as easy for me as an adult to make friends as it was when I was a kid or a teenager. Of course, having a kid helps because I generally make friends with the parents of HER friends. {Friends by proxy still count, right?} But I do think it's my expat blogging friends that I relate to the most. I don't know what I'd do without you guys!! :o)

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    1. That must be tough to really lay down proper roots with friendships - you almost must be put off developing strong friendships if you think that you'll only move again?
      Friends by proxy totally count!
      Me neither Sarah, me neither!! :D

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  17. I can completely understand and relate to this post. Moving from NZ to London where I knew no one and not really realising how much hard work it is to make friends after University is tough. I've learnt to say 'yes' when people invite me to do things and also organise things myself which helps. London is very much a place where people come and go though, so its still not easy, I still find myself doing a lot of the things I want to do alone. Great post! :)

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  18. I love this post and I relate on so many levels. Meeting other expat and bloggers has been a lifesaver for me and like many expats, it gets me out of the house and trying new experiences. I love our #TeamCake outings and like you, I love it when my circles converge and I realise that new friends I've met are actually old friends, once removed!

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  19. This is totally making sense! I'm on day 5 in London and I feel like a real weirdo. Things are so similar, yet so different. I found myself arriving totally excited and positive, but my confidence is starting to disappear after a disaster day trying to find a place to rent and apply for jobs.

    I'm going to to take your advice and just say yes to every invite I get:) Thanks for making me feel less alone.

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