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.
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)