Moving and making friends
Amy Bracken shares her experiences of finding her social feet in London.
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"I soon realized that making friends in the workplace is at a whole other level to making friends at college"
The first thing anyone moving to a new city or country looks for, after a home and probably a job, are friends. I moved to London on a whim. It’s a long story, but basically, although it had been my plan to move here from Ireland before the end of 2012, the manner in which I arrived here at the end of September was very unprecedented.
Thus, I often think I escaped the uncertainty and the realisation that I was leaving behind the vast majority of my social circle and entering the unknown. At first, I was so ecstatic about living in this fantastic city that I didn’t even consider the need to make some new friends. I live with a friend and was lucky enough to know a handful of Irish people who were living here already, including two of my very best friends from college.
So it wasn’t until about two months in that I thought about making some new ‘London friends’. At first, I thought, “how hard can it be?” After all, four years ago I moved to Dublin from Co. Meath and barely knew anybody, yet I had made a life for myself in Dublin, so surely it wouldn’t be any different? I was about to learn some very important life-facts about making friends.
When I went to college, everyone around me was a fish-out-of-water. We were all overwhelmed by this fantastic experience and so we clung to each other and through that, we had our friends. Additionally, the majority of my school friends opted for Dublin when it came to choosing colleges, so the basis of a wide social circle was there. I suppose you might say it all fell into place.
When I arrived in London and started working, I soon realized that making friends in the workplace is at a whole other level to making friends at college. Most people in my office already have their families and a wide social circle behind them, and an additional difference to making friends at college is the fact that there is likely t be a much more diverse spread of ages in an office.
Undeterred, however, I decided to persevere. Gradually, over time, my work-based social circle is coming together quite nicely. Outside of that, I have done a number of things I would never have done before in an effort to meet new people. It began by contacting everyone I knew in London, ignoring how well or how little I knew them, and asking them to go for coffee.
I then looked into different societies and clubs in my local area, and signed up with one or two of them. I have to admit that my attendance at these hasn’t been the best, but it showed me that the potential is there to build some lifelong friendships. Other means of making friends in a new city is to join other Irish people with a similar aim.
In London, groups such as the London Irish Graduate Network, the London Irish Centre, and the ‘Irish in London’ group on www.meetup.com have many events going on all the time at which you can meet up with other Irish people in the city. If your aim is to branch out and meet people from other nationalities, a mere Google will give you an insight into the types of things going on your area.
I know everyone tells you to join a club or society to make new friends, and it may seem like a ridiculous plan, but it’s not joining that’s important. It’s extending the hand of friendship. Don’t just go along to all the society events. Instead, invite two or three people from it out for coffee or over for a few drinks. By doing the things with them that you would normally do with your friends, you will soon realize that these people are your new friends.
If a friend invites you out with some of their friends, don’t be afraid to add those new friends on Facebook and make them your friends too. No-one ever said moving was easy. But then again, no-one ever said that you can settle in a new place without friends. You might have to look hard for them, but they are crucial to your transition from your old life to your new one, so it’s worth the effort.