Moving to one of the world’s biggest cities is always going to be a nerve wracking experience, and London – home to eight million people – is no exception. The very thought of navigating your way around the city can be panic-inducing, let alone working out where you’re going to live or who you might know, whether you’re moving thousands of miles away from home or from just outside the M25.
But where better to embrace the age-old Dolly Parton adage that ‘there are no strangers in the world, only friends you haven’t met yet’? The solution to getting stuck into London is all about making friends. It’s fair to say that the city really comes to life when you have a few familiar faces attached to it – there’s nothing like sharing the magic of living somewhere new with someone else, plus there’s the support from scientific studies that social support is a significant predictor of a long healthy life’. We can all get by with a little help from our friends…
And no, you don’t have to employ a friendship expert (yes, they exist) – it’s easier than you think. Here, we share tips from people who went from zero to whatsapp groups filled with heroes…
It might seem counterintuitive to turn to tech, but there’s a whole world waiting on the world wide web, and plenty of sites, including the eponymous MeetUp and Citysocializer, are home to dedicated meetup groups, whatever your interest.
For Hannah, who moved to London from Lancashire, discussion website Reddit held the key to finding like-minded souls. “I found using the thread R/londonsocialclub was a great way to meet people – and I thought we’d get on if they were also likely to be using Reddit,” she says. For pop-culture fan Helen, tagging along to the IRL meetup of her favourite podcast meant meeting people just as Kardashian-obsessed as she is.
If the idea of joining in with a big group doesn’t appeal, how about opting for a one-on-one experience instead? Friendship apps like Hey Vina or Bumble BFF (launched as a standalone feature from dating app behemoth Bumble) are reportedly experiencing a boom, with the emphasis on networking as much as finding a new best friend.
Join a team
“Joining a netball team was hands down the best thing I could’ve done when I moved to London,” says Meg, who moved from Manchester two years ago.
“I’ve met a brilliant set of girls I never would’ve done through my work – one is a doctor, another works for a newspaper – and it means I have one workout a week I’m guaranteed to look forward to.” Meanwhile, Maz joined a local tennis league in his borough, which saw him pitted against a new opponent every week (meaning he was always guaranteed to meet someone new). Search online or check your local gym for sports teams and leagues you can give a go – many are designed for beginners.
If you like running and want to be more involved in your local community, Good Gym combines a run with doing physical tasks such as sprucing up public spaces or helping out in local parks.
If the thought of reaching for your gym kit really turns you off, don’t despair. “The girls at my local rock choir are amazing,” says keen singer Elle. “As well as singing, I’ve found some friends for life. And I don’t just see them at choir practise; we celebrate each others’ birthdays and successes too.” Fancy trying it out? Rock Choir London, which has groups all over London, offers free taster sessions.
Grab your contact book and get ready to network like you’ve never networked before. Did you work with someone who also gave it all up for the London life? Is there some second cousin who’s scored a sweet job in a startup? It’s always worth starting with the people you know to put you in touch with possible playmates. Mary now counts friend Becky among one of her best after a family friend put them in touch when both were starting out in law at similar firms – this summer saw their second time at Wilderness together. And it pays to be prepared: before Andy moved to London from Australia, he lined up ‘friend dates’ with friends of friends and old social media connections so that he had a go-to contact book of people who were happy to show him the city (as well as pack out his social calendar!)
Work it out
If you work in an office, it’s likely you’ll be spending eight hours plus each day together – that adds up to 40 every week! So why not copy Alice, who moved from Dubai to London last summer? “I’ve always tried to make friends with people in the office simply because we spend so much time together,” she says. “So right from week one I decided to join in the office bake off competition, join the running group and I’ve also signed up to the hockey team. I’m busy, but I love it!”
And if you’re in a shared working space, be sure to take advantage of the socials they put on. If there’s nothing on offer, why not start a group yourself? Who’s in for Taco Tuesday?
Always say yes
“I’m a massive yes-man”, admits Meg, “and I think that’s helped me meet so many people and have so many experiences since I moved to London. Sometimes I have no idea what the week might bring – and sometimes that’s the most exciting thing.”
At a co-living space such as The Collective Old Oak, connectedness and community is at the forefront of everything they do – and the building is designed so that residents can come together. Potential hang-out spaces include a roof terrace, lounge, library and a cinema, or else there’s a packed events programme you (and your new mates) can dip in and out of.