How to make friends in London

Forget the cold, forget the weird use of the word ‘pants’, the biggest shock for everyone arriving in London is the sudden and overwhelming lack of friends. After a month or so, when no friends just magically appear out of the pavement, the shocked newbie-expats cry “but how do you make friends in London?”

Yes, turns out that 20 something years of life has not taught us anything about finding friends as grownups. Recently over 100 of you lovely readers filled out my Great Expat Survey. There are a lot of interesting things in there, but the biggest outcry was about being lonely in London. About having no friends and no idea where to start looking for them. So many Kiwis, lonely and desperate for some connection.

So how did the people who took the survey make friends?

Friends from home moved to London at the same time 32%
I was the creeper who made friends at work 16%
Oh god I haven’t and I’m so lonely PLEASE HELP 14%
Housemates become friends after enough gins 7%
I turned native and made friends in the pub 7%
Meetups and social media stalking 6%
Kiwis in London Facebook group or drinks 4%
Went on a tour and all I came back with was these lousy friends 4%
What happens on Tinder does not always stay on Tinder 4%
Joined a sports team 3%
Church! 2%
Runawaykiwi kept forcing me to go on strange dining experiences 1%

A complete mixed bag of attempted friend making. About a third were lucky enough to come over with friends and the rest are just running around London screaming BE MY FRIEND at strangers, scaring pigeons as they go.

We have got to do something about this, just for the sake of the pigeons. So sit the fuck down, take a shot, breath deep and get ready for this Runawaykiwi’s thoughts on making friends in London.

My biggest piece of advice is rather annoyingly an old proverb: make hay while the sun shines. There you are being all independent and badass, rocking London on your own; who needs friends right? I can’t guarantee many things in life, but needing someone to pick you up when you are down is one of them. The problem being, once you are down you are not in a great position to go out of your way to make friends.

While you are excited, well rested or drunk is the best time to try and find some friends. Just think of those confident magnetic people from high school, pretend you are one of them and invite some randoms (aka soon to be best friends) to go and explore London. If you are currently happy you really have nothing to lose, use even the vaguest connections you have and try and spark something. I’m talking that person you knew in primary school, a friend of a friend, your 5th cousin or someone you have only met online or briefly at a meetup. Take that vague connection, mix it with some alcohol or a tourist attraction and see what happens.

Friends on the top of St Pauls

If you are down right now and just can’t force yourself to do something as scary as making friends? My top tip would be to book something for next month, or at least two weeks away. It’s distant enough to make booking seem like it will happen to someone else, and by the time it comes around you have no option but to force yourself out of the house and into the arms of a potential BFF.

The other thing you can do if it all feels too much right now and you need some connection is the magic of Twitter. I know Twitter isn’t really a thing in NZ, but over here it is all powerful. Yes there is a whole bunch of weirdness on there (mostly from me), but you just have to find your tribe. Only follow people who bring you joy, comfort and inspiration (with a nice mix between celebrities and plebs) and interact with them – its online so making that first step is less scary than real life. I think this is just an intermediary step though, you do need real life people eventually.

So where do you meet friends anyway? Another proverb to hit you with; your vibe attracts your tribe. I fucking hate hanging out in pubs; cafes are more my scene – so why on god’s green earth did I ever think I would meet people I wanted to hang out with by lingering at a bar? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to meet people if you are into that, I’m just not.

I would start by writing a list of all the things you enjoy. Not what your friends back home enjoy, not what social media says you should want to do on your OE, I’m talking the things that actually make you smile. Mine would go something along the lines of (according to the interest section of my CV):

  • Walking in parks
  • Reading
  • Sci-Fi
  • Jewellery making
  • Drinking coffee & gin (not at the same time)

That is a pretty introverted list, all the things I like doing are things I can do by myself and enjoy doing by myself. Yes even the gin drinking. The trick of making friends as an adult is to figure out how to fold other people into your introverted activities. Like reading? Join a book club. Like Sci-Fi? Go to a convention. Like drinking gin? Go to GinStock (yes there really is a gin festival).

None of these are an easy answer. As much as I would like to be able to click my fingers and get you friends I can’t. Every friendship you make as an adult demands some insane bravery and facing the prospect of rejection.

Aspire and admire

Oh rejection, why are we all so terrified of you? Imagine the worst case scenario of going out and trying to make friends. For me it is something like standing in a corner for an entire night, not talking to anyone and people giving me judging looks. Has that ever happened? Yes. Did it kill me? No. Was there a chance I could meet some friends there? Of course.

The weird thing with this whole making friends malarkey is that the short term awkwardness, the fear, can stop us ever trying or trying more than once. But my god the end goal is worth it, particularly if you are in London by yourself. You NEED a support network, you need someone to be there for the highs and lows, to travel with and drink with, to share the laughs and loves of London with. Being rejected ten times is worth it if you make one good friend out of it. Trust me.

Its not like you are the only one going through this. There are 200,000 kiwis in the UK and the majority of them had to suffer through the indignity of making friends as an adult just like you are. Hell, you are better off than most because in the age of the internet you have access to meet-ups and entire companies dedicated to helping people connect. You just have to think of this as equally as important as finding a job or a flat. Having the right people around you could make or break your London experience.

There is the possibility for a bit of a adulting hack as well. For the 1/3 of you that came over with friends, try riding on their coat tails. Find the one person you know that just does EVERYTHING and tag along. Invite yourself to that weird party they are going to, to the concert or hell even the running club. Use them as your easy buffer to social interaction and once through the door spread yourself through the people there like herpes through teenagers. Go with one friend and leave with two. Keep doing that and you will have a group of London chums in no time.

There is an argument for going outside your comfort zone too, for all I’ve talked about introvert friendly activities. Look into a weekend group tour or a typical Kiwis in London party. Yes it’s not something you are normally into, in fact you might be looking down your nose at it. The truth is that on that smelly bus or hovering on the side of the dance floor there might be another awkward friendless person, just like you. Outside their comfort zone, just like you. They could end up being a huge part of your life, you just have to go out of your way to find those friends.

Friends are worth the scary. Finding friends to share your London experience with are doubly so. Finding people to share your time with over here is not just a temporary focus, it will give you skills and resilience that you will carry with you forever.

It’s ridiculous how much of my time in London was spent wondering how to make friends. Wondering why everyone else found it so easy. But with four years of wisdom under my belt and a circle of friends so amazing they make me cry I can tell you it is worth it. So unbelievably worth it and necessary. Gird your loins, face the awkwardness and fear of rejection head on. Let’s fucking do this.

Moving to London is exhausting

Adore and Endure

Ok lovelies it’s time for my favourite things post. I was going to write my favourite things about Christmas in London, but its November so screw that I’M NOT JOHN LEWIS. Instead I thought I would write about something unbelievable close to my heart; my favourite things, the weirdos I surround myself with.

A lot is expected of girls these days. We have to be mothers and career driven, effortlessly sexy and comfortingly conservative, we have to have chosen both the red and blue pill in life and smile calmly while swallowing it all. But you know what? Despite it all? The girls are alright.

These beautiful freakish snowflakes that I am honoured to call my friends are being brave every day. They are struggling with made for TV movie type issues, stuff that none of us were prepped to handle. We don’t quite know how to adult yet. We fall apart, in the most explosive and sometimes entertaining ways but always find a way to put ourselves together again. The girls are gracious and humble but can swear like sailor to prove a point or just because saying fuck is fun. They are defensive and challenging and the most thoughtful friends a Runawaykiwi could have.

The girls are emotional but not weak, appreciative but not dependent and by god the girls are funny.

These favourite things of mine are always there, always ready to offer tea/gin/hugs as needed. And if that’s not enough? These girls will create an elaborate murder plot just to make you smile, and the best part is never being quite sure if they would follow through with it or not.

These girls have taken brave steps in their careers, not always the ones you would expect but the ones that are right for them. The girls value happy as much as they do drive and determination.

Friends like these are everything, they are not always right but will stand by your side as you are as wrong as wrong can be. You for sure don’t agree with everything, that would be far too boring. But the differences pail into comparison with the endless support, kindness, strength, friendly bullying, creative spark, love and laughter that are on offer.

I know when I moved to London the thought of making friends seemed like an abstract concept, after all how the hell do you make friends as an adult anyway? Well turns out you start blogging and join twitter, you find girls whose own little bit of madness fits into yours and you send them cat pictures.

Four years ago I was staying in London for my then favourite things; the food, art, culture, grey days and coffee. But now, my god my favourite things are just so much more everything, and most of the time they don’t even charge me to hang out with them.

Love you weirdos, you mean more to me than gin.

And for anyone out there thinking this level of meaningful awesome friendship is unobtainable? That new close friends just aren’t for you? Put yourself out there, find your weirdos…it will change and it will mean everything to you.

Blog Addicts Anonymous

I’m Rebecca, and I’m a blog addict.

I’m guilty of stalking cool kids off the internet and bribing them with coffee, gin or blackmail until they agree to be my friend.

I’m guilty of holding the phrase ‘I’m a blogger’ close to my heart, because it makes me so happy and tingle with pride.

I’m guilty of ordering something I don’t feel like at brunch just because it will look better on Instagram,

I’m guilty of feeling guilty when I don’t post regularly.

I’m guilty of using my blog as a therapy session; screaming at the internet sure does help to process emotions.

I’m guilty of threatening to murder people when they are mean to my blogging friends (or non-blogging friends to be honest).

I’m guilty of using gin to overcome the tyranny of the blank page.

I’m guilty of going to countless SEO talks and still not have a fucking clue about it.

I’m guilty of crying over the beautiful comments people leave.

I’m guilty of saying no to going out just because I have posts to write.

I’m guilty of loving this damn hobby way too much.

Runawaykiwi in a box

Hello ducks

Its been a long couple of weeks at Runawaykiwi Towers. For those not in the know, I am an event manager by day and we are now 22 days away from my next biggie: One Live London. It an amazing beast to be working on, but also stressful enough for my colleagues to pack me in a box for a bit to calm me down. The video from my last event is below, and trust me when I say that it doesn’t event begin to show the passion of the day. I think I am going to schedule a few posts to go out in the next few weeks, because my life is all about One Live right now.

I am so excited for this bank holiday weekend, honestly could not have come at a better time (thanks bank holiday scheduling gods!). I’m going to be as anti-technology as possible this weekend, because I know what I’m like, I’ll turn my laptop on to blog and wind up five hours later buried in a risk assessment or loading bay plan. So three days of a closed laptop, phone on airplane mode and flat whites on tap it is! Its crazy how much time I spend in front of a screen, I mean it is work, hobby and how I connect with my friends (and how I avoid getting lost in London!). I might go to extremes and try to replace my online life with IRL, real time fruit ninja anyone?

Some seriously good times have been had amongst this stress ball fun. I went for an evening of perfume and cocktails with Jess and Emma last week, which started well when we were sat at the same table as a couple on a first date – yes we of course were totally unobtrusive and did not mock the guy at all*. None of us were quite sure what the event was, but I had just the most amazing time sitting in a train station talking absolute bullocks with two of the coolest chicks I know. Sometimes you just don’t realise how much you needed your friends until you are sitting next to them, pairing shots with perfumes and whispering nonsense.

Blixen London

What else to update you on?  Oh there is a wicked cool new brunch spot near Liverpool Street. Its called Blixen and the design/fit out is beautiful. The important bit of course is that I would marry the barista the coffee was so good, and they were more than happy with my request to change out spinach for avocado. Winning so hard I went back three times in three days #fangirl

Anyway things on my non-technology horizon this weekend is to discover a couple of new coffee places, try on dresses for my sisters wedding (if you see any white dresses tweet me!) and I might even make a cake.

Love you kids, life may be stressful but by god it is fun.



*lies all lies, we were horrific.

Good One Cafe

This might sound a bit hippy dippy, but I truly believe in having a solar system of friends. Imagine that you are the centre of your own universe (come on, as a Gen Y you should have NO problem with this). All throughout your life you will have people orbiting, some will be a constant always within reach, others will be heartbreakingly close for a short time before continuing on their own journey. This might be more obvious for expats reading this, but its also very true as people start to get married and have kids. It may feel like you have lost them, but actually life might just be waiting until your orbits come into alignment again. I told you it was a bit hippy right? But if Kim Kardashian has taught me anything, in 2015 being a bit hippy is in.

Good One Cafe flat white

One of the shining stars in my universe is my friend Kylie who I only talk to through complete serendipity once a year. We went to high school together but were in different circles and didn’t have much time for each other. That was until one bizarre moment when we decided to run for school council together under the slogan of ‘vote blond’. Amazing right?

Good One Coffee Supreme Auckland

Since then we have been soul sisters. Together we have been through some serious up and downs, and throughout it all have just understood each other. Now she is living in Australia and is a midwife that has delivered close to 1,000 babies – I in comparison dropped a bowl of cornflakes on my foot last night as I attempted to make them for dinner. #fail

We are both useless at staying in touch. Yes we follow each other on Facebook so keep up with the major plot points in each others lives, but regular skypes/letters/texts just don’t seem to factor in our brains. And yet for the last two years we have happened through pure coincidence to meet up in New Zealand, our trips overlapping by a day and its like we have never been apart.

Good One Auckland Supreme

We met up at Good One coffee (amazing café by the way) and spent three hours catching up on those bits of our lives that weren’t major Facebook status making plot points. We moved from one coffee, to two, from smashed avocado to Little and Friday doughnuts. For that one café visit we didn’t live in different countries, we were back in Auckland just like nothing had ever changed. Well, I say nothing had ever changed, we are both happier than ever finally starting to live the lives we want. The conversations we have now on our yearly orbital collision are full of hope.

And the café? I can’t help but have a place in my heart for somewhere that a) serves Little and Friday doughnuts, and b) doesn’t kick out two girls who have been chatting for three hours. An absolute gem.