If you are considering moving to the UK or you have just moved making friends can feel a daunting and sometimes impossible task, especially for first-time expatriates. Questions like "how will I cope on my own in the UK?", "will I ever meet people that I get on with?", "will British people understand my English accent?" can swirl around your head for a while.
It’s hard, but don't be disheartened because you have plenty of options — events to go to, activities to participate in, and interesting people to meet. However, there's some effort required. The key is to keep attending, even if your presence doesn't always lead to desired results.
Top tips for making friends in the UK
Go to language exchange groups
One of the easiest ways to meet people is by participating in international language exchange groups. Being in an international environment can make the situation feel a lot less awkward, and being with people who are in a very similar position with you, eases the communication. Usually, the international language exchange groups are for people who want to meet new people and practice a new language.
There are many international language groups in every city or town. To find your nearest group, check out social media, useful websites such as Meetup, or contact your nearest British Council or Local Council.
Popular languages such as French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, and Arabic have their official organisation (Alliance Française, Cervantes, Goethe Institut, il Circolo, British Chinese Society, The Arab British Centre) in major cities, and they often run events where you can meet people who speak your language. This is a good idea if you wish to make expat friends from your culture, or you want to meet international people who are interested in your culture.
Important: Don't restrict your group of friends to people who merely speak your language because this will limit the practice of your English language skills.
Join a group or a society
If you want to meet people quickly, join a group. Whether you get together to do sports, play chess, debate, make art, or discuss books, rest assured that you will have at least one thing in common with these people. So, participate in groups that will help you grow your skills and satisfy your curiosities and interests.
If you are a student, your university or college will run various groups and societies — find out more at your school's administrative office. If you have recently joined a large organisation, ask the HR department for more information on the social activities they organise — they often run groups to help colleagues bond and to make their job packages more attractive. Finally, if you are a freelancer, networking events are a good way to give your business' contacts a boost.
For those who have more free time, volunteering can be a rewarding way to meet like-minded people and connect deeper with your community.
Good to know: Anyone with a valid UK visa or EU-EEA passport can volunteer.
The benefits of volunteering:
- Helping people or the environment within your community
- Meeting new people
- Building up work experience in the UK for your C.V
- Practising your English
You can get in touch with your local volunteer centre, contact charities directly, or apply via volunteering websites — here are just a few:
Say "yes" more often
Go outside your comfort zone and say "yes" even when you feel demotivated, or overwhelmed with socialising. Open yourself up to new adventures — say "yes" to yourself to explore the city or say "yes" to a new friend who invites you to do some sight seeing, say yes!
One person can be the gateway to more so, even if you haven't met your sort of person yet, accept invites to social gatherings to expand your chances of meeting the right people for you.
Anything that keeps you from staying at home too much and feeling homesick can only make you happier and help you settle.
Important: Always use your common sense and never say "yes" to something that could put you in unnecessary danger or makes you feel seriously uncomfortable.
British Council: www.britishcouncil.org
National Council for Voluntary Organisations www.ncvo.org.uk
Find your local council www.gov.uk/find-local-council
Time out: www.timeout.com