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Building a social network as an expat in London is essential if you are looking to achieve the perfect work-life balance. The people you choose to spend time with will help you maintain and even improve your well-being; on the one hand your friends will often bring you out of your comfort zone, and on the other hand, they will create a safe emotional space for you. London's size, the frenetic pace of life, and endless options to see and do things are charming but can also become overwhelming, especially for newcomers.

A robust social network in London will help you feel connected with your new place and will give you a sense of belonging. In this article, you will find the best tips to find the right people, with whom you will be able to share the ups and downs of expat life in London.

Practices to develop your social network

Join social media

As an expat in London, which is a highly tech-friendly hub, it’s advisable that you make profiles (if you don’t already have) on popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media help you connect instantly with people you meet at work events, parties, through other acquaintances, etc., and reveal a lot of information about the profile of these connections — their interests, routine, employment status, etc. At the same time, you expose yourself too (of course, only up to the extent you wish), and become available for new social interactions, which may begin with a “like” on one of your photos and evolve to a conversation about the best ongoing modern art exhibitions in London.

Apart from the very prominent social media brands, there are dedicated platforms to expat life, which also host forums, and encourage open conversations among expats and expats-to-be. At Expat.com, we support expats and expats-to-be from the moment they conceive the idea of expatriation, all the way to the completion of their project, and their repatriation. Whether you are looking for first-hand, practical information about the formalities or the job market in London, or you are looking to connect with other expat working mothers in London, creating an Expat.com account, gives you access to endless information and international networking possibilities

Tip:

Obtain a UK phone number as soon as possible to make it easy for your new contacts in London to reach you. There are mobile phones, which can take two SIM cards, so you can have your home country’s SIM and your UK SIM, and switch between them easily.

Express your interests

When meeting new people or when creating your online profile, make sure to share some of your interests, so that other like-minded people can approach you regarding a volunteering opportunity in the refugee sector, a jewellery-making workshop, or a pub-crawl night in London. Follow organisations and causes on social media, post in their groups, and don’t hesitate to send private messages to people you would like to get to know better. The things you are passionate about are opening the networking doors widely and often without much effort.

Organise a party

Expand your network by taking some serious action; throw a housewarming or birthday party at your house, and encourage your colleagues or close friends to bring their acquaintances. When your guests are around, be yourself, wear a big smile, and showcase your hospitality skills by speaking with everyone and making them feel welcomed. It’s natural that you won’t be able to connect with everyone, and most likely many of the guests you won’t meet until someone else’s party in a year's time. However, there’s a possibility that you will make at least one new good friend based on something you have in common — a hobby or a personality trait.

Tip:

The British people love themed parties, and on Saturday nights London’s neighbourhoods are bustling with music, dancing, and dressed up guests. You can be whoever you want in London.

Accept invitations

The more yeses you say, the more you will see your network growing. Of course, not all days and nights are good for social interaction, and it’s understandable that some evenings, all you want to do is relax on your sofa with a glass of wine and your favourite Netflix series. However, sometimes you should make this extra effort, and attend a dinner, or join a few friends in the pub for after-work drinks to show that you care about spending time with the people in your network, and to keep up with their lives, so you feel included. When meeting with people from your network, it’s very likely that you will meet other people, especially if the occasion is significant, such as a wedding or a birthday party.

Tip:

Expats in London tend to celebrate their country’s holidays with other expats of the same nationality. For example, attending a party for the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an excellent opportunity to meet Mexican people in London.

Volunteer your time

Another way to meet new people, while doing some good for your community or serving a cause, is through volunteering. Unfortunately, many people believe that unless they can dedicate themselves to a purpose on a full-time basis, it’s not worth it. However, we say that every little helps, and something is always better than nothing. Research what is going on in your community, and what are the most profound needs that match your interests to do some good for the world while interacting with people from all walks of life, and exchanging views about activism and life in general.

Are you environment and climate change conscious or do you wish to promote and support young artists? Are you into scientific research and medical developments such as the cure and treatment of rare diseases or do you wish to stand by people with disabilities? London has thousands of operating local, national, and international charities, covering all the good causes that may come into your mind.

 Good to know:

According to the latest giving statistics, the British tend to support more causes linked to medical research, animal welfare, children, hospitals and hospices, and conservation and environment. The demographic group that volunteers the most is students.

 Useful links:

Charity Choice London
Charity Checkout London

Social etiquette

All the above tips about meeting new people and expanding your social network aren’t of any use unless you apply the correct and widely accepted networking rules to your social interactions in London. From punctuality and queuing to over-politeness and appropriate behaviour in public spaces, Londoners appreciate good manners, even in not so formal occasions such as riding the tube or drinking in the pub.

London is the busiest city in Britain, and coffee shops, pubs, clubs, the public transport are some of the most crowded places you will find yourself in. Thus, it’s important to be aware of the number one British habit, which is to wait for your turn patiently. For example, if you are trying to push through the crowd at the bar to order first, don’t expect any of the people queuing to approach you in order to get to know you better; they have already made up their mind for you, and unfortunately, you haven’t made a good impression.

Being in the middle of doing something important or in a hurry is not an excuse for Londoners to skip the use of basic politeness signifiers such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. If you want to make London friends, remember that they don’t like to be ordered to do things; they want to be kindly asked. Of course, this means that they can kindly refuse to do something too. ‘Sorry’ is another frequently used word; actually, there are never too many sorries spoken during your time in London and the UK. Even if someone bumps into you aggressively, tell them you are sorry!

 Good to know:

‘Please’ is usually put at the end of a request, which begins with ‘could’, ‘can’, and ‘would’. However, ‘please’ can also be inserted at the beginning or in the middle of a question.

Tip:

If you have guests over, send text messages or give calls the next day to express your gratitude for showing up and spending time with you.

If you are dining out with a group of people, the etiquette says that you must wait until everyone’s food has arrived before you start eating your meal. We understand that this can be frustrating, especially if your food smells nice or you are uber hungry, but unless you want people to give you dirty looks, or never invite you again, show patience.

Social kissing isn’t common in Britain, and if you ever come across social kissing, it will be among women. However, a good handshake (not too firm though) is the norm in social interactions among acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. Also, medieval chivalry has made it to modern society, and London men are still expected to offer their seat to a lady, open the door for her, offer to carry a bag or provide their jacket.

When socialising with someone you don’t know very well, one of the main concerns is finding interesting conversation topics. The British have found the best ice-breaker — the weather! Especially Londoners, who get some of the most unpredictable weather conditions in the world, love to talk about the weather, and it’s the safest topic one can choose to set the stage for more meaningful conversations.

 Attention:

Discussing how much you earn or the costs of things you own is considered rude and a taboo subject. Never ask a person how much they earn, as you will make them genuinely uncomfortable.

Finally, if you wish to gain more London friends, take your tea seriously, as it is part of most British people’s daily routine and their social life. Enjoy a ‘cuppa’ with others, and if you are served a pot, pour tea for the rest before you pour for yourself (milk and sugar are added afterwards). If your tea is too hot, don’t blow on it, and definitely, don’t slurp it!

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.