How to Make Friends in London
If you need some inspiration and a confidence boost, this article will give you a bunch of ideas on how to make friends in a city as lively as London.
Making friends in a city as big as London can be daunting. It seems like everyone is always in a hurry to get somewhere. They either know everyone, or they seem like they don’t want to know anyone. As beautiful as London is to explore by yourself, it can become a lonely place. Even if you love spending time alone amongst the hustle and bustle – reading or studying in a hidden nook somewhere – it’s nice to have a good set of friends that live nearby.
Despite the bustle, the forage for new friends in London isn’t fruitless. By putting yourself out there and brushing up on your conversation skills, you’ll be building long-lasting friendships in no time. With a city as vast as London, there’s someone for everyone, no matter how unique your interests are (this isn’t a dating article, but take that statement as you need it!).
London is packed full of possibilities, and the opportunity for business and networking are endless. If you’d like to connect with likeminded people, or others on the same career path as you, try signing up for a networking event through MeetUp, Eventbrite or FindNetworkingEvents.
People tend to go it alone at these events to speak and get to know others. You might not even need to make the first move. It’s best to go in prepared to talk first, though. Other people might be just as hesitant to start a conversation as you are.
A huge bonus of networking events is that lots of them are free and you can even get a freebie lunch. Even if you don’t meet someone (not ‘that special someone’, but who knows!), then at least you had a free meal and you can try again at the next event.
Chat to Locals
Being a regular in your local supermarket or café is a great way to get to know the people working there – and it’s easy because you’re already going there! Try striking up a conversation with the cashier or the barista as they make your coffee. They might be a local themselves, and you could learn a lot about the area from them. Or they might be new to the area, and be glad you reached out. Plus, if you become a regular at your local, you might meet others on their own too and eventually get chatting.
Many of us make friends for life through our places of work. We tend to get to know our colleagues on a deeper level very quickly, since we see them even when we don’t have a choice. Signing up for a part-time job somewhere won’t just be great for your CV and earning extra cash, but you might build a whole new set of close friends. Lots of companies host nights out outside of work too, so you could find that you build a social life without having to lift a finger (other than working your job, of course).
If you’re unsure how to make friends at work, try joining your colleagues on lunch breaks or adding them on social media. Engage in friendly conversation and talk to everyone you meet (but not so much that your boss gets mad). You’ll get to know your colleagues better and they’ll get to know you in return. Also, a bonus to having friends at work is that it can do wonders for your career and even make you more productive throughout the workday.
Volunteering for a great cause is a brilliant way to give back, feel good about yourself and get extra credit on your resume. But the best part about volunteering is meeting people like you. If you’re choosing to give up your free time for a cause, you’ll likely meet others who support that cause too. And just like a part-time job, many charities will organise get-togethers outside of work too.
To make new friends, you have to get a good conversation going. The most important thing to know about starting a conversation is how to start one. Here are a few tips to help you stand out.
Skip the small talk – Skip the ‘How was your weekend’ chat whenever you can. Instead, ask people for their opinion or advice. Like, ‘What do you think of X restaurant nearby?’, ‘Is X place a good place to study?’, ‘I’m new to London; where’s the best place for a vegan burger?’. People love sharing their advice, and starting a conversation with a question is a great way to jump straight in.
Ask open-ended questions – Rather than sticking to the yes/no questions, ask open-ended questions to get a deeper response from people. Open-ended questions take longer to answer, and the more time you spend chatting with someone, the more likely you are to build a connection with them.
Genuinely listen to what people say – Show people that you’re interested in what they’re saying and genuinely listen to them. Keep eye contact, nod along, offer the occasional ‘mm-hmm’ and ask them follow-up questions. It’s always tempting to jump in with your own experiences, but try to make it all about them before offering your perspective. They’ll likely feel a stronger connection with you afterwards, and you will, too, with them.
Remember what people tell you – Remembering the little things that people tell you will give you a great conversation-starter for next time. You can ask them how it’s going since you last spoke. Like that person, you met at the gym who said they were hoping to reach an eight-minute mile by the end of the month. Ask them if they made it at the end of the month. They’ll love that you remembered, and it’s a great way to leap into a conversation and escape the classic weather chat.
Ask a hypothetical question – Hypothetical questions are ideal for engaging in deeper conversations. Plus, they can lead to an exceptional debate. Not only will a hypothetical question extend the length of time you’re chatting with someone, but it’ll also be a great way for both of you to get to know each other better. These questions could be excellent at a networking event to help you stand out. Try asking, ‘If you could be the CEO of any company, which one would you choose? Why?’ They might not have heard that question yet and you’ll stand out amongst the usual conversation about career paths.
Join a gym
If you’re already a regular gym-goer, you’ll know that you tend to see the same people every time. People that regularly go to the gym normally have a schedule, so it’s easy to know who will be there when you’re there. It’s probably best not to sign up for a gym to meet people, though. Some people might not appreciate you asking them what their favourite restaurant is while they’re out of breath on the treadmill. But a light-hearted question when they’re warming down about how far they ran might be the perfect opportunity to start talking. Plus, people love sharing their fitness goals. So, save your best lines for the networking event and next time you’re in the gym, just enter with a smile, leave the headphones at home and pay attention to the people around you.
If you’ve never heard of park run, it’s a global 5k event that takes place every Saturday morning in most parks across London. All you have to do is register, show up and run! It isn’t designed to be a serious race for expert runners. Just like going to the gym, a park run might not be the place for lots of talk, but if you head there a little bit early you can mingle while you wait for it to start. You might end up with a weekly running partner and a new friend.
There are countless Facebook groups available these days designed to help you connect with people who, like you, are also wondering just how to make friends while living in London. Most of these groups will arrange regular meet-ups in local bars or café’s. Or they provide the opportunity for you to engage with people that live nearby. There are even groups specific for people living in London who have moved from pretty much anywhere in the world – like Australia, India, South Africa and Ireland. Just make sure you engage with people and write new posts yourself. People probably won’t automatically reach out to you, but if you reach out to them then a Facebook group could be a great resource to build more connections.
Reconnecting with people you already know can be easier than starting out with someone completely new. Think of someone you lost touch with in school now living in London. Or a person you got along with at a party once but haven’t spoken to since. Drop them a message sometime and ask if they’d like to meet up for a coffee. Since you haven’t seen them in ages, you’ll likely have lots to catch up on. They might become a great friend all over again. Plus, you might be able to expand your friendship circle even further by meeting their friends too.
Just like you can reach out to old connections, you can ask your existing friends to introduce you to theirs. The reach of mutual friends is endless (I’m sure someone must’ve done a study on it already). Even if it’s a new friend, take a chance and ask them if you can join their group the next time they’re going out for dinner or to that new mini-golf place.
A great way of making new friends and enjoying yourself in the process is by taking up a new hobby. Not only will you meet people through your new book club or pottery-making class, but you’ll have something to talk about when you meet new people for the first time. If they become interested in your hobby, you could even ask them if they’d like to join you sometime. Being a leader and creating your own plans paves the way for others to follow you.
Make the move
This will be the most important thing to remember when figuring out how to make friends in London. Building new friendships might not just be difficult for you, it might be hard for the person you’re trying to connect with too. Even though Londoners might be more up for conversation and new friendships after the pandemic, one of the best ways to make friends in London is to be prepared (and stay prepared) to make the first move. Because even after you’ve made the first move, you might still need to make the second and the third. Even if you connected brilliantly with that new person, they might just think you’re friendly and not realise that you’re looking for a closer relationship with them (again, not a dating article). So that friend of a friend that you connected with at a group dinner last week? Add them on social media or ask for their number. Show them that you’d like to get to know them better. Eventually, it’ll pay off.
No matter which of these ideas you choose to run with to make friends in London, by getting outside you’ll be one step closer. Sitting in your room all day won’t help you meet people (unless you’re reaching out to people online, of course). But if you’re out and about – walking, grabbing food or studying out in the open – you’ll feel more connected to the outside world and be much more likely to try some of these ideas.
This is the final but most crucial point. There isn’t a definitive way how to make friends in London. Building good, strong relationships with people can take time. That barista might never engage in conversation with you, even after you’ve tried every week for the last two months. Make sure you’re changing tactics (try going elsewhere for your regular coffee?) and take a shot at doing something else on this list. Stay confident and positive, and keep trying. With an open mind and a friendly attitude, you will eventually find success.
Give something a go today
Hopefully, this article gives you some pointers on how to make friends in London.
Good luck, and enjoy the limitless potential that London has to offer!