This post is part of our ultimate guide to moving to London as a graduate. Settling in a big city isn’t just about a place to live, or getting around. New place, new opportunities. This is your guide to meeting new people and making friends in London.
Making new friends is hard. Dating apps and events are a dime a dozen here in the Big Smoke, but when it comes to making platonic connections? Now that’s tricky. Doesn’t help that British awkwardness often gets in the way of taking the plunge. According the Office of National Statistics (ONS), “Britain is the loneliest capital of Europe.” 😭 The ONS even go on to say that “Britons are less likely to have people they can turn to in a crisis or to feel close to neighbours.”
A new city can be really lonely for some. No more popping over to your uni best mate’s halls to hang. No more going impromptu nights out with huge groups. A lot of fresh graduates suddenly realise how hard it is to arrange plans with multiple friends without using a Doodle poll. But hey, that’s almost the beauty of starting anew. Using this guide, you’ll hopefully find yourself excited about the possibility for new friendships. Let’s get started.
Our top tips on making friends in London without awkwardness
Get outside your university circle
After all, the saying goes, “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Your circle of friends from university are great – they’ve seen you through your best times and, on occasion, your worst. However, that’s exactly why you can’t stick with just your uni friends forever.
Your friends are a reflection upon yourself. If you don’t take the opportunity to break out of your current friends’ circle, there’ll be no chance to gain new perspective. Different people bring out different aspects of your personality. Don’t be afraid to discover more about others, and in turn, yourself.
Be discerning, but not standoffish
Remember those days during freshers where you just made friends with everybody you saw? Take a look back on your Facebook ‘On This Day’. How many of those people are you still friends with today?
You have to gauge ‘spark’ when it comes to friendships too. If you meet someone and they don’t float your boat after a while, phase them out politely. Having said that, ‘breadcrumbing’ or ‘ghosting’ are two big no-nos.
Breadcrumbing and ghosting are two dating behaviours that have come about during the digital age. Breadcrumbing is keeping someone hanging on by saying things like “yeah, sure, we’ll hang out soon!” and never actually getting around to arranging a meet-up. Ghosting is, well, just ignoring the person altogether.
Yeah, be selective with your new friends. But don’t be mean. We’re all human, and we’ve all got feelings.
Don’t judge someone on the first impression
We’ve all had first dates in which we leave with the mutual understanding that we’ll never see the other person again. That’s totally OK. When it comes to matters of romance, instant spark is key. Our controversial opinion? You shouldn’t apply the same approach to friendships.
There are various tests we put our potential romantic partners through that are just downright unfair when we apply them to friendships. Friendships, after all, aren’t based on ‘spark’. Sure, you should fundamentally get on as people, but if someone doesn’t blow your socks off from the get go, give them another chance.
Territory can sometimes be tricky
Get introduced to someone else by a friend? Friendships get just as complicated as some relationships do. Be careful not to step on someone else’s friendship toes by taking over the initial friendship. No one wants to hear, “I had the greatest time with So-and-So the other weekend,” when So-and-So happened to be your friend first.
This exercise is all about making friends with new people, of course. But don’t forget the people who’ve helped you along in that process. They deserve to be taken out for a coffee or brunch every once in awhile too.
It’s OK to treat friendship as a conditional concept
Loyalty is a highly admirable trait, sure. It’s what makes Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on the Hill’ such a listenable track – we all have those high school friends we’d do anything for. Adult friendships are different in nature. Yes, hold on to the good eggs you find. Cherish them. Nurture those relationships.
However, if you find that over time, a friendship isn’t providing you with the nourishment and support you wanted, it’s OK to let go. Being an adult means you’ll probably become more careful with the company you keep. Cutting out toxic individuals from your life is the best form of self-care you can do.
The only kinda flakes people like are the ones you can get for 99p (RIP). Get a physical planner, or keep track using Google Calendar, whatever works! A new life in the big city will keep you really busy. Try to avoid clashes if you can.
We’ve listed our current favourite ways of meeting new business connections in this list. There’s everything from informal drinks, to mind-blowing ‘notworking’ lectures to an legit app that will help you network better. Let’s go 🕴
Shapr is an app that essentially works like Tinder for professional networking. We’re kinda surprised we’re just hearing about this now, because it’s basically a genius idea. Fill up a profile, and Shapr will use your details to suggest 10 to 15 new potential connections every day.
It’s safe, because, like Tinder you swipe anonymously and only get to chat if there is a match. If you’re struggling to find a place to start, this is probably the best way to get started on your networking journey.
Glug are the guys who came up with the concept ‘notworking’. Think networking, but less formal, leading to a higher potential for good, genuine connection. Glug run events all over the world dedicated to building creative communities. Interested in design, UX, copywriting, and having a good time? Go to a Glug event and run wild.
— Tea House Stokey (@teahouse_stokey) December 15, 2016
Fancy networking with the people who are absolutely going to be the future famous journalists of tomorrow? Hack Drinks are regular meetups in London for anyone working in the journalism industry. A great way to meet someone who works for the publication of your dreams.
First, Google revolutionised search results. For their second, extremely localised act, they came for networking. Campus London regularly hosts really out there, tech-related talks and networking events. Most of them are usually free to attend too, which is a real added bonus.
Now, we’re gonna be frank with you, General Assembly courses and one-off events are fairly expensive. However, if you’re looking to upgrade your coding skills and meet like-minded individuals, you might want to take a look at the events they run. Make sure you factor these into your budget, though!
— Silicon Drinkabout (@SiliconDrinkabt) June 14, 2017
Founders, developers, tech wizards, oh my! Silicon Drinkabout is the perfect opportunity for anyone who’s keen on the startup industry. They’re actually a global community, but the London arm is really active and meets up every Friday in a different London location. Snazzy.
Escape The City
Despite the name, Escape The City isn’t about taking a train ride outta the Big Smoke. It’s actually a community dedicated to helping professionals in London make savvy career changes. They run events in a trendy spot at Old Street Station. Plus, they do a mean flat white coffee in the morning. ☕
Life shouldn’t just revolve around work. Meeting new people outside of your work situation can be a little tricky sometimes. Here are a few great resources that’ll help you burst your friendship bubble.
When I reached out to my pals to ask them for recommendations, about seven different people mentioned Meetup as their first port of call. Meetup is a platform that allows strangers to meet up with another in groups who share common interests. You can take a look at Meetups near you, or even explore Meetups by category. Neato.
— JENNY (@jennywhojenny) May 16, 2017
You may have seen Bumble’s ad campaigns bumbling on buses around London. What you may not know is that Bumble isn’t just the next new thing in dating apps. It’s also designed to help people (perhaps more specifically, women) make potential platonic connections too.
Bumble has a ‘BFF’ mode that you can switch on to meet other people looking for ~new friendz~. Pretty sweet!
Like food? Silly question, of course you do. If you like food, you’ll probably like other people who like food, because that’s how logic works, surely. On Grub Club, you can basically buy tickets to pop-up supper clubs and food events, and meet other fellow adventurous diners along the way. Friends who attempt Siberian cuisine together, stick together, as they say.
This is a little like the aforementioned Meetup. However, instead of users being able to set up their own meetups, the CitySocializer app curates activities for you. Less thinkin’, more befriendin’. That’s what we like to see.
Things to Do in London
It’s summa, summa, summertime, folks. No better time to try something new in London, with your new friends in tow. We love these next few resources who’ll provide you with endless activities to sample. Have fun, folks!
Drink Shop & Do
Besides being a cafe by day and bar by night, Drink, Shop & Do is also a one-stop fun shop. Activities range from life-drawing classes, to bottomless brunches, to a dance class for Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’. Sign us up.
TimeOut London / Londonist / London On The Inside / Mr Hyde
We’ve bundled all of these guys into one, because they essentially all curate awesome events in London, but offer different things for different Londoners.
TimeOut London will inevitably have the bulk of activities, and even some great discounts and deals. Londonist is great for area-specific activities, for example, if you wanted an area guide to Blackheath, they have it. London On The Inside is for people who like things a little off the beaten track. We dig their 50% Off section for crazy deals on soft openings. Mr Hyde is great because of the different medium – it’s a daily email newsletter you receive on weekdays. Its target audience is largely men, but don’t let that stop ya.
Nike+ Run Club
Want to meet new people and work on yer fitness? You efficient thing, you. Whether you’re a beginner or heading for your first Iron Man, the Nike+ Run Club gets runners together for an endorphin-filled prowl around London-town. Make sure you limber up!
YPlan / Dojo
If you’re the spontaneous type, you might want to check these two apps out. They are both event apps that’ll curate events around your area. Think Tinder, but for experiences insteads. YPlan and Dojo both have similar merits: in-app ticket purchases, sorting by categories and price etc. It all will come down to which one’s user experience you prefer – so why not try both, aye.
Last, but certainly not least, Funzing activities will help you unleash your quirky side. There’s something for every budget and every kind of interest. Wanna try aerial silk acrobatics? They’ve got a class for that. Wanna try beer yoga? They’ve got a class for that. They’ve also recently launched their series of lectures called ‘LDN Talks’, so you can make friends and get educated at the same time.
Whatever you choose to do pals, we hope that this piece, and this entire guide, will help you make London feel like home. Let’s paint the town red.
Thinking about moving to London? Make sure you check out the rest of our ultimate guide to moving to London as a graduate right here.
Stock images via Unsplash.