How does one make friends? By talking to new people. At least this is how things work on paper. In reality, however, it’s easier for you to conquer Poland all by yourself, than to meet and have fun with total strangers. Especially if you have just moved to a new city in a new country.

I envy kids in this regard. They can come up to others with an open heart, say something like, “hey, I like Spider-man. You too? Awesome. Let’s be friends!” and it will work! A phrase like that will earn a playmate for a child.

Imagine yourself, as an adult, walking to someone on the tube and saying something like that! In 9 cases out of 10 someone will call the bobbies on you.

This gap in communication between adults is only widened by the fact that there are cultural differences between us. I have seen far too many people during my time who sincerely try to be friendly to other yet fail miserably, because what you say in London matters as much (if not more) as how you say it.

Red Flags

Before we can proceed to the art of communicating with people who say one thing and mean the polar opposite f what’s been said since birth, it’s best to mention the things you shouldn’t talk about under any circumstances.

Why? Because in London, no one will tell you that you did something wrong. We are too polite for that. We aren’t too polite to not get offended however.

Thus I present to you a list of red flags or, if more simply, things you shouldn’t say to a Londoner.

  • Unless you are Jimmy Carr and you are holding a special in London, please restrain yourself from offensive, sexist, racist or otherwise insensitive commentary. What may seem like an innocent joke to you is a very big deal in a multicultural, cosmopolitan city like London. London is a hot, steaming pot of diversity with nearly a half of our population coming from countless countries as well as cultures. We like our city that way so please, do your best to respect the freedoms of others.
  • Let’s faced. We, the British, are all wretched snobs. No, seriously, we are. This means that we will judge you based on everything you do or say. One of the more crucial factors is your schooling. Don’t get this wrong. We are not speaking IQ, wisdom or intellect here. Just plain old textbook knowledge. If there is a fact, a historical figure, or a quote you wish to mention, make sure you get it right. If you are not 100% sure it’s best that you keep that thought to yourself because you can bet your last pair of socks on the fact that a British guy will know “the technically correct answer”. By the way, we are totally fine with people asking stuff, so don’t be shy.
  • We’d rather you not to talk about WWII. This is a very sensitive matter that has left an aching scar on our entire nation. Yes, we know that not every corner of the world was touched by the monstrosities of the Third Reich and we realize that there are people who can treat WWII more lightly than we do. That’s ok. Good for you. Just don’t bring up the subject unless you are 100% sure that your British acquaintance wishes to talk about the horrific events from the past.
  • The last one is to you, dear Americans. We are not the ones with the “funny accent” so please, pretty please, don’ you ever-ever say that the way we talk is wrong to a Brit.

The art of conversing

The first thing you should learn about speaking to a British person is the fact that we don’t always say what me mean. When a Londoner says that he or she has nothing to complain I’d run away if I were you. Especially if you are treating yourselves to a pint or two.

Words like “nice”, “fine” or ‘good” never mean what they should when coming out of a Londoner’s mouth. They are, in fact, the polar opposite but we are just too darn polite to call the truth for what it is. “Marvelous”, “great”, “delightful” and “jolly good” are the words meaning that something is OK. Anything less is a horrifying abomination. Get used to this.

Then there’s our unique trademark – sarcasm. We take great pride in the ability to say the stupidest things with the straightest face you’ll ever see on both banks of the river Themes. I even know people who are capable of pulling off a flawless, sarcastic pun even when crying. If that’s not an impressive feat – what is? The safest bet here would be to take everything a Londoner says to you with a grain of salt. You know what they say – better safe than sorry.

I’m surrounded by familiar faces

Now it’s time to cover the most interesting part. Where does one meet new friends in London?

The answer to this question is tricky. You can try talking to a stranger and you’ll even have success if the subject will be one of three: weather, transport being late or sports (speaking of which, it is football, not soccer, because people are actually using their feet to play with a ball and not doing God knows what with a leather egg.). This strategy will work better in a chill environment of a pub over a few pints but, sadly, for the most part you will be hanging out with coworkers, schoolmates, neighbors, people you already knew, etc.

If you really wish to meet and hang out with new people, do what every Londoner does – go online. There are so many websites, apps and resources out there that allow you to spend your time with people who share the same interests as you do. Give them a shot.

Here are a few of them:

  • We3
  • Nextdoor
  • Citysocializer
  • And more. I will make a more detailed review of these and other applications in a later post so stay tuned!
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