Last 4th of July I had only been in London about 3 weeks.  I was still shell-shocked and adjusting to my new life.  My furniture hadn't even arrived yet.  The Canadian and I spent the day at a fellow expat bloggers house having a grand time - in spite of the crappy weather (the sun did come out briefly but it was still pretty chilly) and eating fabulous food.

This year we decided to have a belated 4th of July party at our place on Saturday (the 7th), since, obviously, we didn't have the day off.  The weather was crappy again, but it was fun to be surrounded by amazing people and laughing a lot (a nice change from the norm.)

I must say, though, it was a bit strange to be celebrating our independence from England, while living in England. Especially as someone who, on both sides of my family, has numerous ancestors who were signers of the Declaration of Independence.  It felt a bit like it was a betrayal.  Fortunately, these days, the wars between America and England are long over and a bunch of good-humored expats from all over the world indulged a few Americans in celebrating the 4th.  As it happens, the party wound up being a bit of the United Nations as well, which was really quite fun.

The guest nationalities were as follows:
6 Americans
1 dual Canadian/American
1 Scot
4 Canadians
1 dual English/Australian
1 Maltese
1 dual Swedish/Portuguese (Madeiran Portuguese that is...)
2 South Africans

I had this vision when I moved here that I would acquire all of these English friends and I would meld seamlessly into the culture...but, that is not the case.  I used to feel frustrated that I couldn't find English friends (I have two -- both of whom were introduced to me by other people -- i.e. friends of friends) but I've learned to just find my friends where I can. 

It was funny too, because I wound up having a conversation with a Londoner (a friend of my sister's...she was in town) about my struggle.  He couldn't seem to process what I was saying, when I explained my struggle to find English friends.  He kept trying to tell me what I was doing wrong...the conversation went something like this:

T: How long have you lived here?
Me: Right at a year.
T: How are you liking it
Me: Well, like any expat experience there's good and bad...the city and the culture are amazing. I love the UK and the scenery and the small towns.  I love being so close to Europe. But, I struggle with finding friendships with the locals and I'd love to do more of that.
T: Well, do you have hobbies?  Maybe you can find people in your hobbies?
Me: Yes, well, my hobbies are reading, swimming and yoga...and travel.  So, somewhat solitary, which is certainly part of the problem, but I do try and get to groups to meet other people.
T: Well, have you tried x, y, z etc. etc.? 

Note: at this point in the conversation I was thinking...here I am, explaining to a good friend of my sister's (this guy stayed with my sister and brother-in-law for 3 weeks, is a published author, wrote a book about his experience in the U.S. -- AND his wife is American!!) and I'm sitting here telling him with all sorts of vulnerability that I'm struggling to find English friends, and he's pointing out what I'm doing wrong....instead of saying "My God, I am so sorry.  If I had known you were here, I would have taken you around to meet some of my friends.  In fact!! I'm having a party on Friday -- why don't you and your husband come?  Here, here's my number, let's have coffee", which is what I would have done -- and almost any reasonable American I know (crazies excluded).

And that, my friends, is the difference.  And it's not just America -- my Canadian friends are exactly the same way.  The moment I met them they immediately included me in every gathering.  And the South African ones.  And the Swedish/Portuguese.  Pretty much all of them.  And that's why my party was so international instead of local.  I would LOVE to have more English friends.  But when I meet them and talk to them, it appears to be a single instance -- and there are no "let's get together next week for coffee" or "you guys should totally go to this art opening with me and my wife"...except for my two friends whom I met through my good friends.  And I feel like maybe it's only because I was vetted first? 

Nonetheless, in spite of this horribly cold and wet summer, a large group of expats ate a lot of Tex-Mex and BBQ, and Peach Cobbler and Apple Pie.  And it felt a little bit like home.
Jess
7/9/2012 08:14:45 pm

I don't know why we do this, but it's true. We're a lot more reserved about letting others into our social circles and I don't even think it's a conscious thing. Some weird combination of reserve and politeness.

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7/10/2012 03:37:34 am

wow you hit the nail on the head for how the french act too! they suggest all sorts of clubs to join to meet friends, but never once say "hey - let's hang out next week and I'll introduce you to some people." despite not having many French friends, it is great to hang with American expats and enjoy peach cobbler together

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Alegria
7/10/2012 11:58:25 pm

That's very true, but it's also more pronounced in London. To this day, the majority of my friends in the UK are ex-pats. That being said, once you do become friends with a local, in my experience you'll be friends for life. To the contrary, I find it SUPER easy to make friends in the US, but the majority of the time it's turned out to be very superficial and it's only after playing friends for a few months that I've realized we have absolutely nothing in common and it ends like a bad first date! This has happened quite a few times so being reserved has it's advantages too!

In the long run, making lasting friendships is the objective, but I have to admit when you strike out on your own, it is definitely easier when other people reach out to you even if it doesn't go beyond a beer or two!

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7/11/2012 12:27:31 am

A girlfriend of mine from Dublin (who is visiting the LPV this weekend!!) moved to London two years ago and she has found it to be the same way. She feels like it's very hard to 'get in' and her fiance is even English! It's crazy.

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7/15/2012 03:34:55 am

Your party was incredible! Thank you so much for inviting us and for the yummy food. I remember announcing rather gleefully last year that I'd been in the country four years and had finally cracked an invitation to an English person's house. It is ridiculous.

So today is your big day! Hope it's going well and enjoy your time away next week. You're off to France, right?

it was a bit strange to be celebrating our independence from England, while living in England.

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M
7/27/2012 10:25:31 pm

I think that your perception might be distorted from living in London, and really, the south in general. All of my (many) British friends say, the further north you go, the friendlier people tend to be. I'm in the East Midlands, from Boston originally, and honestly, it isn't so different here from home. People are reserved, but kind, and in the three years I've been here, I've made quite a lot of local friends - I definitely have more local friends than expat/non-UK friends. I think the problem with London is that there are too many people to begin with, it's too frantic and expensive, and everyone is too busy trying to manage their own lives.

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