Thursday, April 29, 2010

Friends and Acquaintances

This past weekend I went for a picnic on the Heath with a long time friend - we've known each other for decades having spent our childhoods in the Bahamas. She is British and has lived here on and off most of her life. She also spent 4 years in Manhattan getting her Master's Degree so we've maintained our friendship happily for years. Now we're in the same town again -which is great. She's lovely.

I mentioned to her that I was having a difficult time meeting people. I have always been outgoing and make friends easily. I've met several people in my building and have had nice conversations with most of them - I said to two different neighbors, 'We should go and have a drink sometime.' They were both enthusiastic but it's never happened and I never asked again - they are still delightful when I run into them and it's all good. But I really would love to get to know them better.

My friend Tonya said, "That's not how the British do things. My father put this in prospective for me - Americans cannot differentiate between friends and acquaintances. In the US if you meet someone you invite them in and all is good. In Britain it takes more than that. You meet, you see each other a few times, and eventually you can have dinner - THEN you can be friends. It's not instantaneous."

I can see that it's somewhat true. I've made a few British 'friends' so far who have been very welcoming and delightful. But most of the people I'm meeting are American - which is great but I'd like to have more than the ex pat society as my circle of friends. I also would like to have dinner parties and get togethers sooner rather than later.

So I ask you - is this true? I'm trying not to be too eager but I sure would like to get out there more.

13 comments:

  1. My exact thought after reading the first two paragraphs...'That's not how the Brits do it.' So I'm happy that your friend confirmed this. It takes time...even with my husbands family (he's a Brit)...it is part of our cultural difference that I find difficult. However, I will say this...once you've made friends here, they will be friends for life...I've been really blessed by my British friends that have stuck by me no matter which continent I have lived on....something I wish happened more naturally with my American friends. I think we Americans are much more, 'Out of sight, out of mind'.

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  2. Having just moved to Shropshire I had to make friends all over again. It's easier with school I find - you soon find like-minded people if you're willing to chat (and you sound great so I'm sure you could start things off.) Also, I can't be waiting around for friends to come find me so I set up a book club with 7-10 members and a cheese and wine evening every 8 weeks. That's been really great. Good luck.

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  3. I want to start a book club - just don't know who to invite or how. Great idea though! What are you guys reading right now?

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  4. I have already met a couple of like-minded people through my blog, I think it's a great way to get to know someone. Though there has been the initial fear of 'oh my gosh will they really be a lovely 30 year old woman or in reality are they a 60 year old perv in a string vest?'

    No pervs so far!!!

    I just finished reading 'One Half of a Yellow Sun' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (had to google that one!) and loved it very much.

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  5. So true. Not to depress you, but I've been here for six years now and only have a handful of British friends - although I'm finding it much easier as time goes on. Most of my friends are expats, and they have come and gone again. I met an American yesterday and was immediately reminded of how 'easy' it seemed to be to connect with people from the other side of the Pond!

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  6. I found this very true! And still do, even back in the US - I am much friendlier with our neighbors than my British husband, and not because he doesn't like them but it just isn't him. We lived in our flat in London for 2 years and never met our neighbors, until we had our son, and our neighbor above us had one 2 months before me, and only then did we become great friends! You will meet people!

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  7. Years here: 8
    British Friends: 0

    'nuff said

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  8. Yikes - those are really scary number Mike! Would be great to be friendly with some Brits but Americans are mighty fine indeed.

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  9. Hi, here is a Brit's perspective! If a neighbour suggested a drink sometime, I would be very happy and flattered that they would want to make friends, but I would wait for them to follow it up with a firm suggestion. Do you know anything about these neighbours, interests etc? You could strike up conversation that way and then suggest chatting more over a coffee, follow this up by suggesting a day. This isn't necessarily a typical Brit's perspective, it's just how I see it. Good luck!

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  10. I agree with Lucy I see it the same way. Im British and I find Brits to Brits say we will meet up for coffee and never do. Its best to maybe suggest a day and say Hey I am new I would like to meet people and that you are having a coffee morning or somthing similar. Its hard breaking in to new ground, I lived in Spain for a while and it was hard meeting new people other than the ex pats which I didnt want to do. Eventually it worked and I had a norwegian friend hehehe, I think people think you wont be around for long and tend to get put off for some reason. Good luck stick with it xx

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  11. CTP: You have an advantage with children. You'll be associating with a lot of different people--other mothers, schools, etc. My only social outlet is my job.

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  12. I agree with Lucy, too - just give them a proper invitation once they've said yes in principle. Once you've met enough people you know slightly/ to say hello to, you can always throw a party or barbecue and invite them all at once?

    Just because you're the 'visitor' here doesn't mean you can't be the one to do the inviting!

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  13. I'm somewhat dismayed by MikeH 's remarks here, since I have known him a number of years and have always regarded the two of us to be friends. And I'm British!

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Go ahead, make my day!