Moving to a new place can be both exciting and intimidating, especially if you’re moving to a place where you’ve never lived before and thus do not know anyone.
When I first moved to London, I was lucky enough to have one of my favorite childhood friends welcome me and introduce me to his circle of friends. The challenge? They were all guys doing PhDs in finance so after a while I started to miss having girlfriends for casual mid-week happy hour appreciation and weekend brunches. I missed having my Manchester squad, with which I could discuss everything from job search to “what should I reply to his last message”.
As I’ve discussed in the blog before, I’ve been blessed with a very tight, happy work family. At that time though, I was only a newbie and, even though everyone was kind and friendly towards me, it was easy to see that this was limited to office hours and that everyone had their own lives and social circles after work, as they’ve been living in London for a fairly long time.
What is a girl to do, you might ask. Despite feeling slightly embarrassed at the beginning, I decided to download Bumble. Now, Bumble is mainly known as the female-friendly Tinder, where women are expected to make the first move. What most people might not know is that it has a BFF extension, which works similarly to the dating one: you set the distance and age limit (have you noticed that even though a partner’s age can be a make it or break it issue, we never give a second thought about friends’ age? Weird, huh.), and then the swapping begins. I prefer BFF as it has more relaxed and humorous vibes; everyone seems keen to talk but without the pressure to impress one another. It feels more like a safe space when you can be your geeky, spontaneous, over-excited, feminist self. [Having recently been dumped for being dumped for being a feminist, this comes from my own hard-earned experience.]
Why would I feel embarrassed for actively trying to make new friends? Once again, I believe that deep down it’s a feeling that derives from the culture in which I was born and raised: in Greece, you’re expected to make new friends at school or uni, and to make new acquaintances through your existing circle of friends. These friends you carry with you throughout your life. I’m the only one from my childhood/high school friends who moved abroad – and has since been leading a nomadic existence, so starting in a new city with a completely blank slate is an experience no one from my friends back home can relate to. I thus felt that my using Bumble would look anti-social or odd.
I was afraid that I was going to be judged – “why can you make friends in real life?” Truth is, I’m a self-proclaimed introvert who has trained herself to a sensible level of doing small talk (with British people being the ultimate goal) and to network sensibly. At the same time, I’m not the kind of person who would strike a conversation at the gym or in the tube. It has happened but it was the other person taking the initiative. Moreover, after leaving uni, I realised something that real-word adulting lacked something that students take for granted: the countless opportunities to meet new people and socialize, paired up with the abundant free time, flexible schedules and daily interaction. Assuming that you’ve exhausted the chances to strike friendships a) in your work environment, b) through friends of friends, and c) friends you’ve know from back home, however far away that might be, how else can you meet new people?
Another thing that I love about Bumble BFF is that it also allows me to find people that have same interests and/or hobbies as I. Although I love my friends, it’s sometimes challenging to find someone who loves looking at modern art as much as I do, even if it just to question it, understands the value of a non-fuss, old-school cocktail, or is keen to exchange podcast recommendations all night long.
Fast forward to today, that feeling of embarrassment has turned into gratefulness. I was inspired to write this post by one of my closest friends leaving London to start a new, exciting chapter of her life in Switzerland. She’s the first girlfriend that I made in London and we met through Bumble BFF a short couple months after I moved here. Besides a brunch buddy, I found someone who inspired me with her motivation, grit and fearlessness, and talked me into trying new things I would have never attempted by myself before. Talk about taking a leap and landing safely.
In my 25 things I learned in 25 years post that I published on my last birthday, I’ve listed “network in unconventional ways”. Bumble BFF has been one of them and I’m always keen to return to the app, mainly since it brings me in touch with amazing people I would not have met in a million years with London being the large, bottomless pond that it is. I have friends who prefer websites like meetup, reading clubs or groups for running, and so on. Still, most of us, feel a bit awkward talking about it openly, as if there’s still a stigma around meeting people online. With dating apps, social media and websites being the norm nowadays, I do not see why not we could not be pursuing friendship through them as well. As long as it makes us happy, why not?
What are you thoughts about networking in unconventional ways? If you moved in a new place recently, how do you set about making new friends?
Networking (as always),