American Women’s Clubs in Britain: Do they just eat cake?

Posted on May 25, 2010 by peacefulyorkshire


Ok so the blog post title is unfair. I’ve seen pictures of women’s clubs in ‘American in Britain Magazine’* also wearing some pretty adorable fashionable feather-infused hats. Oh, and also daintily drinking tea. You can see what I mean here,where there are some stylin’ laydehs.

Have you ever been tempted to join one as a newcomer, my fellow Americans in Britain?

Have you ever considered shelling out your dough for some ‘instant’ Expat American friends?

I set out to do a little mission to see what it would cost to join. I counted 21 American Women’s clubs listed on this fair island, and two examples:

1)The Chilterns American Women’s Club- “CAWC is a network of friendly faces, all of whom were ready to help with my adjustment to the expatriate lifestyle.” (This will cost you £50 a year). 

  • Newcomer Coffees
  • Holiday Charity Bazaar
  • Trunk or Treat
  • Winter Luncheon
  • Spring English Morning Tea
  • Charity Cheque Presentation
  • Summer Luncheon Cruise on the Thames

2) For a whopping £105 a year you can join the American Women’s Club of London whose previous programs include:

  • Bridging the cultural gap- two lands separated by a common language
  • Christie’s Auction House – Famous women and their jewellery collections
  • Flower arranging ideas for the Fall and Holiday season
  • Chocolate tasting with the official chocolate taster of Fortnum & Mason

But cost aside, and if you can afford this type of thing in these Aldi-lovin’ Credit Crunch times, does being an Expat automatically make you bond foreveh with other Americans? I can honestly say from experience that it is NO for me personally. I mean, although it is nice to chit chat about how damn annoying American tourists can be when they talk loudly and wear fanny packs, and how the weather can suck, and of course raising money for charity is thoughtful. But after that….well,  there needs to be some kind of other connection, right?

    What are your thoughts, ladies? Are you in any paid  ‘American Women in Britain’ clubs? If so, what have your experiences been? Please share so I can stop being so sceptical…

    * One of the benefits of running SNFY with PacificBird and Yankeebean are the perks, like this magazine we get complimentary, thank you very much.

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Debbie February 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I moved to Aberdeen, Scotland 6 months ago from New Orleans. Before moving and from across the pond, I had made about 3 American women friends through the American Women’s Association of Aberdeen. I was contacted by these women when they found out I was moving. Long story short, within 3 days of our arrival to the UK, my husband and I met a handful of people who took us out, showed us the town, and became the closest friends we’ve ever made. Not only have these friends been amazing, but the Association puts on plenty of activities to keep us busy so we are not thinking about how far away from home we are. Aberdeen is not very large, and the locals don’t reach out like in other cities. No one ihas reached out to my husband at his Aberdeen office. We would not have made any friends if it weren’t for the AWA.
    Now, we are about to move to London. I know London will be a great city to live in, but I am worried that we will not be able to find friends that will become the support we need while away from home. I am considering joining an expat group in London because the city is so large. Neither of us are the go-getters when it comes to making friends.
    If you have any suggestions for two 30 year olds with no kids who likes outdoor activities, traveling and having a good time, I would love some help.
    I know this post is years old, but how did you adjust to life in a new country without an organization?
    Thanks for reading!

  2. Frank Paterson March 17, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Our Rotary charity project could be interesting to any expat from North America who would welcome an all expenses paid visit from friends or relations to Yorkshire.
    No harm in looking!!!

  3. Jack London November 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    i’m the “instant expat”type, I guess. I wish I could belong a little bit more. I’ve thought about these “society” things. but it reminds so much of a david berman’s (Silver Jews lead singer) poem, Blue Arrangements . . . which in turn makes me homesick : (

    I see you gracefully swimming with the country club women
    in the Greenwood southside society pool.
    I love your amethyst eyes and your protestant thighs
    you’re a shimmering socialite jewel

  4. Michelle June 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

    In my experience, the American Women’s Clubs are generally for expat wives whose husbands work at big companies, who are between 35-65, and who don’t have a full-time job outside of the home themselves.

    They are more useful, I think, to women who have moved to countries where English is not the main language and to cultures that are really quite different and hard to figure out (like Malaysia, Brazil, etc.) than they are to American women who move to English-speaking countries like the UK.

    They are definitely a networking, country-club-esque, cake-eating, flower-arranging-classes, not-having-a-job-outside-of-the-home type of thing. And like someone said above, there isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s all about what you want your life to be like, whom you want to meet, what your priorities are, what your husband expects, what his company expects, and so on.

    When I lived in Germany the first time, the local American Women’s Club was really useful and important to a lot of the American women I knew there. It helped them deal with living in a country where they didn’t know the language and didn’t want to try to learn the language. It gave them a lot of practical information as well as a social resource. However, I was young and single and not in a corporate situation, so it wasn’t something I felt drawn to. The second time I lived in Germany, I was in a corporate situation and spent all my time at work, so I had no time to do anything social; I was also still youngish and single, so the AWC wasn’t really my first choice for my free time.

    In the UK, I joined the American Society of London one year, and I did that specifically to be able to go to the 4th of July party at the American ambassador’s house in Regent’s Park, which I did later that year. That experience then got me asked out and taken on a date by the first cousin of a famous princess. :-) I think it cost 10 pounds to join – not bad for a year’s worth of activities. In the group, I met a lot of American corporate and political couples, mainly between 40 and 70, who were very well-off financially, who had children, etc. I was in my 20s then, single, not well-off financially, so they were polite to me but I wasn’t welcomed into any of their circles, nor did I want to be. I enjoyed the mingling and the museum visits and barbeques and what-not, but I didn’t join for a second year.

    I also looked up the 2 American Women’s Clubs in London – they are in Chelsea and St. John’s Wood, I think, but never got around to joining – I was very busy with work, and my idea of experiencing the UK was not to hang around a lot of Americans who were there on 3-year corporate assignments, whom I probably wouldn’t have been friends with back in the US if we’d met each other there, and who mainly wanted to know how to source Oreos and real chocolate chips (this is before your time ladies; when those were scarce in the UK!) and lament not having walk-in closets and a bathroom attached to each bedroom in their 5-bedroom houses in Hampstead.

    Clubs like this can be really helpful, friendly, and important to some women who move overseas, and I don’t knock them at all. I often recommend them to women who are accompanying their husbands on expat assignments. I think they are unfortunately geared to only one section of the expat world, and it can sometimes feel like they leave out younger women, single women, women who work outside the home, less-well-off women, etc., but you can’t be all things to all people, and they fulfill a niche and a need in certain areas of the world.

  5. Yorkshire Yank May 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I am involved in activities/groups that revolve around subjects that I’m interested in.

    I wouldn’t join a group simply because all the people in it are all women or all Americans.

  6. Kristin May 27, 2010 at 10:21 am

    It took me the better part of a year to set up a social circle in Scotland, and most of my girlfriends are via my husband’s job (though I’ve made a hell of an effort with the ones I ‘clicked’ with – started a book group, monthly supperclubs, etc.). I don’t think it’s intentional, but people have their social circles firmly established, and that leaves little room for newbies. I’ve lived in 6 European countries and the UK has been the most difficult place to find friends.

    My experience of American Women’s Clubs in the other places I’ve lived isn’t great; the events I’ve attended tended to be similar to Country Club events in my hometown (discussions of holiday homes, husband’s promotions, where little Susie is going for summer camp, etc.). A nice place to network, but as previously mentioned, matching accents doth not necessarily mean matching interests.

  7. Rachel May 27, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Perhaps I’m the only one, but I say….”Let them eat cake!” There are no clubs where I live and on my current student budget, I cetainly couldn’t afford one this year, but what’s the harm? If I were working and making my salary, and 50 quid stood between me and the possibility of making some friends that might have something in common with me — well I’d hop on that in a red-hot minute. Afterall, that is really just the equivalent of a pair of bluejeans (20 quid), and one grocery trip. The economy is difficult — sure — but I’ve felt just how hard these first six months of living overseas has been. Sure, I have a lovely boyfriend and have been busy with school, but there really is no substitute for time with the gals, or a good girlfriend. When you look at the cost of airfare back home (especially these days with the BA strike and the volcano surcharges), 50 quid to become established and rooted with friends doesn’t seem so extreme to me. (Well, for someone with a job, that is. I’ll just go back to eating my student-y beans-on-toast now.)

  8. yankeebean May 26, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I went to one meeting when I first moved to Bristol, but meetings were all during the day AND during the week. It was all my-husband-supports-me ladies, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I work my friggin’ arse off to pay my rent :) No weekly cake-eating sessions for me!

  9. Lis May 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Well, I will be moving to Bristol, England in a few months and I considered trying to find an American Expat group. But I’m not about to pay money to drink tea and eat cake with people. I’d rather just make friends and form my own little support system. I’m with Alisha, I’m sure other Americans will pick up my accent in a crowd. Haha.

  10. alisha May 26, 2010 at 6:14 am

    I never even knew these things existed actually, so I guess the temptation was never really there. Plus, I could hardly afford going out to dinner in London, let alone a friend club, so probably wouldn’t have joined. I didn’t have a friend making strategy, but was fortunate to work with and come across an excellent slew of people.

    As far as making American friends, usually I just had a magnet on for other Americans and could pick up a Yankee twang miles away. Then I’d attack them for friendship. :)

  11. Kathryn May 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I’ve never been tempted to join, although I have found myself at a loss as to how to meet other women, in particular. I’m not particularly interested in sorting my friends by nationality so the concept of expat women’s clubs seems strange and archaic to me. I’d be really interested to know how other expat women went about making friends generally.

  12. Jocelyn May 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I have thought about joining one of these clubs but I never could really find one near me in the Leeds/ York area. It reminds me of about ten years ago when I was a nanny in Stockholm how my employers were so excited to introduce me to a friend of theirs because he was American. It was a bit like- yeah, we’re both American but I am 19 from CA and he is like 50 from some other state. Nationality was the only thing in common- a bit awkward.
    Before I had children, I did struggle to find British friends. Most I met at work or were partners of my husbands friends. After having children though, I now have a large circle of British friends who are also mums. We have children of a same age and live near each other and that is what bonds us, not nationality.

  13. kenandbelly May 25, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Okay, so, I was a member of a club for the partners of the graduate program that brought us to the UK. It was not just Americans by any means, it was highly international so it’s not exactly the same thing. I mean, we would go to coffee mornings and have conversations in English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian running simultaneously. Our common ground was having student partners; I suppose the American label of these clubs provides at least a minimal level of common ground. That club was HUGE for me and for all of us– we helped one another figure out how to work British appliances, where to get the groceries we wanted, how to get to XYZ on public transit. We were student spouses so we weren’t like, cruising the Thames on a regular basis, but coffee mornings and various minor holiday celebrations did anchor our meetings. The experience gives me a lot of sympathy towards those expats who don’t land in the UK with a ready-made cohort and a lot of questions and new things to get a handle on. It’s nice to be able to hash these things through with other people who are also figuring out a new system.

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