When a friendship ends (British Style)

Posted on May 5, 2011 by peacefulyorkshire


Our post How to make friends and Influence People (British Style!) has always been one of our most visited pages–can you believe it has had over 200,000 hits? But lately I have had the opposite problem: What happens when you decide a friendship needs to end with a person?  And how about if this person is British? I bring it up because  this topic runs parallel to Yankeebean’s latest posts where she has had to ‘unfriend’ some Brits on her FB page … the only difference is that I am trying to figure out this one ‘off-line’.

Margaret was my first official British friend ; I even wrote about the early stages of our relationship because it was such a new exciting experience. Unlike some of my American friendships, we didn’t ‘click’ straight away, nor did we immediately became ‘soul-sistahs’ confessing our deepest secrets about life. Even after 3 years, and even with being a part of her wedding day. I accepted this, but I can’t lie, it did  bother me that we never seemed to get beyond the work we shared into a deeper way of connecting, but I had hopes it would happen— some day.  And  heck, after living in the UK  for 7 years I know that things like friendship have different ways of developing and even fulfilling different aspects of life.

The thing is, after Margaret was married, she started to do some quite strange and hurtful things in our friendship. One day after 6 months of not saying anything about it , I decided it was time, because I was tired of pretending everything was ok.  And I didn’t do it in a round about way either, I just let it spew out, unabashed–everything–how much she had hurt me, how I was worried about her uncharacteristic behaviour, how disappointed that I was that she would act in this manner. Trust me readers,  It wasn’t pretty, and there  was no way it was gonna be. Lump it or leave it, it was honestly how I felt and it needed to be addressed.

Looking back, sure I could have done it differently, might have ‘planned it all out’ in a long letter, might have done it in a way that is more ’roundabout- let’s- not- be- too- direct -about- this’, Or perhaps I could have even just  ‘disappeared’ and ignored her forever. But I didn’t want to play those games.

The result? Erm, well,  she refused to have any contact with me and  ignored me for 3 months.

After a series of  apologies on my end for hurting her feelings in anyway explaining what I was trying to do, I tried to make things right. Offered to meet to chat about it, offered to talk on phone. Offered my future first born son as a sacrifice to show her I wanted to continue. (Ok, you get the point) Despite this she has decided she can never see me again.—- Ok let’s press the pause button here—Yankeebean and I don’t like to share too many  personal stories on this blog , and the only reason I write this here is because it turned into the whole ‘American- British thing’— Okay back to the story…now, then, this was her last email to me:

‘I don’t think that I can ever see you again or forgive you for this. I don’t know how friendships work in America, because I have never had an American friend besides you, nor have even been to America.  In this country (referring to England, of course) you don’t talk to friends about issues like this unless you were intending on ending our friendship, because that means that you do no accept who I am. You need to learn that. You would not have even brought these things up if you were British, we don’t do that here…’

Yikes folks, all of a sudden this wasn’t about me, it was about my nationality. My heritage became the biggest flaw in this horribly awkward situation.
I began to really ponder: Is this really about me being an American or is she using it as a way to insult me and make me feel bad? Is it true that friendships between American and British person might have a set of rules that one needs to follow?

Look, I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that  If  I can’t be honest with my friends then it just isn’t going to work. You know, regardless of nationalities I am proud that I stuck to my guns (oh my gosh, I referenced guns! I really must be American…!! ) by being  true to my self.  And Isn’t that the most important thing anyway? Kinda  reminds me of the lyrics to the song by Frank Sinatra….

To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way


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What Others Are Saying

  1. Lia June 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm

     I’ve known quite a few Brits and none of them have ever behaved this way. I don’t know what your situation was referring to but it doesn’t sound like she’s “pulling the nationality card” so to speak. It sounds like you overstepped your boundaries for the level of intimacy your relationship with her afforded (ie: you weren’t that close of least not close enough to “attack” the friendship in such a way, obviously).

    In my experience, I made my personality known up front. So when I was direct, my British friends expected it from me because they knew how I was from the get-go.

    Anyway, sounds to me like you criticized her and your friendship rather than offered constructive criticism and her reaction was in direct correlation to this “attack.” This is no different in the States as it is in England. If you directly say “You know, what *YOU* did really hurt my feelings” it will only heighten the defensiveness of the other person. Besides, sounds to me like her personality doesn’t allow for soul-searching, “deep” conversations or anything that puts her behavior under a microscope.

    So, I don’t think “she made it all about [your] nationality and not about [you],” as you said. I think she was saying that how you approached it was unacceptable to her and her circle of overly reserved friends. I don’t know her  so she could have been using your nationality to insult you (she could have been). But I have a feeling that you might have always made a big deal about your nationality and being American in England (hence this blog), and so, she brought up your nationality b/c of the attention you always gave it and how it “defined” who you were,  (and this a purely an assumption so I very well could be wrong but that’s how it sounds to me).

    Anyway, it’s no skin off your back. Sounds to me like she wasn’t much of a friend to begin with so it’s her loss. There are plenty of grounded, down-to-Earth British people. Best to skip out on friendships with these stick-in-the-mud types and cater to friendships more on par with who you are. Good luck.

    P.S. sorry for this long diatribe.

  2. Sarah June 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I’ve had the same experience about nationality not mattering (been in the UK 3 years) but I wonder if it mattered to her and she was constantly aware of the differences.  Maybe because you didn’t really click, she would always say to herself “Well, that’s because she’s American” or “Maybe that’s how they do things in America”  whereas most normal people just think “She is different from me”.  Then when something she didn’t expect happened she immediately went to her pat excuse.  And added spikes. Poisonous spikes.

    Just a thought.

  3. Nicolebarbosa85 May 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Hiya! Thanks for your post.  I have been living in Yorkshire for almost three years and have found making friends, especially girlfriends, rather difficult. I blame it a bit on my bubbly Texan personality that can be a bit much for some people, but surely after almost three years, I should have found some girls keen to stay friends past university.

  4. Louise May 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I can see both sides of this situation, being a Brit who has lived in the US for the last 16 years (and felt as out of place here as you sometimes do in the UK). What to you seemed like an honest and friendly ‘clearing the air’ session, to her might have felt like quite a shock. I know among my British friends, conversations like that one just don’t happen. It would be healthier if they did sometimes, but they don’t.

    I am now planning  return to the UK and I am loving your blog because it helps me see where I might fall down. I’ve never become “American,” despite my best attempts but I’ve definitely changed and I’m sure some of my behavior will seem very foreign when we get back home. Glad I found your blog!

    • Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Louise,
      Welcome to our blog!
      Yep, I completely agree with you about seeing  both sides of the situation, we were both having culture shock that day, it just didn’t pan out sadly… :(

       I would love to hear about your experiences as a Brit in America. We are always on the lookout for guest bloggers, so if you ever wanna share…..? Or any of you Ladies, we love hearing about your side of the story. :)

  5. Jess May 11, 2011 at 1:29 am

    WOW, Im glad to hear this isn’t a nationality thing or my dreams of living in the UK are down the drain. Im a pretty straightforward person too and I probably would have done the same thing (probably sooner actually). Sorry it ended the way it did and it did sound like the nationality thing was just an excuse, might be of lil consulation but least you know who’s your friend now.

    • Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Hi jess, thanks for your lovely comment! Another friend of mine sent me this lil’ quote and I thought it was really good, it is along the lines of knowing who is important in your life…
      Dr. Seuss said it best ::
      Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind

  6. jenny May 9, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    sounds to me that what we have here is a woman who has never had a true friend before….she clearly doesn’t recognize them when she sees one. sad.

  7. notjustawife May 6, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Amen, Tilly Bud. I have many friends here in the UK of a few nationalities and I have never been referred to as the “American” nor do I refer to them as the “English or British”.
    Friendship is a two way street and honesty is what should keep you friends because if they won’t tell you the truth who will?
    I think this was just an escape route for her and for you to keep apologising oh no let it go now, you are much better off with true friends.

  8. Karen May 6, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Well as a true Brit Yorkshire girl, I do say it as it is when it comes to friendships – but I also expect others to give it to me straight! I appreciate my friends honesty and actually like being accountable to those around me as they ‘see’ things in me that I can’t always see!!

    I do believe you do ‘click’ with certain people that are meant to be in your life and its just easy to be around them, plus they are the ones who will walk with you through thick and thin (not particularly referring to weight here ladies!).

    I’ve always tried as you did to go the extra mile and find out when I do upset someone what I’ve done, I always want to make things right if at all possible but some people just seem to want to miss out on all the fun they could have if they were around me !! Can you believe it – who in their right mind would not want to be my friend.

    The song from Jungle Book just popped in my head…. I love this… ahhhh

    So like most things in life – do your best, learn from it and as Dory says ‘just keep swimming’

    All the best Karen
    ex-Yorkshire-pat living in Manchester who loves anyone from anywhere… well sort of :o )

    • Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      HI Karen, those videos were great :)

  9. yankeebean May 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Amen, Tilly Bud!!

  10. Tilly Bud May 6, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I’m British. I don’t recognise this behaviour. She is using it as an excuse to end the friendship. Trust me: we Brits let friendships fade away; force our hand and we say it’s your fault. Anything else is embarrassing.

    Sounds to me like she’s done you a favour: why be friends with someone who lets you do all the work and the worrying?

  11. yankeebean May 5, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I almost wish you could take your apologies BACK after she behaved like such a childish noob. I honestly can’t believe she boiled it down to something so asinine.

    I ALSO can’t believe she says the things she says about Brits – it’s not exactly complimentary stuff and she’s ENGLISH for God’s sake! When she says ‘We don’t do that here’ is she referring to being honest??

    Huff huff huff…

  12. Jocelyn Nelson May 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I suspect this wasn’t about you being American at all, rather just a way she was trying to get back at you for hurting her feelings. I have lots of British friends and my nationality has hardly ever come up after the initial explanation of why I am here. I doubt any of my British friends ever even think about my nationality because they know me as an individual, not “the American”. I don’t think there is much difference between American and British friendships, people are just people and they either click or they don’t.

  13. Ann May 5, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Good for you! You should have stuck to your guns. I think this woman is trying to find a “reason” that’s easy to dislike your friendship rather than face up to the fact that she wasn’t being a good friend. Put any other word in the place of “American” in your story such as “black” or “white” or “Australian” and you have an ugly truth staring us in the face; her prejudice. However, when people are upset they latch onto the very thing that a TRUE friend wouldn’t even see; your size, your age, your nationality. I wouldn’t take it as an insult to nationality as much as she is manipulating you with her feelings.

    Take the example of our marriage to British men. Is our nationality an issue with our underlying friendship and intimacy with our husbands? It would seem not since they married us and probably like us for the very reason perhaps British women hate us; our openness, our honesty, our ability to tell it like it is. In fact, I believe it’s 10 times easier to have a close British male friend here than a female friend. The women, I’ve found, are friendly on the surface, but will turn on you in a heartbeat, hold you up to ridicule, and all sorts of things that take one by surprise.

    So as far as friendship rules go, perhaps they do have a criteria. I would hope decency would override that.

    Keep your chin up and be glad you noticed perhaps what was hidden and you dealt with it as you saw fit!

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