I read an email from one of our fab-oo-luss readers and it’s definitely worth sharing. I’ve been through this, and I know from past comments and emails that some of our readers have, too.
The question is:
How do you connect with your English man’s friends?
Here’s the email in it’s entirety:
Dear Yankeebean and all you lovely ladies from SNFY,
I’m having a slight problem with English culture I was hoping you might help me with over a blog post.
I’m an American doing my MA in London, and met a really great English guy shortly after I arrived. We’ve been dating 9 months now. He’s from London and doing his MA here as well, although at a different uni. My question for you is how to connect with his English friends. I’ll tell you more back-story so you can better understand my predicament.
My boyfriend’s close friends are mainly from his undergrad time, and although they all live in London, they don’t see each other very often, but when they do, they all get together for a huge gathering of about 15 people. They are all really close and more than half of them are actually dating each other. I’ve come along to about four of these gatherings now, and I’m having a hard time getting to know them, as they don’t make much effort to get to know me, and I’m quite shy as it is. Usually what happens is that they arrive, ask me the obligatory ‘How are you? How’s uni?” questions and then all talk together in a group about English topics I know nothing about, or reminisce about old university times. Other significant others who come along don’t seem to have this problem, as they aren’t afraid to chime in on the topics about England, whereas I have no idea what they are talking about. Even when I’ve spoken to a few of them one-on-one, which is usually easier, I’m the one doing all the effort, asking them all the questions about themselves (Although I must say, this is usually more true for my conversations with the women than with the men.) I guess my question is, is there some sort of unspoken English rule about how to actually converse in large groups in England? Any advice on how to get past the “How are you?” stage? I realize that it’s always hard being the newcomer at a gathering of old friends, but I thought that by the fourth time meeting them and 9 months into dating him, his friends would be making more of an effort to get to know the girl he’s crazy about. It wasn’t even until last time that one thought to ask where I’m from in the States!
Since I’m a student in London, most of the people I’ve met are actually foreigners as well, so I really haven’t had much experience with English social norms. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now whenever I miss home, and always laugh at your insight into English behaviour. I’ve even just bought “Watching the English” on your recommendation. I was hoping it would arrive in time for me to prepare for the last get together (it was yesterday), but it didn’t I did start reading it today, though, and already found that I’ve been going about talking about the weather all wrong this whole time!
Thanks again for the great blog. Love it!
And here it is again – that age old question, “How the FLIPPING HECK am I supposed to talk to new English acquaintances??”. I feel for you, NotLongInLondon, I really do. I’ve been there. In fact, I’m tempted to buy property there since I visit so often…
There’s a post by one of our guest authors, Redilocks, about just this topic – How to Make Friends and Influence People (English Style). It’s a step-by-step guide about how to meet English people without scaring the shite out of them with your natural American-ness. In fact, it was after I read this post that I started complimenting English women when I first met them. IT TOTALLY WORKS. I still get the odd alien laser death glare, but they’re much less common these days…
But if you want proof that you’re already doing a grand job of working your way in to your boyfee’s UK crowd, read this comment from a past post. One of our readers, Michelle, remains the victim of the rudest and most unbelievable encounter that I’ve ever heard of between an American and an English woman. After you read Michelle’s experience, I know you’ll feel better about your attempts, because it sounds like it’s actually going pretty well for you.
My final word of advice, and my own person attack in situations where I can’t seem to turn the tide in my favour is this. Channel your inner ninja, sit, and listen. Don’t worry about talking or chiming in, just sit back and observe what’s going on. If you have something to say, go for it, but don’t stress about it. I think the ultimate key to hanging out with an already-established group of Brits is time, time, and more time. Just keep going back, be patient, and you’ll wear ‘em down soon enough. :)