How do you connect with your English man’s friends? VERY SLOWLY.

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!

Cheers,
NotLongInLondon

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.  :)

Emotional Americans in England look no further…

 

Yeah, we know us 3 gals don’t always keep a steady stream of posts, and we will raise our SURE underarms to be the first to know we’ve been sporadic lately. But, our goal of SNFY even after 2 years  is still the same– we’re always trying to connect and help and  our fellow Americans living in England. We joyously came across this letter to us the other day in our in-box. So, if you are an expat yourself and are interested in meetin’ a lurvely sounding  American laydeh in Sheffield, do get in touch and we will forward her your email.

Hi! After the the most frustrating Christmas ever wherein my husband, new baby, and I ended up without anywhere to go for Christmas dinner because my Yorkshire in-laws didn’t want to “impose” by offering an invitation, I Googled “emotional Americans in England” to see if anyone else could validate my bafflement. I was taken to your blog! Hurrah! Anyway, I am a 38 year old American woman married to a Yorkshireman and living in Sheffield. I’ve just had a baby here in Sheffield. Anyway, are there any American women living in Sheffield who want to go for a drink? I am dying for American company! I don’t know anybody here and whenever I am frustrated by English culture, my husband looks at me as though I am insane. I am starting to believe him. I need some American commiseration in a major way. By the way, before I became imprisoned in Yorkshire, I was an international teacher. I have lived in several other countries and never have I felt so “foreign.”

When random British people (that you’ve only just met) tell you what is wrong with America

yahooavatar15Imagine meeting a British person for the first time. Imagine introducing yourself, answering all the questions that you get asked as a foreigner– like having to tell your “America to England” story for the zillionth time. Now, imagine randomly saying to this British person that you have only just met that people in Britain have  bad teeth. Real, real, bad teeth.That you have never been to a country where people have such bad teeth. That you saw this one 15 year old kid on the train and you COULDN”T believe he had such BAD TEETH. Now I am sure you are horrified about doing that, right? No, that would be so rude!  Plus could you imagine the wrath? It is hard enough making female friends in Britain!

Well, for whatever reason, some British people love to point out America’s flaws to me during our first meeting. Like today–a 6o-ish woman from Harrogate decided to tell me that she had NEVER SEEN so much obesity in her life as when she went to America. That she was on this train where she saw this 15 year old kid and he was SO FAT! That she couldn’t believe how many obese people were in America. That she couldn’t imagine how unhealthy THOSE FAT PEOPLE OVER IN AMERICA are.

Running through my head as Mrs. Harrogate ranted at me: Hello? have you seen all the white muffin tops pouring out of jeans in Leeds City Centre  lately, honey? There are fat people here too, and it seems its getting worse according to obesity reports!”

I wish I were brave enough to say that!  But instead, while smiling politely I said “It is just a different lifestyle there, isn’t it? You must excuse me while I go get some milk for my tea…”

Now then, lovely readers! Why would someone decide to tell me this to me, an American? Am I responsible for America’s obesity? Do I even LIVE IN AMERICA anymore? How would I be an expert about America’s weight issues? (I have enough of my own!). Sometimes I think that I have to defend America all the time, and I am so tired of it. Please tell me that you have to take the ‘blame bullet’ too?

————————————-

P.S.  I don’t really think that all British people have bad teeth. That was used for example purposes only, and is used to represent a silly stereotype that people have of other countries.

P.S.S. I forgot to say that the afore mentioned lady from Harrogate had only visited Florida. And that was it!

P.S.S.S. On a ‘let’s blame America!’ related topic: Why are dinner parties with your British friends so much nicer now that Obama is in the White house? Click here

How To Make Friends and Influence People (English Style!)

redlillocks

Hey lovelies, today we are proud to bring you a guest post by a another American in the UK, who calls herself ‘Redlilocks’– (insert applause!)

A quick introduction… I grew up in Pennsylvania but moved to Denver and then later to Wisconsin where I met an English man with a wicked sense of humour who made me laugh like no American man ever did. After a whirlwind romance, we married and I moved to Kent with him in 2001. Cut a long story short, the relationship didn’t work out & we divorced two years later. By that point, however, I felt so happy and settled in the UK that I decided to stay. I lived in Kent for 8 years and have only just recently moved to Manchester (oop north) to live with my new lovely man. This is not to gloss over the first 3 months I was here in which I spent either crying, saying, ‘pardon?’ to every person who attempted conversation or dreaming of Wendy. (No, not my BFF – the burger joint). But I stopped making comparisons and started to enjoy what the UK had to offer – and there was plenty. Including good friends.

Reading the comments, I felt compelled to write as it seems so many have such a problem making friends with British women. I have some fantastic friends here and genuinely love the UK. I relate so much better to the British mentality then the American ‘gung-ho’ attitude which always left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. That is not to say I’m reserved – by no stretch of the imagination – I’m actually very enthusiastic and out-going but I think I’ve learned that British people aren’t actually cold and snotty but they ARE more reserved and I have had to adapt the way I approach making friends with this in mind.

I have a lot of really great female friends here but have admittedly ‘worked’ for it – at least to start – but it’s been totally worth it and I’d like to share my advice. Bear in mind there are no guarantees here. After all, some people are just not very nice and nothing you can do will change that but do you really want to be friends with someone like that? No, I didn’t think so.
Let’s get started then.

MEETING FOR THE 1ST TIME:

Turn down the volume. I have turned my ‘volume’ of enthusiasm when meeting new people from about a 9 down to around a 5. This isn’t about not being yourself, it’s about being a more chilled out version of yourself .

Asking lots of personal questions doesn’t work. Whatever you do, DON’T ask a million and one questions when you first meet someone thinking that will break the ice. It won’t. They will think you are being exceptionally nosey – questions can come upon meeting them the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time. It’s like melting ice – yeah you can go at it with a sledgehammer to break it into a million pieces or you can warm up the temperature around it and wait. Believe me, the waiting is worth it.

Engage in pointless chitchat. Go ahead and talk about the weather for the first conversation. Tell them where you are from, why you’re here when they inevitably ask and you may need to smile and laugh while you suffer through their stories of holidays in Florida. If the conversation falls flat, let it. English people are not as uncomfortable with silence as Americans. It’s okay, you haven’t failed. Compliments are always welcome. Tell them you love their earrings or their shoes or their bag – it might start a conversation about how great Matalan is.

Keep it light, Keep it positive. DON’T complain about anything British (not even the weather). They will get defensive which is what you are trying to avoid. DO NOT TALK RELIGION OR MONEY. Keep it light and impersonal.

MEETING FOR THE 2ND TIME:

Be warm, not overbearing. You will find they will be a little warmer. Smile warmly back. That is all. Don’t extend your hand (You are not on an interview.)

Remember their name. This is sort of a no-brainer. Don’t be upset if they’ve forgotten yours. I can guarantee they haven’t forgotten you – being American brings with it a novelty value.

Be personable without being intrusive. Now is the time to be slightly more personal. Ask them where they are from, what they do.
Know your limits. Now is probably not the best time to regale them with stories of your childhood or how much money you make. There’s time for all that (well, not the money – that’s just not a conversation you want to have. Ever.)

Bear with the process. It seems long-winded. You’ll have to bite your tongue. You will feel like you are not getting anywhere but I promise you will!

MEETING FOR THE 3RD & 4th TIME:

Greet them appropriately. You may find by this time that they will be even warmer – you might want to give a kiss on the cheek if you feel it is welcome (NOT A HUG). If not, a warm smile always works.

Get to know them ‘properly’: Now you can start asking more personal questions, asking their opinion about something in the news, offer funny stories (preferably if you’ve done something silly – they love self-deprecating humour and it shows humility). Don’t be surprised if they start asking you some personal questions back and genuinely try to get to know you.

Don’t be scared. If you find you have things in common and you would like to see them again, invite them around for a cup of tea or a drink down the pub. You’ll be surprised how quickly the English will open up when they’ve had a few.

I think the main thing is not to try too hard – it will seem forced. My female friends (English) who have met other Americans find them scary – overly enthusiastic (which they don’t trust; they think it is fake, no matter how sincere you are) and nosey. What’s natural and normal for us is alien to them and they don’t know how to take it. So being accepted here is all about working around THEIR issues slowly until they are warm enough to you that you can feel very natural about totally being yourself. By that time, they will have (almost) forgotten you are American and the person beyond that will shine through.

You might not want to take my advice – it’s just what’s worked for me. I find with English people, once they DO warm up to you, you will have some pretty fantastic relationships. When I moved from Kent to Manchester, I had 3 going away parties because I had 3 different groups of pals (male/female mixed) that I wanted to be able to say goodbye to. It’s worked and I don’t feel like I’ve not been myself, or have denied who I am.

So now that I have moved I’m starting all over again – having to make new friends. I start a new job tomorrow and am hoping that in a couple months time, I have made some new friends to go shopping with or get lunch with or have a natter with over tea. In the meantime, I’ll smile politely, chat about the weather and laugh at the appropriate places when they tell me all about their annual trip to Disneyworld.

How do you find people in Britain who make you happy when you’ve just moved?  Click here

How a pair or rollar skates can help you make friends in Britain- Click here

Meeting People – Finally choosing to be fearless…

yankeebeanI started to write a comment in response to Lisa’s comment on the About page – but it was so long that I thought maybe it should be a post.  Lisa was talking about the possible frustration of trying to fit in and wondering how long it should take?  And if we should ever throw in the towel and head back home…

My heart goes out to you, Lisa, because I know how hard it can be to make friends.  I currently have a new theory that I’m testing and it’s based on another reader’s comment on a previous blog.  Basically I’ve decided to not give up… and it comes in two stages.

Stage One

First I have to find people… and this won’t happen if I’m sitting at home. So I’m doing the following things to make sure that I see groups of people regularly:

1) Going to lots of networking events related to my job.

It may be workworkwork, but they’re still human and I always try to get people talking about their hobbies or their families instead of their business.  How knows, maybe I’ll meet someone cool?  If you don’t know about any networking events near you just search for “networking [your location]” in Google and you’ll find something.

2) Joining my local Weight Watchers.

I’ve been a ‘Weight Watcher’ for about 3 years now and I’m still at my goal weight.  This means I don’t have to go to meetings anymore, but I’ve decided to join up again just to try and meet some lovely ladies.  WW meeting always involve laughter and chatting so it seems like it could be a good way to meet people. (And get support, too!)

3) Going to my local church

Of course, pick the faith that fits, but then check out your local service.  I just found a church near me that has a tea and coffee hour after the service and everyone mills around and chats.  Last week I stood on my own for about 3 minutes and then someone walked right up to me for a chat.  I’m gonna have another go this week :)

4) Looking for hobby-related groups that meet up.

Previously a reader suggested meeting up with people you have things in common with (other than just being American) – Once I read it it seemed so obvious that I couldn’t BELIEVE I hadn’t tried it before.   DUH!  So I’m going to look for a casual band to join up with (although music is my business, it’s also my hobby).  And I’m going to check for a local crochet/knitting group and see if there’s room for one more.  Hopefully it’ll lead to some coffee-based-friendship. :)

Stage Two

The second stage is just as important… I’m going to try and meet up with every human person that I come into contact with (without seeming stalker-ish) and see what happens.   If we sit and drink an awkward cup of tea for half an hour, that’s fine, I just won’t invite ‘em over again.   If we laugh a little and only talk over each other half the time, maybe I’ll text them and we’ll have another cuppa sometime.  My new mantra is to ‘go with the flow’ and to not try to force any square pegs into round holes.

If English women seem stand-offish, I’m going to take it at face value and not read too much into it.  If I feel ‘too American’ sometimes, I’m going to let myself feel a little silly and laugh at myself… and then GET ON with it and see what happens.  This is my new plan… I’ll keep you posted on progress!!