Lesson 5: Making friends in London

reddit alienSo after the struggles of finding somewhere to live in London, the trials and tribulations of commuting to work by tube and by bike, and figuring out the tourist hotspots and cultural arena, I came to a realisation of sorts: firstly, that I could use the first sentence of this blog entry to handily sum up everything I’ve posted so far, and secondly,  I needed some friends.

Sure, my long-suffering girlfriend Maddy is good company, but occasionally I yearn for the nerdy discussions and obscure internet meme references that she just can’t provide me with (I still love you, Maddy). This is where the magic of the internet steps in.

Obviously it goes without saying that I already had friends in London before committing to moving. Everybody knows somebody who lives in the capital, and in my case I knew quite a few – either university friends originally from London, or people who had since migrated down here already. But, as someone famous probably once said, you can never have too many friends.

But I digress: the internet. You may have heard of the “social news” aggregator, reddit (it’s like Digg, but better). I’ve been a member for almost three years and it’s one of my most-visited sites. It has sections (or ‘subreddits’), and of course, it has one for London.

Browsing the site one evening I saw an optimistically-titled thread discussing the prospects of London “redditors” meeting up for a pint. I was initially wary – I’d already been to one reddit meetup back in Leeds which ended up just being me and one other (admittedly cool) guy. Drinking on an empty stomach, and downing expensive and very strong Belgian beers, I managed to finish the evening spending an hour hugging the toilets in the bar. Stay classy, Matt.

Vowing to handle myself a little better this time, I headed off to the agreed rendezvous point to meet my fellow London internet geeks.

Sean, our illustrious organiser, was stood outside the meeting spot (a Sam Smith’s pub, hooray) clutching a paper printout of reddit’s alien mascot logo, like a kind of nerd equivalent of the Bat signal. Like moths to a flame, we converged upon him, and soon there were six of us pondering where to go.

At this point I’d better stop to reassure those of you who have their doubts about the safety of meeting strangers from the internet (hi mum!): it’s all pretty safe stuff, really. There’s obviously a few minutes of awkward small talk as you first meet and acknowledge the fact that you’re all stood on a public street clustered around a drawing of an alien. But once you’re over the initial nerves, and you’ve had a bit of alcohol inside you, everything warms up and suddenly it’s like you’ve all known each other forever. Obviously it helped having the common ground of reddit as our unifying feature, but we were were all around the same age and were either current or former students, so there was lots of common ground.

I also should acknowledge that posting on mildly obscure geek-oriented websites isn’t for everyone, either. That’s where Meetup.com comes in. It’s useful for finding people into your obscure hobby, passion or fetish (probably). If you don’t fancy committing to something like reddit, where people can mercilessly “upvote” or “downvote” everything you say and do, then this probably a friendlier route.

Still not sure about the prospect of sitting down with weird beardy geeks off the internet? Let me leave you with the knowledge that after our initial meetup that night, we all got on so well we agreed to do it all again the second night. Wandering along London’s South Bank with people who were strangers 24 hours previously felt really great – London is a place to meet new people, try new things and experience a different lifestyle. I’m confident the guys (and girl!) from reddit will be people I’ll be seeing again – as long as my own weird beardy geekiness didn’t put them off, that is.

Today’s lesson? Have a go at meeting new people. Once you’re out of university, your chances of bumping into random strangers at parties and gatherings is massively reduced. Unless you’re lucky enough to have an enormous social circle in London already, or you don’t mind only socialising with your work colleagues, or indeed, you don’t need friends, then don’t rule it out. What’s that old proverb? Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet, right? Or possibly deranged, murderous, internet psychopaths, but come on. Live dangerously.

14 Responses to “Lesson 5: Making friends in London”

  1. Tony says:

    Beardy geekiness is the finest kind of geekiness, actually beary anything (with a few exceptions) is better than its beard free equivalent.

    Im sure the beard was endearing rather than off putting. You now just need to grow it long and go Osama style or plait it for that classic viking look and youll attract more friends than you ever though possible.

  2. Emma says:

    I can’t believe you went to a reddit meetup but wouldn’t go to a df one.

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think I ever specifically chose not to attend a DF meetup…?! Plus technically I’m not DF! I guess I was wary though. If there’s ever another I might consider it…

  3. Sean says:

    Hey! Great post. Glad we could all meet and do something interesting — I was going to go crazy if I had to spend another minute with people working on dissertations and generally being miserable. I’d really like to get together again soon, so give me a ring next time you’re available!

    Looking forward to the next post mate.

  4. Lieselotte (Liz) says:

    Hooray for Belgian beer!

  5. Tbag says:

    Nice one Matt. Keep ‘em coming!

  6. Parker says:

    “(and girl!)” That’s me! I feel so honored. Sure, Sean got his name mentioned, but I got an exclamation point. And really, in the long run, isn’t that better?

    Really enjoying the blog, is there anyway to “follow” it or something? Otherwise, it will assuredly slip my mind like most important things like homework, eating, and paying my rent do (I just wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t the blog that was at fault, but me).

  7. Zac says:

    So, Sean and Parker get mentioned; but not me.

    Oh well: I’ll pretend I’m the aforementioned Bat-Signal-ee thus making me Batman!… or an Alien, either works.

    @Parker: It has RSS you can subscribe to, if you use some form of reader. That’s the closest thing to ‘following’ I can think of.

    It was fun; until next time!

  8. Benj says:

    LOVING this. If I’m ever in London, I’m coming to the next one.

  9. Rich says:

    Funniest one yet! Writing that it did just strike me… I am sure it is meant to be entertaining.. and knowing you definitely meant to make someone laugh a little.
    I digress: Aquila non captat muscas!

  10. [...] Lesson 5: Making friends in London « Lessons Learned in London [...]

  11. [...] weeks I was due to chill out on this long bank holiday weekend and relax. An impromptu meetup with some more of the aforementioned reddit.com nerds came up on Friday, so after work I headed down to Barrio in Soho, just off Oxford [...]

  12. Alexa says:

    I wish social networking were more popular here in Korea! I was really hoping to find some groups on MeetUp.com but it seems I must rely on Dave’s ESL Cafe and Korea4expats.com

    Also, I wish facial hair were more popular. Alas, no bearded nerds!

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