Live from London: Bonding with the locals
One of the best parts of London is that there is no language barrier, which should make it easier to meet locals. However, the British social culture is also more “closed” than the American social culture.
In other words, strangers in London don’t normally strike up random conversations with each other, much less with Americans. I figured this all out over the time I was here in the summer.
Joining as a member of the Imperial College gym across the street won’t guarantee the opportunity to meet people. In order to develop relationships with British people, the best way is to actually join a class, or get involved with a club.
I was fortunate enough to have a local East Londoner approach me in church one morning, and we’ve become close friends. But I wanted to meet more people outside of the one friend I’ve met and the 40-plus Pepperdine students that I live with.
Since I am in the London year program, I decided to join a “Connect Group,” which is basically a college-age small group affiliated with Hillsong (the church I go to Sunday mornings) that meets once a week. I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know if they would be friendly, or if it would be awkward that I was an American study abroad student.
There are various Connect Groups across London in nearly every area, so I questioned if this one (about a 20-minute subway ride away from our house) would be a good fit.
It turned out to be an amazing experience, and I had the privilege of meeting over 20 new people who live in London. One girl even ended up also being a study abroad student from NYU, two people moved to London from Nigeria, another girl moved from Germany and another guy was from South Africa. And that’s only a handful of the people who were there.
London is an incredible place with a diverse array of people. Meeting the people at the Connect Group definitely ended up being one of the highs of my last week here. I say “one of the highs” because a few nights before nearly topped it.
Day one of my internship with a small magazine, and that night I found myself wining and dining at a community “Meet Your Neighbor” party on the seventh floor of the Virgin building (owned by Richard Branson) on High Street Kensington (aka the Beverley Hills of London).
I got to know a few of the people who lived in the community, and received a tour of the Rooftop Gardens at the famously popular venue. Even though I was underdressed and extremely nervous, the night didn’t end up being as awkward as I imagined it to be.
The people were friendly and the view was breathtaking. It was a side of London I had yet to have seen.
I feel like plugging myself in with the church, alongside interning with this small, tight-knit community business magazine will immerse me into the culture of London that I only touched the surface of during the summer.
Plus, to think that I’m only barely a week into the year pumps me up—I have so much time left to bond with the people I live with, and the locals who live around me.