I am 25 and have recently moved to London for work. I come from a relatively small community in the North of England and I am finding the transition very difficult. I am living in a small studio flat on my own and my job as a trainee solicitor involves me working long hours.
I am finding my new existence very lonely. I didn’t know anyone in the city before I arrived and although my colleagues at work are nice enough, they don’t seem to socialise with each other. I haven’t met any neighbours apart from a couple upstairs with a noisy baby but they always seem too tired or stressed to stop to talk.
I really miss my friends and family. My plan is to go back once every two months for a weekend and I spend a lot of my free time calling, texting and messaging everyone on Facebook but it isn’t the same.
Any advice on how I can improve things (or whether I should just throw in the towel) would be welcome.
Moving away from your social network and support base can be very difficult. Sometimes it is only when we are far from our friends and family that we realise how much we need them and value them. I am not surprised that you are feeling lonely. Most people would feel that way if they were working long hours and living on their own in a strange place with no friends or family nearby.
It takes time to build friendships, especially in a big city and sadly there are no shortcuts. These days we are so used to instant everything but it is important to invest time and effort to build good and solid friendships.
It’s great that you can stay in touch with your friends and family back home but gadget-to-gadget relating is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. In fact, a recent report by the Future Laboratory found that 95% of Britons are dissatisfied with the amount of “real” time we spend face-to-face. There’s something about the warmth, intimacy, immediacy and depth of being in someone’s physical presence that you just can’t get over the phone or computer. Only 26% of us (according to the Future Laboratory) are happy with their own company but the vast majority of us tend to feel lonely without regular and authentic interactions with others.
So seeing your favourite people at least once every two months is a good idea but it is also important that you focus on building a social life for yourself where you live and work. How do you do that? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be pro-active. You spend most of your waking hours at work so it is a good place to start building relationships. Are there other trainees at the firm who started with you? If so, then some of them are probably feeling the same way as you. Why not suggest a drink after work or meeting up for brunch on the weekend?
If you are open, friendly and pro-active you may find that some of the others start to make more of an effort as well. Sometimes it just needs one person to get the ball rolling.
2. Ask your friends for introductions. Do some of your good friends back home know people who live or work near you in London? If so, why not get them to put you in touch? The good thing is that you will have your mutual friend in common which will give you a starting point for getting to know them.
3. Get out and about doing things you enjoy. Your long hours probably prohibit too much socialising during the week but take the opportunity at weekends to pursue any activities you enjoy.
What do you love doing? Look for groups, societies or clubs in your area where you can get involved in your passions... whether that is a knitting circle (apparently enjoying a renaissance), a book club, a gym, a political society, or something else.
You could also consider volunteering for a charity or local church group. Helping others is a great way to meet people, to counteract loneliness and to feel connected.
4. Consider moving to shared accommodation. Unless you are very introverted and thrive on having lots of your own space, why not consider living with other people?
If you were in a shared house or flat you would have others around at the end of the day to chat to and hang out with. If you find the right people, it could be a lot of fun and you wouldn’t have to feel so alone.
You probably have a notice period on the place you are living in now but why not consider it for the future? Keep on the look out for like-minded people who are searching for new flat mates.
5. Be hospitable. Take the initiative and ask people out for coffee or to see a film with you. Organise a supper for some people who you have met recently and would like to get to know better. Chat to neighbours and inject some of your Northern warmth into your community. And the next time you bump into the stressed couple from upstairs, why not offer to baby-sit for a couple of hours one weekend so they can have a lie-in? I’m sure they’d be your friends for life if you did!
I’d recommend giving yourself at least a year before you make any decisions about leaving London. During that time throw yourself into city life and re-double your efforts to meet people. If at the end of that time you still hate it and miss home, then you might want to consider looking for a job in the North once your trainee-ship has finished. Telling yourself that you don’t have to stay forever may just help you to relax and enjoy London more. It’s certainly worth a try.
Please let me know how you get on and until then be brave, be bold and be yourself.
*Name has been changed.
If anyone else has advice for Emily on adjusting to London life, please do use the comment section below. And don't forget, if you have a question about how to live, love or lead more authentically then use the contact form here and we will try to include it in a future Q&A. If we use your question we will send you a free copy of my book "Inside Out – how to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life."