Friday, October 05, 2007

Email from a guy who's new to London

It's been about a month since my last Dear GB post. But having had a bit of a break from it, I was glad when the following email arrived a few days ago:

Dear GB,

I just moved to London last week and will be here for about a year. How should I go about making new gay friends in London? Most of the friends I've made are girls in my postgrad program, which is predominantly female. They're cool and all, but it's just not the same. Can't go out to a gay bar with them, for example. Speaking of which, any clubs/bars you'd recommend?

Oh, and one more thing. What's your take on the notion that it's hard for an expat to make English friends? I did my undergrad in the US and there are a lot of Americans in my program, so I've been hanging out with them. (And we tend to stick together... as do the Brits).

He's certainly a guy who can ask a lot of questions in a brief email! But they're good questions, and indeed, I should be able to say something sensible about all of them.

As a postgrad, rather than a undergraduate, perhaps events for young gay professionals might be appropriate. Firstly there's an event called the village drinks which takes place monthly, and seems to choose a different venue each time. Although it's just a drinks event, it's less impersonal than simply going into a bar, so I think one could take a female friend for company. Register in advance for a lower admission fee.

Then there's Jake, which I know much less about because it's run by Ivan Massow and I'm not really an Ivan Massow fan. Looking at his his wikipedia entry, I can't help thinking that he probably wrote most of the entry himself! None the less, I know some people do like the Jake network so it's probably worth a look too.

There's also the web site. They organise real world social events, and the impression I have is that it's much less cruisey than gaydar or And even though those last two web sites are sex oriented, I'd say that they're worth a look too because guys one has sex with can also become friends :-).

In terms of making friends, one thought is that there must be some gay contact network at the college or university where this guy is studying. I was never a student in London, and even if I had been I'd be out of date by now, but it can't be too hard to find out. (Can any readers help here in terms of gay student life in London?)

Regarding clubs/bars, I don’t frequent those sort of places much these days so I'm not the best person to ask. The Wardour Street end of Old Compton Street in Soho is probably the area in central London with the highest density of gay bars, so that's the place to start. Also, each week Time Out has an exhaustive list of clubs and events for gay guys, so for up to date information and other opportunities for making friends I'd refer to that.

Finally, is it hard for an expat to make English friends? I think it probably is, especially as a postgraduate in an English university where many of the English students will probably have known each other as undergraduates, so that they'll have already established their social groups and cliques. Unfortunately it is often true that England and America are two societies divided by a common language! Because the language is the same, it's easy to forget just how different the two cultures are. When the language is different one expects a different culture too, so one probably tries harder to overcome the situation. I actually think that the English psyche is far more in line with our European neighbours than with America. So if the guy wants to make some English friends, I think he's far more likely to succeed if he approaches the task with these thoughts in mind.

Anyway, does anyone else have any ideas on the best way to make gay friends in London, or the problems that an expat faces when trying to make English friends?


Monty said...

I have to agree with you GB, it does seem that Gaydar in the UK seems more sex oriented than what my impressions of the Australian version are. That being said, last year when I was here, I met Matt (blogged about him) who I did hook up with, and who has subsequently become a good friend - he came and visited me in Sydney in June, and we're spending time together while I'm here in London again. Suggest to your reader to start meeting fellow bloggers (I'm assuming he blogs if he's reading yours?) - I've made quite a few friends that way.

Humming Bird in Hyde said...

I think if he started going out to coffee shops in Soho. It would inevitably happen, like it did for me. He could start blogging as well :P

Anonymous said...

Hi GB,
Happened upon your blog and post about Jake.

Just to let you know, Ivan Massow no longer runs the Jake business.

Jake now has a relatively new team behind the wheel and we are striving to make 2009 the year where Jake truly gets a sense of purpose as a gay business network in today's society.

This should be visible through the mentoring programme which we are piloting at the moment, and also through our work with Stonewall and AKT later this year.

We'd be delighted to have you as our guest at our next Jake event should you find yourself at a loose end (and no longer in Bangkok)!

GB said...

Thanks vm for the invite Jake, however I like to keep a low profile when it comes to meeting people face-to-face, hence my policy about offline meetings! But thanks for updating me on Jake's new team - good luck with it :-).

GB xxx