Is it normal to live in London for 60 years and not more than 2 non-white friends?

(130 Posts)
MareofBeasttown Thu 22-Jul-21 08:09:55

I am Indian and new to the UK. I was reading Lucy Kellaway's new book Reeducated, and mostly enjoying it ( am a fan of her work). But then rather thrown by this paragraph where she says she has lived in London all her life but never had more than 2 or 3 non-white, non Oxbridge friends! Find this incredibly strange, especially as I have only been here a year and already have friends of all races ( perhaps because I have been actively looking and can't think of anything more boring than sticking with your own race). I do find that well-intentioned people are constantly recommending Indian things and Indian clubs to me. I didn't come here to stick with my 'tribe' though.

OP’s posts: |
MareofBeasttown Thu 22-Jul-21 08:11:41

The title should be : Not HAVE more than 2 non-white friends

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KingdomScrolls Thu 22-Jul-21 08:16:10

I'm white, I grew up in East London, it would've been unbelievable to only ever have a couple of non white friends so if those are her circumstances I think it gives an indication into her subconscious biases around class (Oxbridge graduates are a lot more likely to not be working class) as well as race.
I now live outside of London (priced out) and the area I live in isn't very diverse so my local social circle, nursery/toddler club parents etc isn't either but that's through lack of opportunity rather than anything else. What I call my London friends are still a very diverse group educationally, economically, socially, and in terms of race

BuffySummersReportingforSanity Thu 22-Jul-21 08:19:37

Some people do live very "segregated" lives wherever they are, yes, and social circles can self-segregate to an amazing degree.

I don't think that's usual for London by any means, you have to really work at living in this city and connecting only with white people, but can I believe it happens, yup.

NewModelArmyMayhem18 Thu 22-Jul-21 08:21:53

2 or 3 non-white, non Oxbridge friends she clearly moves in very narrow social circles!

MareofBeasttown Thu 22-Jul-21 08:22:35

There's also a cringy line about not being able to pronounce diverse names. Self-deprecatory, but I wanted to yell: just try harder!

I am also in SE London and my son goes to the same, very diverse school that Lucy's son went to.

I do understand new immigrants with language problems choosing to mix only with their own race initially, for comfort. I am not in that category though.

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Edmontine Thu 22-Jul-21 08:33:59

Hmm ... To be honest I would be more than a little insulted if I found someone actively seeking me out in order to diversify their friend collection. I avoid that type of person in both my personal and professional life.

As to Lucy Kellaway - I don't know ... (And haven't yet read her book.) Perhaps it says as much about the culture of the Financial Times during the decades she worked there? (Probably the best newspaper in the country - but I'm under no illusions about who gets to be part of it.)

Friendships, in my experience, do tend to be shaped by one's occupation. Not necessarily that one is only friends with colleagues - but other people you meet will be more or less attracted / intimidated / repelled according to their impression of your work tribe.

So I can't get too worked up about her revelation. Obviously she would bring a particular set of values and experiences to her teaching - but it's not as if she's the only teacher her pupils meet. I'd assume other teachers have other experiences to draw upon.


BuffySummersReportingforSanity Thu 22-Jul-21 08:35:00

I can't quite parse the line, but does she mean that she did have "non-white" friends who were Oxbridge? Oxbridge is hardly lily-white either (although it could certainly do better).

careerchangeperhaps Thu 22-Jul-21 08:42:54

I live in South Devon and have lived within the South West for 30 years (between Exeter and Cornwall). I have never had a non-white friend and have only personally known of a very small handful of people of ethnicities that aren't white, but haven't known them personally - more friends of friends from other areas. My children go to a fairly large primary school (c. 450 pupils) and I don't think there are any entirely non-white families / pupils. There are a few mixed race children.
It was the same for me growing up. I / my children just haven't experienced a multicultural childhood.

Edmontine Thu 22-Jul-21 08:43:44

LK would have been an undergraduate at the very beginning of the 80s. At which time (I remember,) both Oxford and Cambridge were almost completely white, apart from the odd 'visibly foreign' student. She really wouldn't have been even aware of more than one, or at most two black British undergraduates, and perhaps a handful more from other races.

Moonlaserbearwolf Thu 22-Jul-21 08:47:30

I can easily believe the bit about her only having a couple of non-white friends. But the Oxbridge comment sounds hyperbolic!

Shelddd Thu 22-Jul-21 08:47:52

Oxbridge is more diverse than the UK is (racially) although it is obviously quite classist.

Kendodd Thu 22-Jul-21 08:48:23

Maybe she just made the friends years ago when London was less diverse? I find it harder to make new friends as I get older.

MrsFin Thu 22-Jul-21 08:50:09

I live in Wiltshire, not London, but I very rarely speak to, or even see a non white person. There just aren't any where I live.
Work is a bit more diverse, but we don't go to the office any more.

Dillydollydingdong Thu 22-Jul-21 08:50:27

I think you have to remember that "birds of a feather flock together" ie people naturally feel more comfortable with others that they have things in common with.

Edmontine Thu 22-Jul-21 08:52:04

(Actually, as she's 62 she would presumably have been at Oxford in the late 70s. Point still stands!)

Those of you mentioning diversity at Oxford / Cambridge - the situation now bears no relation at all to how things were 30 years ago. Both places attract huge numbers of international students and researchers, of course. But that's a different matter.

EssentialHummus Thu 22-Jul-21 08:55:22

I'm white but an ethnic minority, I wonder if I'm the diversity checkbox in my friendship groups grin.

I think it's a complicated question with some sad answers. I've been here in the UK over a decade now. My friends are a mix of classes, occupations, ages, places in the UK etc... but nearly all white. What saddens and confuses me is that my DD (3/4) attends a local nursery which is predominantly BAME - I'd say there are probably 3 other white families in the nursery out of 60-odd kids. Yet the mums I chat to most regularly, arrange playdates with etc? White. Well - two white, one black.

I think I'm fairly open to chatting with anyone, yet a year or more in this is the outcome. I wonder if it's a class/wealth thing - the nursery serves a very deprived cohort and perhaps the more MC sort of spot each other? I don't know. Very noticeable though.

BuffySummersReportingforSanity Thu 22-Jul-21 08:59:37


Maybe she just made the friends years ago when London was less diverse? I find it harder to make new friends as I get older.

London has been a hugely diverse city for decades. The Windrush generation have been here since the 1950s. Stamford Hill has been full of Orthodox Jews since the 1920s.

London has been a city of immigrants for literally centuries.

Clymene Thu 22-Jul-21 08:59:50


Oxbridge is more diverse than the UK is (racially) although it is obviously quite classist.

The U.K. as a whole maybe, but not London where Kellaway lives. And Oxbridge was super white when she was a student.

VladmirsPoutine Thu 22-Jul-21 09:01:58

I don't think it's that odd really. I know some minority women who only have say one white friend. That said even though London is very diverse a lot of companies are mainly still 'only white'. I think birds of a feather stick together or whatever the saying is. I'm not white and I have many white acquaintances but only a couple of white friends.

Lovelydovey Thu 22-Jul-21 09:09:08

Did she grow up in London? If not, I can well imagine she moved here and stayed with her existing university clique.

I think growing up in London is different - my kids and I have friends of all races, some from school but also from other walks of life.

Seaswallow Thu 22-Jul-21 09:35:11

My grandmother is nearly 100, and has lived within 1/2 mile of her east end of London birthplace all her life, except for a few months during the war (she returned home as she missed London, despite the bombs).

She has one asian friend but everyone else she knows/knew is white. She has been abroad only once in her life for a weekend (could never afford to repeat it even is she had wanted to), has only left London a few times, has never driven a car, does not have a passport or any photo/ ID, nor has she been on the tube since the war (!)- she always used buses until she (recently) became housebound.

Many of her friends/ generation have had similar lives- a generation easily forgotten!

Bluntness100 Thu 22-Jul-21 09:39:43

I think it’s important to remember some folks habe no friends. Some have lots, we are all different. Not everyone has a wide circle of friends, and it’s not about anything more than their social ability.

NewModelArmyMayhem18 Thu 22-Jul-21 09:40:55

DSib is an Oxbridge graduate of some decades ago, and has always lived in London as an adult, with a large friendship group (some dating back to school days). Their DP is dual heritage (as was previous long-term partner), one close Asian friend, otherwise friends all white.

OdetoMyFamily Thu 22-Jul-21 09:47:54

perhaps because I have been actively looking and can't think of anything more boring than sticking with your own race

I can. Hanging out with people you might not find interesting, funny, have much in common with just because you want to boost your woke credentials.

Many immigrant communities in the UK actively choose to live and socialise amongst those of the same ethic/religious background.

I don't actively choose to mix with only white people but they are who I've always lived amongst and worked with. Same for my teenaged daughter.

Great Britain is still a majority white country and it's not racist to state that fact.

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