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Is it telling that there is no thread on 'making friends'?

(33 Posts)
Nadia308 Tue 21-Aug-12 10:28:40

I mean in the platonic sense.

I am in my mid 30s and have returned to the Winchester area after an absence of 6 years in Australia. I have two kids, one born in Oz, the other born here.

I have found Winchester a very challenging place to make friends. I find the population polite but extremely reserved.

Perhaps it's me (I've spent a few years in Sydney, where people were very open to chatting and made friendly connections with ease), I may have come across a bit too eager in English terms.

After a year of school with my eldest I really thought I would meet some like minded people, but I feel there is a strong element of "I grew up in Winchester, and I spend time with the people I grew up with" which rather excludes people who didn't grow up here.

Most people I have spoken too on this subject (granted not that many given the entire population of the area) are returned locals with strong extant connections from growing up here or more recent arrivals, having studied or worked nearby. The key being that strong friendships were made during their non-parent days. Now, being parents, and their friends being parents they have a tight social group in place. Which I don't have. My friends are all on Facebook these days, and living in a different time zone, being mostly overseas.

I have tried mother and child groups, but found them quite hostile, or at best disinterested in the arrival of a new face. We have done our first year of primary school, which I thought would introduce us to like minded people, and while there are some lovely parents (and kids) they don't seem interested in taking our polite chit chat out of the playground environment. This chit chat take place during the rather chaotic 5 to 10 minutes before we drop off or collect our kids from class. Not what you'd call conducive to getting to know someone.

My husband tells me to invite people over, but I have found that those I have invited seem rather frightened. After just a year of playground acquaintance I must be moving things along too quickly. I get the impression people don't really know how to respond to the invitation. One accepted gladly, then postponed a couple of times before I took the hint... she's always very nice when I see her, but I think I know not to take advantage of her friendliness now.

I suppose it's possible that I'm just not a very interesting or pleasant person to be with, but I like to think that is not the reason (at least not the principal reason!!) as I do have plenty of friends (from school, uni, work) although they are now widely scattered around the world.

I've given up really. My boy would like to have school friends over to visit, but I'm not sure I have any enthusiasm at all left for the task. We've got so far through the summer holidays without them and I think self sufficiency is the key. Am I letting my boy down if I don't try harder to make connections in this neighbourhood or am I better off doing my own thing?

I really don't think that persistence is going to work though, the more I chat and invite, the less people want to know and the more embarrassed I feel! The famous British reserve is a real puzzle and if anyone has any constructive advice for me I would love to hear it! Has anyone out there met anybody new over the last year? How did you do it? Was it awkward and embarrassing? :-)

FunnysInLaJardin Tue 21-Aug-12 10:35:17

I know how you feel. I have come to the conclusion that I will make the effort but if it's not reciprocated (sp) then I won't push it. My DS1 seems happy enough playing with his brother etc although after 2 years at school we do now have a small group of about 4 mothers who all seem willing to meet up/ have each others boys over to play. I didn't grow up here either and have found that the friends we have made have been with other non locals.

ChitchatAtHome Tue 21-Aug-12 10:40:48

I think part of the problem is (and I've come across it too as I am relatively new to the area) is that people's lives becomes 'full'. There are only so many good friendships that can be maintained with the time available.

I've managed to make a couple of friends, but it's REALLY hard, and it can take weeks before we have an opportunity to just see each other, let alone spend time together having a cuppa.

The 3 friends I've made in the last year were all friendly acquaintances for a year or 2 before that, so it has taken that long to get to the friendship point, but it also required THEM to be willing as well, which clearly hasn't happened to you.

caramelwaffle Tue 21-Aug-12 10:43:26

Here you go - enjoy

Mumsyblouse Tue 21-Aug-12 10:47:37

Don't take it too personally. I think the days of mums having mum friends who they hang out with for 10-15 years of childrearing have been changed by most women working, either part/full-time. I don't have time in my week (working full-time) to see friends, I do try to catch the odd coffee on a weekend or rarely on an evening night, but even then I am preparing for the next day (lunchboxes, clothes for work, doing more paid work). I miss that contact, but I get it at work with my colleagues in truth. I see old friends more, as many of them still return to the area for holidays.

But, this doesn't need to stop you arranging friends coming over for your son. Just find out who he wants to have over, and pop a note inviting them with your mobile on it into their school bag, or ask the mum/dad at the school gate. I think trying to make friends yourself to give your son friends is the wrong way around, he won't necessarily want to hang out with your friends' children (e.g. wrong age/gender/just aren't close). Make your own friends separately because you enjoy their company.

Since most of us have gone back to work, it's harder to arrange even playdates, but most mums are friendly, just incredibly busy.

tallwivglasses Tue 21-Aug-12 10:50:01

ah but there is a thread

And a nice mumsnetter has set up a facebook page x

FunnysInLaJardin Tue 21-Aug-12 12:03:49

I agree with Mumsy that you need to separate your 'friends' from your DS's friends IYSWIM. We have his friends over and while I get on well with the other mums they are not my friends. I have a couple of friends who I see very rarely and who I would call my friends.

Triffiddealer Tue 21-Aug-12 12:39:01

Nadia - I get exactly what you are saying. A few years ago, I moved to a nice suburban commuter town just out of London and thought that after the Big Smoke, everyone would be really friendly (hollow laugh). The vast majority of people I meet are pleasant, but it never goes any further than basic chat. The mums seem to have made friends at baby and toddler group and are happy with that. There is definitely no culture of 'welcoming' new people (not that I'm new any more), quite the opposite. You are supposed to prove you're worthy of getting to know.

For all those of you who are socially anxious - don't be so quick to blame the difficulty making friends on that. I am very confident socially, and have never had problems making friends before in various circumstances - but there is just something about the Mum-clique (especially in the South East) that makes it difficult to break into.

Just one example: I love reading - and always have a book in my hand. One fairly approachable Mum who I though I got on well with told me she went to a book club. I said 'oh, I'd love to join a book club'. She changed the subject. Now maybe her book club was full and they had agreed on no new members, or maybe I irritated her and she hid it well, but it's hard to stay positive if you keep coming up against a wall, like that.

OP - I did eventually make friends, but nearly all of them are foreign. So my tip is go for the foreigners! (Although the bloody Aussie friend only went and emigrated back to Oz, selfish cow).

I have also become a lot more self-reliant - which is probably good.

Bee308 Thu 23-Aug-12 17:24:18

Well it felt good to write my original post and to know that others are in the same boat. If I'm being honest, since writing it I've come to accept my situation. I posted here to explain. It doesn't seem right to copy and past the whole thing so I've just posted the link.

autumnmum Thu 23-Aug-12 17:43:16

Nadia - I have been through exactly the same thing as you in that I lived in NZ for a longtime had 1DC there and another here. I feel your pain but 7 years on I have forged some fab friendships. My advice is stick at it - I remember feeling physically sick going to mum and toddler groups because they were sooo cliquey. I first said I was going to give it 4 weeks and then had to revise it to 8 because it was so dreadful in terms of nobody speaking to me. In the end it did work but dear lord it was hard. I also enrolled my DD in just about every form of tumbletots, singing for toddlers etc just so I could meet people. That worked as well, but again I had to make all the running.

I also joined a book club which one of the mum's I met at toddler group started. It has been brilliant fun plus its not all mums with kids so I have met people I wouldn't have come across otherwise. Do you feel brave enough to start your own book club? It is really easy I promise and you won't be short of people wanting to join. Ours has been full for the last 12 months because people don't leave. If you want to know how mine runs please feel free to PM me.

I live in a fairly rural area and I don't know if that made things better or worse. Generally I found that just telling people you have been living overseas was enough to get a conversation going.

Good luck and just keep trying - you will find some lovely people out there.

Mumsyblouse Thu 23-Aug-12 18:08:22

Nadia, I read your other post and although I get what you are saying, I think you will be surprised how easily your son who is of school age makes new friends, and I disagree with you that these also need to be your good friends too. I agree you don't want to drop him off with people he doesn't know, but if you have chatted at the school gate to them a few times, then I think it's fine for them to have him over for tea/vice versa.

I get you want to have these whole family friends, and if any of them come along too, so much the better. But it's a shame not to encourage his socialising because this hasn't happened to you, and as the children get older, it is not that usual to come along every time your school age child gets invited to a party/for tea/out for swimming by a friend. I also think if he is saying can he have his school friends over, then why not call some of the mums and dads and arrange it? Or ask them over to tea when the term starts.

I think you are idealising a form of family socializing which may not exist anymore, rather than just doing what everyone else is doing and helping their children meet up with the odd cheery wave and offer of a cup of coffee (which may lead to friendship).

PepperOnMyPaprikash Thu 23-Aug-12 18:50:34

Have you tried posting on the Winchester local bit on Mumsnet? The local boards are often used by people (often new to the area) looking to meet up and make friends.

Bee308 Thu 23-Aug-12 19:28:22

Triffiddealer your experience sounds so close to my own. While I am confident in most circumstances I'd have to admit that this situation did make me feel less so. But I don't think I've been given the chance to demonstrate how irritating I really am, so I'm sure it's not that!

What a shame about the book group! Was she distracted? Is it possible that she just wasn't listening or did you think it was quite a pointed change of topic?

Bee308 Fri 24-Aug-12 10:12:52

Autumnmum, I would love to know how to set up a book club. Not sure that I can do it yet though as there is not a lot of time for reading in my life, although I do love to.

autumnmum Fri 24-Aug-12 18:49:46

Bee will PM you as don't want to hijack thread smile

Notsogoodhousekeeping Fri 24-Aug-12 22:34:53

Nah, it's the good citizens of Winchester, not you. The snobbishness quotient seems to have gone through the roof in the past few years, probably with the arrival of LK Bennett and Joules. Mind you, it's always had a good proportion of people so far up their own arses they can see daylight.

Try a day out in Stockbridge for true Hampshire haughtiness and people who laugh like they're choking on a Raymond Blanc pain au chocolate.

Give them a chance though, there are some lovely folks there.

Megan74 Fri 24-Aug-12 22:48:41

grin at Notsogoodhousekeeping

I think you need to separate your childs friendships from your own. Invite the kids your child wants to be friends with and if you make friends off the back of that then fine. Maybe join the PTA (not sure if you have the time or inclination) or just try some idle chit chat in the playground and see where it leads. I am quite a forward person (a bit too forward sometimes) and would quite happily go and have coffee with a relative stranger from the playground after 10 min chat (presuming we get on of course)but alot wouldn't and need a bit more time to warm up. A book club is a great idea.

Bee308 Fri 24-Aug-12 23:29:13

Oh maybe it's just me but I'm not comfortable sending my boy off to a relative strangers home for a playdate. Is it not normal to accompany your child at least the first few times? I would always invite the mum as well - is that off-putting? Do people really want to hand over their 5 year olds to someone they don't much like beyond 5 minutes worth of weather chat? I don't exactly feel I would be comfortable leaving him with very good friends at that. Over protective mother?

If I'm being honest, at this stage I'm feeling like I just don't much like the folks around here and I don't want to meet them any more. I know that sounds defeatist and rude, but I did try. I tried for over a year and a half! I tried, I fretted, I worried, I got paranoid, more than a little cross, and now I'm out the other end. I don't want to go back! I've read the "don't give up" posts and they make me shudder. I'm just not prepared to go through that for the next few years!

I will try the book club idea. I might not put up my posters in this neighbourhood though.

Thank you everyone for your kind help and comments. I think writing about this (and to know I'm not the only one) has really helped me work through it, maybe it will help others too. And if anyone in Winchester wants to join my new book club let me know!

Mayisout Sat 25-Aug-12 09:45:30

I suspect that wherever you go (unless you're an expat and you are in a little group of foreigners in a new country - which seems to have its own drawbacks) there are nice people, snooty people, unfriendly people. So it's similar wherever you are, and often people already have their quota of family and friends so don't need more. I think we give out vibes such as 'I'm a relaxed fun person' or 'I'm an anxious lonely person wanting friends' and if you are giving out the negative vibes people are wary.

So you need to not care. And the way to be that way is to find things you enjoy doing, so that you are cheerful and busy, then the friendships might follow, but if you are busy and happy you won't care. So find some hobbies/ jobs/ voluntary work/ studies that you WANT to do, not that you think you should do or should be seen to do. Try different things to find what you like.

I would drop my 5 year old at someone's house that I didn't know if I'd met a parent and they seemed normal (and their child/children were at my child's school and looked ok). But invite children round for a couple of hours after school to play with your DS and offer a cup of coffee when they come to pick up.

I have been very lonely and depressed in the past, by the way, so I sincerely sympathise but feel that part of the problem was me not having the confidence to go out and make more of a life for myself.

crescentmoon Sat 25-Aug-12 12:39:18

have you tried going to the netmums local pages and going to the 'meet-a-mum' section? i have made some good friendships through that especially in places where it was hard to make a friend straight off the street. like Megan i am pretty relaxed so i will invite people to my house on first meeting them, or say 'lets go for a coffee' after dropping my children off to school in the morning when chatting with a new person. i try and speak to my neighbours and make small cakes and biscuits to say hello/ 'its my dc's birthday. i encourage DH to invite colleagues and their spouses from work for dinner, and i also invite the parents of my childrens friends for lunch/dinner as well.

what i found hard is that some people will accept all of that but never reciprocate. not enough to put me off being friendly or inviting people round/ out, but its made me more discriminating about people! if i have alot of friends/acquaintances i do not mind about the few who are 'opportunistic', but when i have more of the latter than the former that depresses me!

crescentmoon Sat 25-Aug-12 12:41:53

i meant if i have alot of friends/acquaintances who do reciprocate invitations/ favours i do not mind about a few who don't. but when i have lived in places where i didnt then it depressed me and i just thought sod it i wont bother at all!

Triffiddealer Sat 25-Aug-12 13:01:28

No - she wasn't distracted OP. Maybe it was full and she just didn't want to tell me - but that was just one example among many (i.e. people introducing me to their friends at social events as a newbee and the friends saying 'hello' and then immediately turning their back on me and continuing their conversations etc. etc.). I do know how it grinds you down when no doors seem to open, but don't let it get to you hun. It will pass quickly, honest. It's not you, it's them. And whilst I agree with the poster who said that other people will pick up on how you project yourself, the culture in the South East really isn't one of welcoming people and nobody takes it upon themselves to include new arrivals.

Personally, I would let my DC go round to other children's to play at 5 years old (unless I had serious misgivings about the parents). Normally when you pick up you have a cup of tea (or a glass of wine if you are really lucky) and it gives you a chance to chat a bit and find out if there is any chance of a friendship developing. Also, invite other kids round and do the same to their Mums.

And don't forget my top tip: Go for the foreigners! Joining the PTA might be good too (never fancied it myself, but seems to work for some people).

mameulah Sat 25-Aug-12 15:17:43

Hey Nadia, I lived overseas for five years and I honestly think that it takes three years to get your feet really under the table in a community and be recognised as an important part of it. If I was you I would invite friends over for your kids and do what you can for yourself. If you are a bit over it for now then give yourself some time out but keep yourself busy and remember to be approachable to the people you regularly bump into. I have been home for five years now and I cannot emphasise enough how long it takes to get settled. Don't be too hard on yourself and give other people time to get used to you. I am now one of the 'oldies' at work and I never thought that would happen (actually I didn't want that to happen) it does though. It just takes time. Good Luck! You can do it!

LittlePicnic Wed 29-Aug-12 23:25:29

Nadia308- I live locally to you. If you fancy meeting for a coffee- PM- I feel similarly. I moved here a year ago and find it's like London. I lived in a nearby large town in between here and London where I was surprised by the friendliness. In groups here I find people say very little.

Mumsyblouse Wed 29-Aug-12 23:35:52

Bee/Nadia, about the leaving your child thing, I didn't before she started school, but once at school, you are leaving them anyway, and yes, I started leaving them at parties if I knew the mum, or round at one or two people's houses for tea, but only after I'd checked out the parents by chatting a lot, perhaps inviting their child over first. There is a tricky age in which some parents seem to let go a bit sooner than other (I used to hang around at birthday parties long after some parents as my little girl was a bit of a sprinter and I didn't think it fair for them to have to supervise her). I found by 6, both of mine were fine to go to others houses and, for my youngest, much earlier, about 4.

If you want the other parent to come, it restricts the opportunities, most working mums won't be able to take up a weekday invitation, and people are often quite family-oriented at weekends. But don't do anything you are not comfortable with, and if you don't think your child is ready to go solo, or you'd rather go with them, I think the other parent will understand, at least at nursery/first year of school age.

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