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American family moving to UK - making friends and transitions

(49 Posts)
rosemc Sun 03-Apr-16 07:27:55

My husband's company is transferring him to London, so we all (daughters 9 and 7 and a dog) are moving from Boston. We're looking at Dulrich and Sutton. I'm feeling intimidated by the transition and I've read that British and American cultural differences are more significant than one would think. It's important to me Are there meetup groups like there are in the US by interest? Any advice on making friends and how to mitigate cultural differences? I play soccer (football?) with a fun women's league, hiking, and writing groups if anyone has specific recommendations. Thanks in advance.

Greta28 Sun 03-Apr-16 07:33:00

You'll be fine. Every time you get nervous, just think that the biggest barrier (language), isn't there smile The fact that you speak the same language makes everything so, so much easier.

Will you be working in the uk?

EmpressOfTheSevenOceans Sun 03-Apr-16 07:39:15

Plenty of walking groups around South London & some beautiful areas to walk in.

There's also an amateur women's football league you could look at?

wispaxmas Sun 03-Apr-16 07:48:09

Hiya! I'm a Canadian in SE London - it's a great place to live! As for groups I'm sure you will find local groups, and having a dog is one of the easiest ways of meeting people aside from having children. I've met so many local people when out walking my dog! I'm not local to Dulwich or Sutton, so I don't know the walking areas around there, but ask anyone when you're out walking and I'm sure you'll find them really helpful. Dog owners tend to be friendly types, I've found.

I was a student when I moved here, and my husband, daughter, and dog all came along afterwards, so I never did the search for family friends or the like, but I've found Facebook to be a good place to find some local groups, too. We moved to Paris for 8 months and I met other mums through an expat group, which made living there so much easier and less isolating!

rosemc Sun 03-Apr-16 07:48:33

I run a fairly successful photography business here in Boston, but that's not something easy to start over with in a new country. That's been one of the most difficult things to give up, but the position my husband is up for is a great one.

Thank you for the soccer/football info!

AntsMarching Sun 03-Apr-16 07:50:12

I made the move 10 years ago. It is tough and the differences were much greater than I expected. I'm from the south (NC), and found British people very hard to crack. It seems like they don't let you in the way Americans do. It's taken a long time to not feel like an outsider.

You will be fine, but I think it's wise to recognise up front that it's a completely different culture. Also, there are American groups you can join. There's a group on Facebook called Americans in London, good place to find expats near you.

Toomanycats99 Sun 03-Apr-16 07:50:35

We live just a couple of miles from Sutton. There are lots of local fb groups. There's a 'whats on in' for several of the local areas (Banstead / Sutton / Carshalton / Wallington) Also a carshalton mums group which is great for asking questions and finding out stuff that's going on. I saw you had posted on the education boards as well and a word of warning - Sutton schools are great but many are quite over subscribed.

Paffle Sun 03-Apr-16 07:53:19

Hi. I'm in Dulwich area although my kids are younger than yours and I have no different hobbies. But shout if you want to talk. Can you PM each other on these boards?

EmpressOfTheSevenOceans Sun 03-Apr-16 08:12:16

It might be worth running through some of the language differences with your DDs before you get here - words like pants, fanny & bum that could cause definite embarrassment in the wrong ways.

EmpressOfTheSevenOceans Sun 03-Apr-16 08:12:47

Sorry, if used in the wrong ways.

QueenandKingMum Sun 03-Apr-16 09:08:16

I'm from an hour north of Boston, have been here 12 years now. I'm in east Kent but there's some great expat groups on FB, PM if you'd like details!

KaraKaraKodi Sun 03-Apr-16 12:01:23

One big cultural difference is the relationship with alcohol.

It's pretty common for people in the UK to "go for a drink" as a way of social bonding. Office workers will often "go for a swift one" or "a quick pint" with colleagues after work in groups - even if they are married. It's normal and just part of socialising.

In the USA generally an invitation to drink alcohol (or going to bar/pubs for purpose of drinking) is the equivalent of asking someone on a date. Alcohol consumption is for single people and groups of single people. In the USA, married people don't generally go out in groups to bars or pubs with colleagues. Here it is very different. Alcohol does not automatically = trawling for sex.

It is a big part of normal social bonding here in a way that is very different in the USA.

Another big cultural differences is attitude to strangers. In the USA, Americans are more open and naturally friendly and chatty. In the UK, everyone assumes that all strangers are serial killers and anyone you don't know trying to engage you in conversation is a weirdo. If you've been to New York, the whole of the UK is more like the New York subway. People are just the same when you get to know them - but the British are more reserved.

Finally don't ever refer to British people as "Brits". The Welsh regard themselves as Welsh; the English as English and so on. Each of the home nations has a separate cultural identity that they are proud of. Plenty of people find the term "Brits" irritating or offensive.

butteredmuffin Sun 03-Apr-16 12:50:40

There are tons of foreign people in London, from all over the world. And there is a women's amateur football league in London, so I'm sure you could find a club somewhere near you. That would be a good way of making friends. Lots of writing groups in London as well. If I were you I would just continue to pursue your existing hobbies and you will naturally meet new people you have things in common with.

IthinkIamsinking Sun 03-Apr-16 12:53:14

Nothing like a few utterly absurd generalisations hey Kara hmm

butteredmuffin Sun 03-Apr-16 12:59:52

Maybe Kara is American and talking from experience. I certainly don't feel that very much of her post rings true, but then again I'm a Brit (and no, I don't find the word offensive) so maybe I would feel differently if I were here as an expat.

British people are a bit different to Americans, it's true, but most people are very friendly and perfectly willing to welcome a new person into their social circle.

BitterAndOnlySlightlyTwisted Sun 03-Apr-16 13:58:36

We're a reserved lot down here in the South-East. Don't be surprised if you meet people, become friends and are never invited into their homes. If you do get an invitation then you know you're considered a true and close friend!

Don't misunderstand the use of the word "quite" here. In the US it seems to be a substitute for "very", here it's used to mean the opposite. "How was that restaurant you went to on Friday?" "Oh, it was quite good." This is a polite way of saying that it was lousy.

You're from Boston so the cultural differences should be fewer than if you come from elsewhere. I hope.

We might appear to be a cold and reserved bunch but we're pretty friendly once you get under the surface.

And I'd echo what KaraKaraKodi said about the attitude to drinking alcohol here. In some circles a "good night out" means getting pissed, and that doesn't mean being annoyed with anyone. Well, not always. Even the Romans, when they invaded, thought we were drunkards. I blame it on the climate.

Get used to metric: we don't do inches and feet here anymore, or Fahrenheit.

Also, don't bother bringing any electrical appliances over unless you want to invest in a load of transformers to make them work here. Computers and similar should work but you'll need to check.

You'll probably find food more expensive here than you're used to at home.

RealityCheque Sun 03-Apr-16 14:28:28

BitterAndTwisted - sorry, that's rubbish.

Born and bred English and lived here all my life. A "quite good" restaurant does NOT mean lousy - what a load of shite. If a restaurant was lousy, most Brits will say "it was shit rubbish, avoid it". Quite good means just that. It's better than average but not exceptional.

I would hate to be in your circle of friends if you were incapable of saying what you mean. hmm

howmanyairmiles Sun 03-Apr-16 14:56:28

Google the peach and the coconut models of culture, it will help you understand the cultural differences. USA being the peaches and we tend to be coconuts smile

BIWI Sun 03-Apr-16 15:01:16

Make sure you really explore the areas where you're looking at living - there's a big difference between Sutton and Dulwich!

springydaffs Sun 03-Apr-16 15:02:36

I didn't think what Kara said was absurd or generalised at all. It is just such seemingly minute differences that make up a culture. Just because we speak the same language etc.

CuttedUpPear Sun 03-Apr-16 15:05:01

My Dsis who lives in CA is astounded at the high price of clothes and food here.

Remember that Pants are items of underwear here and not trousers!

BIWI Sun 03-Apr-16 15:08:02

... and don't talk about your fanny pack! Fanny means something altogether different here. grin

CaurnieBred Sun 03-Apr-16 15:09:32

You can also contact the American Women's Club London. They seem to do a lot

BIWI Sun 03-Apr-16 15:11:16

[[http://www.effingpot.com/slang.shtml You may find this helpful grin ]]

BIWI Sun 03-Apr-16 15:11:29

Sorry - link fail Try again

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