When you first move to a new neighborhood, a new city or another country, the beginning is always difficult. At first it takes effort to meet people and make new friends… When people arrive in the UK, they sometimes imagine themselves immediately surrounded by English friends…. but listen up! The British are not going to become your friends overnight, just because you want to improve your English. Think about it, when you are back home, how many new friends do you make in a year? Probably none… Why? Because you have your circle (at university, at work, in your neighborhood, etc.) and you don’t need any more friends. The only way to meet people naturally is by working (whether it’s paid or volunteer work) or doing activities in your spare time. Here we reveal our best tips, which we’ve come up with after living many years in the UK:
Find your ‘English grandparent’
If you like older people telling you about their lives and having tea, and it sounds like a good plan for the afternoon once a week, LinkAge (in Bristol) or AgeUK is what you’re looking for. These organizations allow you to volunteer with elderly people and you can practice English with other volunteers, at the organization’s meetings and events.
What do you need? You need to plan ahead as they need to check your criminal record and this process takes about a month. Once you commit you have to participate for a minimum of 6 months. To become a volunteer in your city (anywhere in the UK), check out the webpage: www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer
Do some physical exercise
If, on the other hand, you are a person with a more active lifestyle and you prefer to meet people while doing a sport, Good Gym is for you. Thanks to this organization, you will combine physical exercise with volunteer activities for the community: pulling weeds, painting houses, moving boxes in a charity, restoring a farm… and make them a part of your fitness routine. There are several locations (in London). They are preparing new activities in more cities, but they are currently only operating in Camden, Bristol, Hackney, Lambeth, Liverpool, Westminster and Tower Hamlets.
What do you need? All you need is a pair of trainers and some energy. You can go whenever you want, without any commitment. Run! www.goodgym.org
Do you prefer bikes?
Get on yours and get ready to pedal because there are plenty of things to do in Bristol. For example, you can find a club for Bike Polo (like regular polo with horses, only with bikes). There are similar clubs in many cities, including London, Cambridge, Manchester, Edimburgh, Cardiff, etc… Find the club nearest you: https://leagueofbikepolo.com/clubs
What do you need? If you have a bike, you can join the Bike Polo Club on their website. But if you haven’t got a bike in Bristol, you have other options: http://www.thebristolbikeproject.org/about-us/volunteer/
If you are more into nature and the countryside…
Have you realized that life in the city is not for you? Discover the urban gardens that Bristol has to offer. There, you can get in touch with nature, develop new skills, meet others with the same interests… and all without leaving Bristol. Contact InglésGo4it and they’ll give you the phone number of the people in charge.
What do you need? You need to want to work but you don’t need a high level of English to start interacting with the other members. In London you have the The Urban Orchard Project, and it’s easy to find other similar projects in other cities using Google.
Sign up for events and festivals
Do you like talking to people and collaborating in event organization? Check your calendar to see what festivals are coming up in Bristol or your city, they are always looking for volunteers. We suggest you try out some events this summer, like BRISFEST or the BRISTOL24RACE. But if you contact different organizations that plan events and festivals in the UK, you will definitely find an event near your city that you like and you can sign up as a volunteer: British Federation of Festivals. Check the map and you can find festivals that take place anywhere from London to Glasgow, even in small towns and medium-sized cities like Plymouth or Cardiff. The choices are endless.
Article by Sandrine Escaño
If you have any other advice, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thank you!