Dear, oh dear. I haven’t been publishing as regularly as I wanted to. I’m not mad, though. It’s because I’ve been swamped with freelance work! Just to show that I haven’t forgot about you, here’s a new post. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for awhile and I hope it gets you thinking too.
* * *
A few weeks ago at a party my friends were discussing Christmas plans. A couple of them just moved to London from Canada and it will be their first Christmas abroad without their family and friends; it will be my fourth in a row.
“I’d like to go away somewhere, even if it’s just in the UK,” Ali said.
“Me too, but I think it will be really expensive,” Diana added.
Cue the collective disappointed Yeahhhhs. There was chatter about us all doing something together. Diana turned to me: “Alyssa, do you have any plans for — oh, nevermind, you’ll be with Tom.”
I used her accidental interruption to prove my point:
Travelling as a couple means people ignore you.
A lot of people will quickly dismiss having your company. They won’t tell you but if you confront them about it, they’ll probably say they thought of it but figured you would be with your significant other. Or they’ll call it ‘giving you space’. Either way, it will happen.
Does having a boyfriend mean I wouldn’t want to do something with my friends? Do people think we’re attached at the hip? Does having a significant other remove the need for friends?
I’m an expat here too you know!
* * *
I never made more friends and met more people while travelling than when I arrived in Martinique the first year by myself. People offered to help me or take me out and I learned about a lot of things that way.
In London people are curious too: “You moved to London by yourself?!” Then they find out I have a partner here and it all makes sense.
I’m no longer adventurous and interesting…
Just a girl who moved abroad to be with a guy.
I met with a client yesterday and even he was curious about why I moved to London. I gave the party line: It’s the best city in the world, I have the opportunity to live and work here with a visa – why wouldn’t I? It’s true, but not the whole story. A former journalist, he probed with questions.
“But do you have any connections or family here?”
Oh, I get it.
“Well… My boyfriend is from here.” I wanted to hide my slight embarrassment. “I try not to make that the first reason I give when people ask…” Cue my nervous laughter.
He finally seemed satisfied with my answer. The same thing happened in a job interview a year ago.
When Tom and I travel together people talk to us but I can see that they try to give us space. They rarely invite us out to do things with them and it’s the same thing living in London. When I was in Barcelona by myself people came out with me, offered me their hostel cooked dinner, and invited me out.
Maybe people assume I won’t come; maybe they don’t want to infringe on ‘couple time’ but I am certain that it doesn’t occur to people to invite me places. Or it does but they think I’ll be doing something else.
I confronted a friend about this once.
She said, “Well, surely you spend time with your boyfriend’s friends…”
Yes, that is true. But they are his friends, not mine. So, I’m doubly disadvantaged in this situation because Tom is a local here.
When I shared my theory with Ali, she agreed. She moved to London on her own in September and people were falling over themselves (maybe a slight exaggeration) to help her out and take her out to meet new people. God forbid someone let the single woman in London be by herself!
“I think people assume that you’ll figure it out on your own or your boyfriend will help you,” she said.
* * *
If I was cool enough to have internet trolls, I’m sure that they would say something like
“You’re probably an unlikable bitch” “Well, have you ever considered it might be you?”
Yes, of course. I’m naturally quite shy and an introvert so I generally prefer to be alone or with a few people. But I make an effort to accept invitations and when I do, I’m a pretty fun gal.
I went to a former co-worker’s birthday party in the summer. I stayed out until 3am and we had a great time.
Another colleague said on Monday, “Alyssa. You’re actually kinda fun.”
But how would she know? The only time we had all gone out together was at a work function and I certainly wasn’t going to be any more than interesting – no matter what people say about London work culture.
I make an effort. I joined dance classes, the gym, I go to London meet-ups…
* * *
It’s a vicious cycle, really. Travel couples don’t always try very hard because they have each other to rely on. People know couples do this and don’t make an effort. Then travel couple can’t make friends and Bob’s your uncle: a vicious cycle.
Just because we travel together or I moved abroad to be with him doesn’t mean I want to spend every waking moment with him or his friends. I may do it out of necessity, to combat a lack of socialization, but I’d rather have my own friends.
Married people lose friends, couples travelling together can’t make any. Don’t force us to make our lives all about each other because you think our lives are all about each other.
I’m interested to hear from you! Do you agree or am I full of crap? Hey, maybe it’s because I have a blog or because I wear toe shoes at the gym… Leave your opinion in the comments below!