Throughout Freshers’ Week, I had two factors working against me. The first was that by the Wednesday I had lost my voice and attempts to make whispered conversation in clubs were consigned to failure. Yet, the other factor working against me outshone this fundamental problem spectacularly, and that was the fact that I was not from London or the surrounding counties.
Before Nottingham, I had never even heard of Dulwich. When people asked me where I was from and I told them “Northamptonshire” they smiled politely, a vacant expression on their faces (to be fair, if I wasn’t from that little backwater, I wouldn’t know where it was either) before turning to the person next to them and descending into a conversation about London, as chances were they were both from the South. Inevitably, it would turn out that they had mutual friends, went to the same nightclubs, and probably attended Alleyn’s School.
My knowledge of London is limited to what I’ve seen on visits i.e. the Natural History Museum and Buckingham Palace, neither of which constitute brilliant conversation starters. For example, “what did you think of the robotic dinosaurs?” would have me immediately labelled as a complete weirdo and consigned to three years of isolation. Whereas if I’d asked them if they knew so-and-so and which clubs they went to, there would have been a good chance we would by now be BFFs.
So as you attempt to learn the names of everyone you meet, of the three conversation starters “What’s your name?”, “What course are you on?”, and “Where are you from?”, steer well clear of the latter, and if conversation begins to verge on this risky territory, do your utmost best to manoeuvre it back to safe ground. If however, you are from London or the neighbouring area, please take a minute to think of all those you’re alienating by harping on about it.