Making Friends As An Adult Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
The first time I tried to make a new friend as an adult I was living in Holland. My target was a girl I’d decided would be my gym buddy. After numerous smiles and hellos, I’d finally built up the courage to ask what her name is and perhaps even ask for her phone number. Months in Holland: three. Friends made: zero. My mind had been elsewhere – focusing on the spice section in the supermarket wondering whether ‘kaneel’ was cinnamon or cumin. One could use Google translate, but that would require internet. Another trick I was yet to master.
As I walked over to my gym-friend-to-be and prepared to start up a conversation, I was slightly deflated by her response. Given she spoke perfect English and we were in a gym class where the instructor spoke in English and we were in Holland where everyone spoke English, “I don’t speak English” was… an odd outcome. Alas, I just concluded that she was a bitch and perhaps I’d meet someone at my hair appointment that afternoon.
See, I’m a theoretical extrovert. I am supposed to be confident and able in these situations, but that ‘first day of school’ feeling is simply heinous. For five years, I have been living in Europe and Asia. This means for five years, I’ve been going on blind friend dates. Here are my lessons from abroad to ensure you master the art of making friends as a grown up.
Lesson #1 Quality Over Quantity
Expatriate, repatriate or just keen to change things up a little, don’t get caught up in the numbers game. It’s not high school anymore, and two deliciously perfect friends are better than five fairly average ones that you care what you look like in front of.
Lesson #2 No Is Not An Option
It’s awkward and you probably want to bail, but you’re not allowed. Pull up your socks, (wo)man up and say yes to any opportunity that comes your way. Rest assured, nothing can be worse than joining a mothers group when you don’t have kids (yes, this happened) but thems the rules. Challenge yourself, push your confidence and give yourself a little pat on the back.
Lesson #3 Back To School
Rekindle those sandpit besties and bring the past back to life. You probably know each other’s parents and siblings and had sleepovers when you were eight. There’s a solid hour of chatting and reminiscing right there.
Lesson #4 Approach And Be Approachable
A clever tip for approaching a stranger: give a compliment. This easy conversation starter is your ice-breaker. If the idea of that gives you anxiety, find your middle ground in the surroundings. In an exercise class? In the communal office kitchen? Get over the awkward hurdle, smile and make conversation.
Lesson #5 It’s OK To Not Like Them
There are just some people we won’t click with. It’s OK to call it a day rather than force another boring hour of hearing about their shit job. If you would rather just stay home and watch David Attenborough’s Planet Earth on a Friday night than have dinner with her/him, it’s probably a sign.
Lesson #6 Be Open Minded
Repeat after me: thou shall not judge. Whether it be the other side of the world or the other side of the train tracks, don’t let stereotypes define who you’ll get along with. Instead, embrace it. Different cultures, languages, ages, income brackets will only be a barrier if you allow them to be.
Lesson #7 Think Outside The Box
If Tinder has taught us anything, it’s that creepy internet-ing is now acceptable. Have something you’ve been wanting to try but don’t know where to start? The answer in life is always Google. Think outside the box and get researching. Meetup.com or Go Volunteer are great places to start.
Lesson #8 Save The Date
Remember, they’re also trying you on for size. Unlike the monkey bars in year four, friendships don’t just occur because you stand beside them in a line. Be reliable and consistent. If you need to bail, suggest another date and stick to it.
Lesson #9 Don’t Wait For The Invitation
Rather than wait for a Facebook notification, be proactive and organise something. Ever wanted to play touch rugby, be in a book club or have a brunch club? Make it happen! Worst case, it fails and you’re back to where you started. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Lesson #10 You’re Not Alone
Chances are, they’re probably wanting to be friends with you too. Or at the very least, they’re as nervous as you. If they’ve accepted your invitation, then you’re in that boat together. Now you just have to figure out what to talk about… but that’s another story for another day.
Holly is the lady behind the food blog, The Wandering Matilda. She has spent the last five years writing and cooking across Europe and Asia. Tasting, treating, tippling and typing, Holly feels she has mastered adulthood when her butcher knows her name, she makes it in time for 6:30am yoga and can justify buying fresh blueberries over frozen ones. Follow her wanders @thewanderingmatilda.