A common issue we face as we grow older is the difficulty to form new friendships after leaving high school. As we begin to find ourselves and forge our path to adulthood, our friendships that served us from childhood through to our teenage years tend to dwindle out. I remember my friends and I creating a pact in our final year of high school that this would not happen to us, that we would always make an effort to stay friends despite going off to study different areas at different universities. Yet, inevitably, we’ve slowly drifted apart and gone from talking every day to talking every couple of months. This is not because the friendship wasn’t real, but rather the people you grew up with may no longer share the same interests and values that you do.
The challenge: when you’re not forced into a class of twenty or so people at school or a tutorial group at university, how do you get to know new people without coming across as desperate?
I find that the workplace is both a good and a bad place to make friends. I have always formed strong relationships with colleagues since they are the people I spend the most time with. Yet sometimes, despite a strong connection, a barrier will prevent an easy, life-long friendship from flourishing. I’ve found this usually happens when people are at different life stages to me. I enjoy the wisdom older people can bestow me, but ultimately I crave a friendship where I can talk to the other person about anything, that they can relate, and we can create memories through spending our free time together.
So when I moved to Wellington, my number one priority was to create my own life here with my own friends. I had no idea how to do this, particularly given that back home my new friendships were formed through mutual friends, hockey, or work. If I couldn’t branch out and find new friends back home then how was I going to survive in a city where I knew no one?
This is the brilliant part about getting out of your comfort zone: you are forced to find solutions to problems you previously didn’t need the answers to.
So here are some examples of ways I personally formed friendships, which are easily applied wherever you are.
1. Finding Great Flatmates
Despite the renting crisis here in Wellington, I knew that I needed to live with people similar to me who would make my experience here that much better. I went to several flat viewings before I found the place and people I call home. My wonderful flatmates are kiwis of similar age and career level, and both had travelled extensively. Basically, we could relate. But more than that, they are interesting people who I could learn from without upheaving my whole lifestyle to fit in with. In hindsight, I am so glad I risked being homeless to find the perfect flatmates who are now wonderful friends.
I was very fortunate to get a job in a workplace that was mostly comprised of people at a similar age to me and included expats like myself. This meant that shortly after moving here I was able to find friends to socialize with outside of work. On my second day at work, I was invited to come along to the ‘Twelve Pubs of Christmas’, a pub-crawl happening that Friday. Naturally we all got a little tipsy and it was the perfect icebreaker. Early on I made it known I wasn’t just here to work and if there wasn’t an event planned then I made the effort to organize social activities myself.
3. Asking People Out (In a Non-Romantic Way)
Fact: I asked my beauty therapist to hang out after an appointment with my lady parts. Pretty soon you realize that in a big city where no one knows you, you’ve got nothing to lose. She was super friendly and also an expat, so I thought, ‘why not?’ She gave me her phone number and said to message if I ever wanted to go out to town with her. At the time I was already busy forming friendships with my new work friends so I never caught up with her, but nevertheless it gave me the reassurance I needed that I could make friends anywhere I went.
4. Join a Meetup Group!
After seven months in Wellington, I decided I was too comfortable and I wanted to expand my social circle. I missed travelling and the fascinating conversations I’d had through meeting new people from all over the globe. So I stumbled upon the website meetup.com. There were hundreds of groups to join. I decided to request to join a group called, ‘Young (and new) Wellington Expats’. I chose this group because it only had eighty members and the organizer was actively creating events. I wrote a brief description about myself and was accepted into the group. That weekend, I mustered all of my confidence and met other members of the group for a walk up Mount Victoria, followed by a beer at the pub. There were only five of us, but we instantly clicked and bonded over our shared experience of moving to Wellington.
5. Take Advantage of Mutual Friends
Made a friend? Great, go to group events with their friends. You might not click and become best friends with everyone, but putting yourself out there and talking to new people is a sure way to find a great friend somewhere down the line of people. Go to parties, go to quiz nights, go to events organized by social committees. Basically, say yes to things! People are valuable and it’s important to keep meeting them.
Ultimately, I think that if you really know yourself and the type of people who add value to your life, you will find people you connect with. Have conversations, tell people you are looking to expand your social circle, and make an effort to appreciate the wonderful people you meet. Most importantly, always be friendly!