No one ever told me it was going to be so hard. But in the face of my 4th relocation in my adult life (both moving city and moving countries), the idea of having to find new friends again seems a bit daunting, over whelming, and to be honest, I simply don’t have the motivation and energy to do it again. I mean, I have amazing friends, they’re just not here, and all I really want is the friends I already have, so I’m expecting new people to fill some BIG shoes, and feeling more than a bit disappointed when they don’t.
As I’ve got older, I’ve learned more about myself and what type of people I enjoy being around – intelligent, friendly, open, accepting, funny, outgoing and interesting people. I no longer feel I must fit in – you either like me for me or you don’t, and if you don’t, then I’m not going to waste my time. But why is it that it seems to get harder every time around? I still think it is easier for women to make new friends than it is for men, but that still doesn’t mean it is easy. So this leads me to two questions – how do kids do it? And why is it harder for men to form meaningful friendships than women?
How do kids do it?
You know how you see kids at a park, and they don’t know anyone, but they just rock up and before you can blink they’ve got a playmate? How do they do that??! I have some theories. They have no expectations. They are happy with a playmate for 5 minutes, a new playmate each day, or the same playmate for 5 years. Adults have walls up. We don’t usually see the worth in a 5 minutes playmate. Most of us feel it takes more energy than it’s worth. Are we missing out? Probably. On the other hand, kids get to focus on playing, while adults have to focus on jobs, housework, significant others, kids (if they have them), leaving less energy over for making friends. Kids also usually have far less prejudices and stereotypes imprinted on them compared to adults. Adults assess a situation before hand. You’re not going to approach a person who seems dodgy, weird or in some other way strange. This makes us adults. We keep ourselves safe. So should we be more like children? Maybe a little bit – entering a potential friendship with no expectations, seeing past the stereotypes… But somehow I can’t see myself sharing my toys in the sandbox with the next adult who comes along…
Why is it harder for men?
Not being a man, I am purely speculating here. Men seem to have a real struggle to form meaningful friendships once they leave school/uni. They have mates, social acquaintances, beer buddies – whatever you want to call them – but they don’t tend to form the same close bond that women do. And I’m not really sure why. Occasionally, but very rarely, they do make a real friend. Are they more career-focused? Not in all cases. Do they not require the same level of support and friendship that women do? No, I don’t believe that either. Are they more fussy? I don’t think so. Less open to putting themselves out there? Maybe… Nope, I simply can’t come up with a good answer to this question. Anyone got any theories they want to share?
What is my strategy going to be for making new friends (again!)?
Number 1, and probably the biggest thing I must focus on – I am not going to find my friends’ personalities encased in someone else’s body on a different continent. Drop the expectations! Accept people for who they are, instead of searching for the people I miss.
Number 2, don’t be scared of rejection! It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and meet potential new friends for the first time. And it’s not going to work out every time. There are some people you are just not going to mesh with, for whatever reason. But despite this, I have to keep trying. And for those of you comfortably at home with all your family and friends around you, don’t neglect the effort it takes from a newbie to crack into a social circle – it’s not easy! Invite them to join you and a friend for a coffee or a movie. It will take so little effort from you, but will be so appreciated.
Number 3, go places where you can meet people. No, I don’t mean the local pub. Whatever your interests are, find a group with these interests. Meetup.com is pretty awesome for this. So far I’ve tried out a running club – it didn’t work out because of number 1, my expectations – I just wanted to be running with my friends! I’ve also tried out a Tae Kwon Do club. There were a few more reasons that one didn’t work out, from the fact I didn’t see myself making BFF with 15 year olds, to a recurring hamstring injury, to me having done TKD for years longer than most of the instructors there. I’ve also joined a Kiwi meetup group – it has potential, if I can remember to control Number 1!
And patience and perseverance. It took time to build the wonderful friendships I have in other countries. It’s going to take time again to build friendships here too. But it really does make me feel like I am dating for friends – small talk, getting to know people. And I am finding it hard work. But good things take time right?