The Art of Making Friends

Friday 26 October 2012

Sunset in our neighbourhood

When we're young, we tend to make friends quite easily.  Our biggest commitment is school and let's face it, a lot of school is about social interaction.  As we get older, it starts to get a little more difficult. We have spouses and commitments and that takes away time from our friendships.  Some of our best friends move away or we move and things change.

I grew up in the same town and went to school with the same people from kindergarten through graduation.  It was impossible not to know everyone in town.  Upon graduation, I chose to go to a university that my friends weren't going to but I lived in residence and made some really great friends - in fact, some of my best friends (including my husband.)  Then we all moved away to pursue our careers. I started in another small town and after awhile, made a few friends at the school I was teaching at and as I was feeling comfortable there, the decision was made to move 7 hours North to be with Joe.  Again, I had to make all new friends.  With each move, it got a little harder.  The older I got, the more commitments I had and the same went for potential peers.  I also became a little pickier about my friends - I wanted people I connected with, who had similar interests, someone that I could hold conversations with and feel like I could be myself.

And then we moved to Gabon.

It took me about a month before I met my first English speaking friend in Port Gentil.  The next week, she took me to a group event and slowly but surely, friendships started forming.  Port Gentil is small and while the expat community is pretty large, by the end, I felt like I knew or knew of most of the other women in town.  The majority of us didn't work and had nothing but time on our hands to have coffee, go to the beach, and plan soirées.  I made some pretty unlikely friends in Gabon - people I would never imagine myself connecting with on many levels - but we needed each other.  Gabon was hard on all of us and having people that actually understood all that we were going through was essential.

Now, we're in Norway and I find myself wanting to connect with other people - to make some friends.  It's a bit more difficult here.  Some of the women work and there are loads of things to do in town from shopping to yoga to language classes.  I don't have a job that connects me with other people and I don't have children that will make friends so that I can be friends with their parents.  It's solely up to me.

This week I decided to put myself out there.  I went to a movie with the women's group, I did the field trip to Stavanger Glassblåseri, I sent emails about yoga classes and book clubs all in the name of making friends.  It takes a lot of work to connect with other people when we don't have forced interaction and unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to make any friends having a latte on my terrace.

Eventually, it will happen but it's going to take some of effort.

Where have you had the most success making friends?

{Loved this article on making friends as an adult}


  1. The first time I lived in Australia, I lived with family friends and was so shy it took me a month to make friends. I finally caved after a week of illness and homework troubles with no one to talk to and I sucked it up and made 4 friends in 1 week! The 2nd time I moved here, I was studying and I sent an email to the other Canadians in the hopes of connecting. It worked and then started classes, soon became very close to my classmates. Now everyone has moved away but I still have a few friends outside of work to connect with.
    It's very hard making friends as an adult in a new city and I commend your efforts! Good luck!
    But if you do need someone to have a latte on your terrace with, I'm available next year :)

  2. It becomes really difficult to make friends as an expat - and like you said - it takes time! Jurg and I really only started getting into a tight friendship group in Jo'burg after about a year. That being said, I also never really pushed myself to meet others like I should have. I admire you for putting yourself out there, it takes more courage than one would think!


  3. I don't envy you at all! Making friends is not my forte. You should read MWF searching for BFF. It's about her wanting to find a new best friend and she went on 52 friend dates in a year. It's great that you are putting yourself out there though, that's the hardest part!

  4. Most of mine in London are or at one point have been colleagues. Some started out as friends of friends and a few others were met travelling. I was quite social when I moved over here, saying yes to a lot but I haven't really made many new friends in the last year or so.

  5. It's definitely tough! I feel like all of my friendships here happened so randomly. Exchange meetups through Couchsurfing and Erasmus were both helpful, but I made one of my best friends just overhearing him speaking native English on the phone and asking where he was from.

  6. I was totally about to point you to that NYT article! it is hard - you're so brave. and it will be worth it!

    I high school classmate of mine lives in Oslo. (Her family is from Norway.) Remind me where you are exactly and I'll email her to see if she knows anyone around you?

  7. I could have written that post myself! I'm 31 years old now and feel like I honestly have zero friends. Yes I have acquaintances, lots of people I also interact with through the blog and Twitter worlds but thats it. You hit the nail right on the head though with your job and being non-interactive. I work in a office, just me, my boss and one other guy. Zero chance to make friends there or get out to meet others. Its been so long that going out with the intention to meet others almost seems scary. And here in Malta it seems very cliquey. I'm hoping that with my move to Scotalnd i'll be able to get out more (though i'll still be working from home), meet new people and make some girlfriends, not just the wives or girlfriends of my husbands friends lol.

    Good luck with the friend hunt! i think if you put youreslf out there and join groups or activiites you'll start to meet others.

  8. Great post! I will be moving to South Korea soon as a first time expat. This post gave me some ideas on making new friends. Thanks!

  9. Well, I have never lived overseas. My friend making has always involved school, work, church (big one), mutual friends, and even vacation. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to meet new friends sipping sweat tea on my patio either....;)

    You'll have to post about this more! Tell us how it goes. What works, what's a waste of time, and what is major AWKWARD.

  10. Wise words Jay. Making friends has certainly been the hardest part of our move to Ghana. Everyone is very polite but no one wants to engage on a deeper level than that, particularly as we live an hour out of a major town. Thanks for the encouragement to put myself out the a little more.

  11. Even though I speak in the US and therefore should have infinite opportunities to meet people and have great friendships, it is hard as an adult! Moving around, switching jobs, settling down with a spouse and home, every step makes it that much harder! I have plenty of acquaintances, but honestly, not a single person I'd call a deep, close friend. Good for you for putting yourself out there and making a bold, scary step. It's encouraging to me to do the same!

  12. You explain so perfectly why adults have trouble making friends. If you aren't a parent and aren't religious, it becomes very difficult to find arenas outside of work and the internet to meet and socialize. I know I'm super picky about friends too, and I worry about us moving away and my difficulty in finding a friend.

  13. That NYT article is fantastic because it's realistic in terms of outlining why we ought to give up the idea of BFFs and settle for BFRN (best friend right now)-in my book club, running club, cooking club, pottery club, etc.

    I'll be in the same position as you soon enough and I think the most important thing is to put yourself out there AND for stretches at a time just say "yes" to every invite and offer you get to go out and meet people. Naturally, there will be times you won't want to, but I've found that's when you have to do it the most. Let's say for every 20 "yes" events/meetups you partake in there's maybe 3-4 people youforge acquaintance-type relationships with and perhaps 1 person you really connect with and start developing a friendship on a deeper level with.

    I find those 19 other "yes" events/meetings are so worth that one person you find. Best of luck! :-)

  14. So so incredibly true. I love hearing your struggle with it, knowing that it has been my struggle before too. I work overseas but all of my coworkers speak very broken English so I have to look outside of there for community. Very thankfully my husband and I have found an amazing expat church that has become like family but before that we struggled to find community for a long time here.

  15. So true! Since leaving my hometown I have always found my friends through work - no matter if in a new town in Germany, after my move to Switzerland and now in Australia. Working in sport / fashion industry, I was always lucky to meet people that have the same interests, personal situations and things they love!!
    Crossing my fingers that you find new friends quickly! Have a lovely weekend, x

  16. Being an expat usually means there are groups out there meant to help with this issue. When I first moved to Abu Dhabi, I happened to be with one of my best friends and have a job that made it easy. There was also this "Meet up" group that one of our acquaintances was in, so we went to a few of their outings.

    But the truth of the matter was that many of the expats were... well, weird, haha. But not necessarily bad. Just very different from what I was used to. That's basically the hardest part of making new friends; accepting that they're not going to be like your old friends and it might take some getting used to when you're first forming bonds together.

  17. Judging from all the comments, it seems like you've hit a hot topic here!

    I switched schools almost once a year during my undergrad, moved to Malta, and just started a new postgrad program, so to say my opportunities to make friends have been fragmented is an understatement. Add to that the fact that Mike works from home and I'm quite shy and it seems like an elephant sized challenge.

    We've been in Malta for 2 years now and are finally starting to feel like we have a good base group of friends, but gosh, it wasn't easy.

    At least when you become an expat you have an excuse to randomly show up at events and not feel too weird saying "Hi, I'm new here" and striking up a conversation. I found it much, much harder to make new friends in my hometown than I do abroad.

    Curious about the language barrier in Norway - has that been an issue for you so far? Are you gravitating mostly to expats or to locals too?

  18. I've lived in the same place for 20 years and I don't have many friends. My friends from childhood and college are scattered all over the country, making it difficult to get together as often as we'd like. I rely on Facebook and blogs to meet people. As a freelancer, I work from home and don't get out much. I go to the library and work sometimes, but that's pretty solitary. It's not exactly a social event.

    I know we have a major time difference, but I'm around if you ever want/need someone to talk to you. E-mail me or Facebook me (there's a link on my blog).

  19. Soooo....what you're telling me is that I'm not a social misfit? It's normal to struggle making friends as an adult? The first time I encountered a lack of friends was when I moved to Singapore, it was really strange to be without a well developed social circle. Now that I think about it, I think you were my last "easy" friend that I made. Not that kind of easy...sheesh! *cheeky grin* Now that I have moved home after being an expat it's even more apparent that making friends is difficult. And it's even more apparent that you no longer live down the street! Poor me!

  20. I can see why one would initially have difficulties making friends in Norway; they go everywhere! They're such busy people, and not always with work, but also with family and friends and leisure activities. I ran into my friend's sister a lot completely randomly when we were taking the ferry going from Bergen to Stord and back. Norwegians seem to always be on the move. Going to vorspiels (even if you don't drink) is so much fun, though, but admittedly you have to meet someone to invite you to one first! CouchSurfing is a nifty way to meet expats, and I also meet a lot of Norwegians online through IRC.

    One of the best things I've experienced in Norway is running into (almost literally) friends on their daily/weekly runs up to the Bergen dam. It's really a country that's heavily focused on personal fitness, and I love it!

  21. There absolutely is an art to making friends. We take it for granted in grade school when it all happens so organically. Now as an adult in a small French town, I find myself wanting to trade places with a high school kid to steal their friends! I really have to try harder!


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