It’s a known fact that most of us meet our closest friends as children and teens, usually throughout education, and the real good ones will make it to adulthood by your side, too.
But I’m here to talk to you about a taboo subject, loneliness. What happens if old friendships fade or circumstances change? You may take a job that lands you in a completely new place with no previous roots, which is where I found myself.
I’ll always remember when I said ‘how do I make friends as an adult?’ out loud to my family and was met with laughter.
I wasn’t joking, I was deadly serious, and I didn’t know the answer. I had a couple of very close friends that I’d known almost my entire life, but I was moving to a new city with no previous experience of the whole friendship dating scene. I had no idea where to start, and it seemed as though nobody really understood my fears.
Dread is the only word to describe how I felt. I can’t refuse the job as the opportunity is too great, but I also can’t live my life just going to work and going home. I need a social life, new connections, and at best just some people around me to help make the relocating process that little bit easier.
The only suggestion that came up was of course the gym. Sign up to a local gym and introduce yourself to complete strangers. Approaching somebody as they’re warming up or putting a sweaty hand out for a shake just wasn’t realistic, and I wasn’t pinning all my hopes on meeting my new best friend at Legs, Bums and Tums.
Context complete, it’s time for me to share my experience of making friends as an adult without feeling (or looking) weird about it all.
The Obvious Answer… Colleagues
Of course you’re going to be pleasant with colleagues, enjoy small talk and just ‘get on’, it’s pretty much a given to be successful in a job. However, there’s a real chance to develop genuine friendships with coworkers, above and beyond the 9am-5pm working week. Spend a bit of time getting to know them on the surface and you’ll quickly identify who you think you could really become friends with outside the office.
Once you know who you click with, it’s time to execute the plan. Make a suggestion for after work drinks, or even take it a step further and suggest a drink during the weekend. Connect on social media, exchange phone numbers, all of which are the things that cross the line from simply colleague, to potential new friends. It’s not ideal that all of your friends also be co-workers, but it’s a great place to start.
Do not underestimate the power of Facebook groups for connecting with new people. If you’ve moved to a major city, or moved abroad, it’s likely you’ll find a group specifically created for this purpose, think ‘Expats Barcelona’ or ‘Moving to London’ as examples. These groups are packed with people that are also new, or that have been there and are willing to help others settle in.
Not only are they a great way to make friends, arrange meetups etc, but they’re a great resource to ask practical questions about your new area. I am an active member still on the Facebook group I joined when I moved, and have met a few great people on there that I would now consider friends. Just remember to always be vigilant and careful if you’re arranging to meet with people you don’t know.
Clubs and Hobbies
Hobbies are a great way to meet like-minded people without feeling awkward about it. I mentioned the gym earlier, and that still counts, but I’m talking about other opportunities to get together. I joined my local Swimming World group, both for losing a few pounds and to meet some of my fellow members and it was a great way to put myself out there.
There’s likely to be a number of clubs and activities to get stuck into in your new area relating to arts and crafts, sports like the local football team, and even book clubs. You’ll need to do a bit of research to unearth when and where they are, but they’re absolutely perfect for just showing up, because everybody else has also been new once before.
Remember, Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Unless you’re a real natural and social butterfly, don’t expect to have a new group of friends within a couple of days of arriving in your new destination. You don’t need to be told that these things take time, but it can be easy to get hopes too high and feel really deflated when we don’t have a new BFF on speed dial within a week.
Giving the above suggestions a try and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will see you building more connections and ultimately giving you a better chance of success in your new adventure.
Despite all of this excitement, do not forget to stay connected to old friends. It’s important to continue to make the effort despite distance, and make sure you invite them to your new place sometime, wherever it may be! Those friends you’ve had for many, many years are so valuable, and also key to maintaining important connections.