Kids make friends so easily, don’t they? Got a bike? Let’s ride! New toy? You’re the talk of the town. The little conversations turn into lifelong friendships. High school can get strange and dicey when it comes to building social circles. But, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people at clubs, activities, parties, and part-time jobs.
It’s when you enter adulthood that everything changes. Sure, you can still be BFF with your high school buddy or the close-knit group of amigos you hung out with in college.
But what if you move to a new city? Or break up with your significant other and your friends all take your ex’s side? What if you lose your job and are thrust into a new work environment?
What if all three happen at the same time?
Welcome to my mid-twenties, when I packed up and started over in a new city; Paris, to be exact. A place where I didn’t know a single soul and everyone spoke French.
Ten years later, I have an eclectic, wonderful group of friends – people I never would have met if I didn’t venture out of my comfort zone. Trying a few things that worked and a few things that didn’t, I eventually found my footing.
The Do’s and Don’t’s of Making Friends
Do: Ask for “Recommendations”
If you were looking for a new doctor, you’d have no problem asking for a recommendation. It may seem awkward, but you can do it for friends, too. “Hey Molly! I’m moving to New York next month and I know you used to live there. Do you know anyone who could show me the ropes?”
Don’t: Be Close-Minded
You may be a single party girl in her 20’s, but your new best friend could be a forty-something married chick… or a guy. One of my closest friends is 35 years older than me – you never know who you’ll click with!
Do: Hang out with Work Colleagues, Sparingly
You see these people for a good chunk of your week. If you end up being best buds and can chat every day at the coffee machine, great. It’s not so great if things go from sweet to sour, and you have to pass them every day at the coffee machine. The occasional lunch date or happy hour meet up can be a good way to have a little fun as long as they’re not your only friends.
Don’t: Start Dating Right Away
If you meet The One and are swept up off your feet, then who am I to stop you? But if you’ve just moved and/or broken up with your ex, you’re likely feeling a bit vulnerable. It’s better to focus on establishing a few solid friendships before diving headfirst into a new romance. It’s much harder to meet new people when you’re snuggling on the couch with your new fling 24/7!
Do: Sign up for a Running Club, Art Class, Skydiving Group
Sign up for basically anything that interests you. I joined an all-female gym, where I practiced my French and socialized with unpretentious Mademoiselles while burning off my daily croissant intake.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Go out Alone
I mean, don’t hang out in a dark alley by yourself. But you can go to a bar or concert with just you, your sparkling personality, and a willingness to meet new people.
Do: Place an Ad in the Platonic Section of Craigslist
Be prepared for the deluge of sketchballs looking for a non-platonic relationship (do people even READ anymore?) but you’ll get good hits, too. During my first week abroad, I met two fabulous chicks online and we kept in touch for years. They also introduced me to their friends and showed me around town, expanding my circle of friends even further.
Don’t: Be Rude
Some people rub you the wrong way or are just not your type. They’re dorky or clingy or won’t stop talking about their dental work. Let ’em down easy and move on. If they don’t get the hint, say, “Thanks for showing me around the old shoemaker’s district. The next time I’m in the mood for some sightseeing, I’ll get in touch!”
Do: Be Confident
There’s nothing more attractive – even platonically – than confidence. People love hanging around confident (but not cocky) people because they radiate good energy. It’s hard to feel confident at first when you’re Miss No Friends at the end of the bar. Keep telling yourself that you will eventually make friends because you’re a badass with a killer personality that people are just waiting to discover.
Don’t: Come on Too Strong
If you’re arrogant or desperate, coming on strong will scare off your potential friend. Be cool. Friendships don’t form overnight. It’s OK to be excited about all you have in common – “You camped out at Phish Everglades 2000, too?” – but don’t start planning the next 25 weekends together. Give him or her your number, suggest a time to hang out in the future, and let your friendship grow.
Do: Volunteer for an Organization That Interests You
If you like pets, help out at an animal shelter or an adoption fair. You’ll meet other pet-lovers and will have common ground to strike up a conversation. I volunteer for an English-speaking crisis line in Paris, which is a great way to meet English speakers in a sea of Frenchies.
It’s not easy to make friends as an adult. But your awesomeness and open mind will get you pretty far. And if you move to Paris, give me a call – I’d be happy to show you the ropes.