I have relocated six times in the last 15 years, clocking in an average of 2.5 years in each city. Most of these relocations have been after college, without the forced familiarity and togetherness of school, college, and hostel that helped us make friends once upon a time. Often, I have relocated without a single friend in the city. It is always a scary proposition, because we don’t exactly need science to tell us that friendships boost happiness and reduce stress.
So how does one find likeminded friends long after school and college are over, and people no longer have endless hours to spare, hanging out in canteens and cafes? It is not easy, but it is not impossible either.
How to find friends
- Reconnect with old friends and acquaintances
This is my go-to every time I move. It helps that I grew up in a state where people had to move away if they wanted a half-decent college degree. Thanks to that, I have people from school all around the world. Considering the common backgrounds of school, cultural conditioning, and nostalgia for our hometowns, and the big escape all of us gladly made, it is often really easy to pick up exactly where we left off.
- Tap into the simpler relationships at work
I am not big on making friends with bosses. But you will always have people around at work with whom you share an easy, uncomplicated, and often non-competitive relationship. There will be people who share your interests, your love of food and pop culture, or even just your special brand of sense of humour. Make an effort to get to know them better outside of pantries, cubicles, and bays.
- Join an activity group
Gym, hiking, travel, dance, marathon training – if you are keen on finding people who share your interests, join activity groups in your city. According to Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist who studies friendship at the University of Oxford, “Activities that require you to move in sync with others help you feel in sync with them too.”
And how to keep them
- Lower your expectations
In your 30s, especially in our day and age, no two people seem to be at the same life stage. In the last few years, my circle of friends has been a mixed bag too. Chances are that not all of you will have the time or enthusiasm to do things together all the time, and that’s fair too. I, for one, have weekends when I am so exhausted that all I want to do is binge on Netflix. My friends have such days too. Add school admissions, personal and work travel, and visiting parents to this heady mix, and the scene is very different from what school and college friendships looked like. Sometimes, our bonding is simply over an endless WhatsApp conversation, because our schedules and city traffic haven’t allowed us to meet in months. It is the trade-off that comes with a responsible adult life. Surround yourself with people who understand it, and be one of them too.
- Make time and keep commitments
The Internet is full of memes about happiness over cancelled plans. There is nothing wrong with it because with so much going on in our adult lives, socializing often does seem like a bit of a burden. But new adult friendships are also a little like dating – you hang out, make plans, and make yourself vulnerable to personal questions. This is why if you do make a plan with a new friend, don’t flake out at the last minute, no matter how strong the urge is.
- You don’t always need to “do things”
Personally, this is a pet peeve. I often see adult friendships go into the dangerously annoying zone of “too many plans”. Clubbing, hiking, drinking, travelling – there is always too much action. Spend some time chatting. According to Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor of Psych Central, “The right questions help us make these deep discoveries about our loved ones. We get to learn surprising insights we otherwise wouldn’t be privy to. There are many things we don’t know about our friends and family, and ourselves.” Friendships and social connections, just like books and travel, can help us gain perspective about the world around us. Don’t waste them on endless Instagram selfies. Talk to your new friends, and show genuine interest in them. Nothing seals friendships more than some good ol’ conversation.
Friendship is one of those few things that will come your way if you want it strongly enough. Be open to new relationships and see how strong bonds follow. They did for me, despite relentless relocation and crazy schedules, and they will for you too. All you need to do is put in some effort.
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