How to make new friends
How to make new friends can be a tough one. Feeling lonely is a horrible sensation and one that can get the most upbeat of people down. I speak from experience, having moved to a new town 8 times in my life, and to a new country 3 times. I have lost count of the number of times that I have had to make new friends. (You can find out more about my journey and my tips on decision-making here.)
When you are younger you make new friends easily – you meet them at school, at Brownies/Guides, at youth club, at sporting / musical activities you do after school. You get a bit older and you meet them at university, at work.
It’s all still fairly easy. Until you get to a certain age, when people are settling down, getting married and having kids. Once you get to this stage it gets harder to make friends.
People go out less. They’re tired. It’s hard enough to keep up with their old friends, let alone make new friends.
When we moved to London in 2010 I was 34 and I thought I’d make friends easily as I always had done. But it was far harder than anywhere else, as we were that bit older, people had pretty full-on jobs and were already set up with existing friends. So our early days in London were really quite lonely and hard for me.
When we moved to Mauritius at the end of last year I vowed it would be different. I didn’t want to have to go through months of feeling down until I met people I clicked with, so I set about making this move different.
We arrived in Mauritius on 31st October 2015, not knowing one single person who lived here, apart from 3 people that I’d been chatting online to. Then on 5th February 2016 I celebrated my 40th birthday with around 20 fabulous friends, all ones I’d met in the previous 3 months.
How to make new friends when you move to a new town or country?
The absolute number 1 thing you have to do is be prepared to get out of your comfort zone.
Let’s get this very straight – new friends are not going to come banging on your door saying “Hi, I hear you’re great fun to be with, let’s share a bottle of wine and watch Sex and the City!”, you’ve got to go and find them.
And this makes lots of us very uncomfortable. It’s like being back at school when you see a group of friends laughing and having fun together, and you’re on the outside, too afraid to ask to join them in case they tell you to go away.
So how can you get round this?
Start off with colleagues and neighbours. Some of my best friends (from all my different homes) were once people I worked with or lived near.
When you move in go round to your neighbours’, knock on the door, and say “Hi, I’m Sophie, I’ve just moved in next door with my husband and our two daughters, and I just wanted to come round and introduce myself.” You’ll find 9 times out of 10 that this will kick off a conversation where you get to know each other a bit. Then you can drop in “maybe you’d like to come round for a drink / dinner at some point?”.
With colleagues it really depends on the environment, managerial levels and how strict the set-up is. But maybe once you’ve been there for a little while (say in the first month) you could ask “does anyone fancy going out to that new Italian for lunch on Friday?” If you don’t feel comfortable putting it out there to several people, why not try the two people who sit closest to you?
Next up is at any activities that you do. If you go to the gym try and go at the same time on the same day, as you’re more likely to keep seeing the same people each time. Start off with general chit-chat, “this is killing me today!” or “can you believe this weather?” (that one will work most days in the UK!). Then once you’re comfortable exchanging niceties, you can move on to seeing if that person wants to grab a drink after your workout.
The same goes for other activities – maybe you’re in a choir, or you go swimming, your kids do ballet or football together, or you’re in some kind of club. Make the first move – go up to people and be the one to start the conversation. Don’t expect people to come up to you and want to know you.
This has always worked for me in life (it just took a little longer in London for me to start doing this) – not just for making friends but for boyfriends too. In every single relationship I’ve been in I’ve made the first move – when I met Ben in a bar in Nice, he might have been the one who asked for my phone number, but I’m the one who went up to him (and his brother) and just started chatting. And I think it’s safe to say that worked out pretty well 🙂
If all the above hasn’t worked then why not set things up yourself?
When I was first on maternity leave and heavily pregnant with Clémence in London, we got a note through the letterbox from a neighbour, saying she was setting up a neighbourhood watch for our road and to email her if I was interested in being part of it.
That little note led to Christmas drinks at the organiser’s house, which led to lots of us neighbours meeting for the first time, which led to neighbours drinks out, street parties, a book club and a babysitting circle. By the time we left London I probably knew half of my street (a huge feat in London!) and some of my closest friends were my neighbours!
Lots of people here ask me how to make new friends in Mauritius, so I’ll tell you how I did it…
Before we came out here I posted numerous questions on an expat website/forum, which led to private discussions with various people in the same forum. This led to me discovering various Facebook groups for mums and expats in Mauritius / our area of Mauritius.
In the 6 months leading up to our move out here I was chatting online to two expat mums – one who had recently moved here, and one who was moving here soon after us – as well as a Mauritian lady who has a website all about Mauritius (Discover Mauritius Island), and a Brit who is married to a Mauritian and has been here for a couple of years.
Once I got here I met these people in real life and really clicked with all of them 🙂 I’d been here about a week or two when I suggested a book / wine club (similar to the one I’d set up in London), and our first meeting was on the 7th December (just over a month after our arrival). There are now 15 of us in our club and our monthly meet-ups are a real highlight for all of us.
I also found that being open and inviting people along to things that we were doing was a great way to make friends. Often people are keen to make friends too but they’re hanging back as well, and are nervous about making the first move, just like you!
One last word of advice – ignore that person’s age, professional status, whether they have kids or not, skin colour, religion and culture. In my closest group of friends (across the world) there is a 51 year old, several 20-somethings, people who barely finished school and those who have masters degrees and more, mums of several kids and those who never want kids, skin colours across the scale, all and no religions, and cultures from the world over. What do they have in common? I call them my friends. Don’t just look for people “like you”, there are so many incredible people out there 🙂
So my challenge to you today is to step outside of your comfort zone and make a new friend – a colleague, a neighbour, a mum from playgroup or the school gates, someone at your gym / other activity, that person who gets the same bus as you every day. Take the time today to turn a stranger into a friend.
Let me know how you got on in the comments below / on social media, or share how any of these tips might have worked for you in the past – I love to hear these kinds of stories 🙂
In April I will be running a free webinar and it will be for you if any of the following applies to you:
- you struggle to make decisions
- you’re afraid of change
- you don’t know which risks to take and which to avoid
- you have fears around all of this (fear of making the wrong decision, fear of change, fear of other people’s opinions of the decisions you make, fear of failure etc).
- you want to know more about my journey from homeless and jobless, living at my parents’ house with my husband and 3 year old a few years ago to living the dream on a tropical island now
A little bit of background for those who don’t know me…
10 years ago I had just moved into my forever home, which we’d seen go from architect’s plans to our family home, I was pregnant with my first child, and in a good, well-paid job. In the last decade we have sold the forever home, moved country twice (including to one where we know no one and have never visited, in Africa), I have given up two good, well-paid jobs to set up on my own and known failure and success.
I get emails from you, my lovely readers, every day asking me how I / we made those decisions, and asking for advice. So I thought I’d share how I’ve done it, the thought processes I go through and more. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in please drop me a line with your time zone and what time/day would suit you: FranglaiseMummy@gmail.com