Many moons ago, when I was preparing to head south to university, my brother asked me how I was going to meet people and make friends. At first I wasn’t sure how to answer his question. How do you make friends?
I thought about his question for a moment and then answered.
I’ll make friends at the boathouse from the dozens of other rowers I will train with on an almost daily basis.
I crossed my fingers and hoped this was true. There was no way I could handle my high school social wasteland repeated for four years of university.
Today my social circle is really a bunch of small separate circles: university friends, National Team rowing friends, film school friends, odds and ends from jobs, mom friends and family. I only keep up with, and am kept up with in return, about three dozen people. This ranges from friends that I call once a week to others that I see or talk to every few months. One group of eight friends has an almost constant email thread of updates and inside jokes. We all live in different corners of the country but I feel in touch with them (even without Facebook).
I used to feel awkward about not having a huge posse of friends. Particularly when I moved back to Vancouver after retiring from sport. The circle was small and the numbers I had on speed dial were few but called often. Aren’t we supposed to have a huge network of friends in our 20’s?
But not everyone.
I’m an introvert, an INTJ in Myers-Briggs, and I like to recharge with alone time. I’m not great at small talk in large groups. I prefer small groups and talking one on one with people.
In a previous job I was a brand ambassador. Along with some public speaking, which I found challenging but greatly rewarding when it went well, I went to corporate functions. My role was to talk to clients and employees. Quick five minute conversations so I could work the room as much as possible. But I could never stick to the five minutes. Usually it was more like 20 minutes and then I would run into the person again and we would continue the conversation. I like asking questions and listening. I don’t want to memorize the stats on a business card, shake hands, and move on. I want to know the person’s passions, where their family is from and what their most embarrassing moment is.
It’s okay that I have small pockets of friends. It’s okay that I like to spend time by myself. It’s okay that if we have a sitter I would rather do something with just my husband than a large group of people.
Of course, when I went off to university I wasn’t as self-aware as I am now. I did worry I wouldn’t make friends. I worried I would be sitting in my dorm room alone on Saturday nights. And I worried in vain.
I made friends at the boathouse.
And the dorms.
Twelve years after graduating I still keep in touch with my two best friends from those days. We’ve been friends for over 15 years and yet, I can still call them and it’s like we’re juniors again, living in a big drafty house and planning our next luau themed party.
I’m fairly confident in my friend making ability, and I know I don’t need a huge social circle, but I’m already preparing for the challenges of meeting new people. Of casting the net wide, getting my friendly small talk down, and finding some writers/runners/parents/etc to get to know and find out if we’ll fit as friends to go for a hike/coffee/start a book club together. I’ll be dating again in a platonic way.
Parent Groups: I’ve checked and there are parent and tot swims, library story times and playgroup meet-ups in our new home. I’ll be making the rounds the first few months to find what activities Henry and I like and meet other parents.
Running Groups: looks like an active running community on the IOM. I’d like to join a local running group for motivation and friendship.
Coffee Shops and Parks: it’s not my strong suit but I occasionally spark up conversations with people when out and about. I’ll have to bring out my inner extrovert for this one.
Online–> Real Life: I’ve met some cool people via this blog. I’d like to use online forums and blogs to find other stay at home mums, expats and such, to connect with on the Isle of Man.
Chris will have the advantage of his office to meet people. The workplace, particularly for a corporate culture dominated by expats, is a great way to create a social network in a new city. I’m not as lucky to have such easy access to new friends but I do have a strategy.
Any other ideas for me? I know a few readers have made big moves before. How did you make friends in a new city?
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