making friends.jpgI hate being single.  I’m referring to being friendless, not romantic attachments.   Having a few close friends is one of the key factors that determines how happy I am in a new place.  I took having friends for granted when I lived in Canada, only learning how important it was after living in  S. Korea, Thailand and now Germany, where I started off completely friendless and learned that I need friends in order to Live the Good Life Abroad,  I’ve also learned that meeting new people and establishing a circle of acquaintances is easy through 6 Tips for Coping with Loneliness When Living Abroad, but finding close friends?  Not so easy.  It’s like dating – full of high and lows, anticipation – will she call me,? disappointment – I thought we really had potential,  and when you’re really lucky – you make a genuine friend.

Making new friends can be awkward – My Awkward Social Encounters in GermanyYou meet somebody, they have “friend potential”, things are looking good, you have a good feeling about this one.  Just like when dating, your first friend date is casual, perhaps at a coffee shop – you’re eager not too appear too overeager.   It goes swimmingly well – for the first 10 minutes.  You start taking more frequent sips of your coffee to fill in the increasingly longer awkward pauses.  Have you really just run out of things to talk about after just 10 minutes?  It appeared that you had so much in common when you first met.  Or perhaps, you really didn’t, but you just wanted to find something in common since she seemed so nice – You’re favorite color is purple too?  You had high hopes for this relationship.  You know you shouldn’t have, but just like so many times in the dating world, you have mapped out your future together in your head.  But instead of planning romantic getaways in B&Bs, your plans include double-dating, exchanging books, weekly lunch dates and even vacationing together. So what went wrong?

You try again – relationships of any type take work.  Perhaps you and your soon to be new best friend just had an off-day.  You always hear stories from couples (well maybe only occasionally, but still these stories do exist) about how their first date went horribly wrong, but now they’re happily married.  You try again, waiting the appropriate number of days to send a “it was so nice to meet you, do you want to do it again” email.  Your heart is racing as you push send.  Will she respond or just ignore your email?  Or perhaps she’ll brush you off with a “Sorry, but I’m really busy right now and don’t have so much time,” email.  Code for “I don’t want to be your friend and the idea of vacationing with you repulses me.” You can’t decide whether you would prefer the brush off or the no-response, which still leaves hope that perhaps she never received your email.

The second friend date – She responds – affirmatively and suggests a museum visit.  You breathe a huge sigh of relief as you fist pump your arms in the air “YES!”  A museum visit is perfect.  There’s built in conversation around the exhibits.  Why hadn’t you thought of this for your first friend date?  Never mind, you will really shine this time.  Not wanting to be late, you arrive early, way to early, but decide that looks desperate so you walk around the block 3 times, appearing to arrive at a fashionable two minutes after the agreed meeting time – while silently praying that she hasn’t witnessed you circling the block.  You air kiss – that’s a good sign, right?  An hour later you find yourself in a nearby café – alone and lonelier than ever.   You’ve blown it, despite sharing your self-deprecating stories that everybody else seems to find amusing she is gone.  Perhaps you talked too much, or not enough.  You purposely asked her questions about herself to show your interest.  Perhaps you asked too many questions.  Either way she is goneYou are still alone and friendless.  When you’re looking for companionship – romantic or otherwise, being single sucks!

But there is hope – Every once in a while you meet someone who just “gets you”, just like you do in the dating world.  Oh you have three cats?  I have two.  Yes, I would like to come with you next week to see where you buy that found-nowhere-else brand of cat food.  Why, yes my husband and I are free next Saturday night for a game of Settlers of Catan.  You’ve wanted to check out the Potato Museum as well?  Great, let’s do it next week.  And yes, I am free to meet for lunch beforehand. After your long, lonely search, you’ve found it – that elusive true friend!

What has been your experience making friends when moving someplace new?

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.