When I first lived in the UK, in London, as a postgraduate student and then later as a working professional, almost all of my friends were American or Canadian. That’s what kind of happens when you live in London – it’s easy to gravitate towards your kinfolk because (North) Americans are all over the place. It’s kind of astounding I even met and married a Brit if I’m honest.
After two and a half years in the Big Smoke, I left to pursue a career based Stateside, and over the five years I was gone, many of my fellow expat friends and my handful of British friends had left as well. When I returned, only a couple of my friends were still around in London. Literally two.
So added to everything else I had to start all over here was ‘make new friends.’
To make the matter of “making new friends” more challenging, I got pregnant almost immediately after setting foot in the country. To make it difficult, I wasn’t working (you try to get hired pregnant anywhere. I dare you), so my fall back plan of ‘becoming friends with work colleagues’ wasn’t an option. To make it more remote, we decided to move to a small town outside of London where we knew absolutely no one.
Thus entered several pretty lonely months.
I knew that by having a baby I’d probably meet other mothers in the area so I decided to be patient. But other than that vague hope, I wondered how do adults make friends? In the past, when I moved to a new place, I usually became friends with work colleagues or with other students if I was studying. While I have made friends other ways – by joining a choir in Istanbul for example – generally it was the convenience of location and circumstance that enabled me to have a social life.
I listened to a Podcast one day last year – I believe it was This American Life’s The Perils of Intimacy episode – that told the story, among other things, of a middle-aged guy who moved to a new city and was trying to make some new friends and how hard he was finding it. And a quick googled search brought up tons of articles on this issue.
So, how do adults make friends these days?
The old fashioned ways, sure, but also…The Internet.
Thanks to the technological developments of the 21st century, there are now these things called apps that people use to date (so I’ve heard) and increasingly just find platonic friends. Had you asked me ten years ago if I’d be ok making friends with people I met off the internet I’d say definitely no, that’s weird. I grew up in the age of AOL aim and chatrooms which were very dangerous and full of perverts, and absolutely under no circumstances were you to make friends on the internet.
Yet here I am, making friends on the internet.
To start there is social media. I have made friends via Instagram that I’d like to think would probably want to hang out with me in real life. So, in those moments last year when I felt particularly alone, I still had my Instagram community of people who kind of knew me and I kind of knew them and we interacted online, which was good enough. Maybe there will be an opportunity to meet in person some day. Or not.
I also signed up to an app designed specifically for mothers in the UK called Mush. It’s basically Tinder for mums. Actually I have no idea if that’s an apt comparison because I’ve never used Tinder, but it does sometimes feel like friend-dating. Regardless, it’s genius. I’ve met some really great women through Mush who are going through the same things I am, and know the struggle that is caring for a small, temperamental human. Like Tinder, I can only assume, I’ve met up with mums for a mum-date who I never heard from again. I probably overshared or seemed to eager. Who knows!
Then there is the blogging community. I went to a get-together hosted by a well known expat blogger in the UK for other bloggers or interested bloggers. I met some really lovely people at that event and can safely say that some of those people are now friends. Granted I didn’t meet them on the internet per-say, but the internet made it happen.
And at the end of the day, because I’m really far away from most everyone I know, I use the internet to say connected. That means chatting online with friends I might not have seen in person maybe ten years or more, but I consider them friends all the same. When I was struggling to make friends in my local area, I always had people out in the ether who provided support and company, albeit virtual.
So, thanks to old-fashioned ways to meet people – reconnecting with university friends, my antenatal classes with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), for example – and the wonders of the internet in the 21st century, I can happily say I have a robust social life. The patience paid off.