Making friends in your 30s is hard
I remember a time in my life when making new friends was as easy as ordering a vino. In my 20s, a friend of a friend would join us for a night out and, before we knew it we were sharing long Sunday lunches. B.F.F.s, it seems, were a dime a dozen.
It was even easier in my teens. At high school, with a couple of hundred girls in my year, friendships were on tap. Yes there were cliques, but for the most part I was friends with a broad circle of people spanning schools and neighbourhoods.
Further back it was easier still. Making a new friend as a primary school kid was as easy as saying ‘want to play?’
I don’t ever remember thinking as a kid, or in my teens or 20s, that ‘Making friends is hard’. Nor did I think making friends was easy – that’s the point, it just happened.
But in my 30s, it’s a totally different story.
Making friends in your 30s in a new city?
In fairness, working from home effectively ruled out a ready-made network of work mates.
I have to admit that, when I moved to Hong Kong, making friends wasn’t a top priority. I was focused on spending more QT with my husband: we were looking forward to exploring the city together and having adventures around Asia. I was content with my handful of friends.
And while the quality time has been fantastic, I’ve come to realise how important face-to-face friendships, especially female friendships, are to me and my well-being. I don’t think I’d fully appreciated it before. And I definitely took it for granted.
You could die sooner if you’re a Nellie No Friends
It turns out, solid friendships have an impact on our health, just like smoking, getting enough sleep and eating well. Some studies have found that a lack of friendships can increase our mortality rate – ie, there’s a chance you’ll die sooner if you’re a Nellie No Friends. That’s a pretty big incentive to invite your next door neighbour over to watch GoT.
Why it’s hard to make new friends in your 30s
Schedules compress, priorities change and people become pickier about who they want to hang out with. I’ve come to the conclusion that making friends in your 30s is hard because of these stumbling blocks.
I’m still learning friendship etiquette
First, it can be awkward to figure out how to get chatting with someone. Then once you’re over that hurdle, you’re faced with the awkward task of landing a second date. It’s hard to know what to say without sounding (or feeling) like a weirdo. Is it too early to message them the next day? And then, if they don’t respond, you assume you didn’t make the ‘cut’. Brutal. Don’t take it personally.
You become more discerning
At 32, I’m more discerning about the people I hang out with than I used to be. Maybe it’s because my interests have changed, or because my tolerance threshold for knobs is decreasing with age. Whatever the reason, it’s not easy finding people who I connect with. The pool of potential friends isn’t as large as it used to be.
Timing is (almost) everything
Sometimes the timing just isn’t right. It’s a bit like dating: you’ll get on like a house on fire, exchange numbers, share A-grade Whatsapp banter for two days, and even though you’ve both made an effort to schedule date #2, the stars don’t align and it fizzles.
People are too busy to make new friends
The ‘Busy factor’ – even if you’re in a new city with no friends and heaps of time, other people have lives and don’t always have the time to foster new friendships.
Ways to make new friends in your 30s
So what’s my solution to this problem? Right now, I’m five months and three friends in. I have triumphed and failed a few of times. Here are my tips so that you’ll never be a Nellie No Friends in your 30s.
Do what you like doing
Sign up to classes and events aligned with the things that you like to do. Why not try a pottery class or join a netball team or a singing group or a business network. You’re more likely to meet like-minded people that way. And even if you don’t meet your soulmate, bringing structure to your week by doing your favourite activity and hanging out with new people will be good for your mental health.
Use your network
Ask your existing friends for referrals and take up any connection your family has in your new city – if they know someone in the place you’ve moved to, ask for an introduction!
Love thy neighbour – meet friends in your area
Befriend your neighbours – especially if you’re in an apartment block. It turns out, the people living next door to us are genuinely nice and we’re now friends. Introducing yourself means you can say ‘hi’ in the lift, you’ll be grateful for a little human interaction.
Make friends in your local community
Join an association or club – this is a great way to find local events and activities, and if you volunteer to contribute to the club, that is an even better way of getting involved in the local community.
Befriend a hipster
Rent a hot desk in a co-working space and strike up a convo with your fellow freelancers at the water cooler.
Get your head out of the phones
Put down your phone – we’ve all been to an event solo, felt awkward and pulled out our phone as a backup. But in that moment, when you’re feeling like a Larry No Mates, remember why you went to the event in the first place and push yourself to put down your phone and engage with someone. You’ll be glad you connected with a real life human instead of scrolling through Instagram.
Stay in touch
Keep your long-standing friendships afloat by staying in touch. I’m a firm believer that if you’re the one who’s moved away, it’s your primary responsibility to keep in touch. Call up an old pal and play them the Golden Girls theme song… “Thank you for being a friend, travelled down a road and back again, your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confident…” For real.
Do you find that making friends in your 30s is hard? Are you getting ready to move to a new city? This will make the move so much easier.
Emily Morgan is a copywriter/editor and founder of online maternity store MADE Maternity. She is currently living in Hong Kong and is no longer friendless.