I’ve been lucky in my life to make some amazing, close friends. I’ve never been someone with a big social circle, and being terrible at keeping in touch means that I don’t stay connected to many acquaintances, but I have a few friends from every place that I’ve lived who I know I will always be close to even if sometimes we don’t see each other (or even talk!) for years on end. I’ve also been lucky enough to have seen two of those close, best friends (two of my flatmates from Ireland) here in New Zealand (their partners are kiwis) and my very best friend and her husband came for a visit last month.
Still, even if I know I have these amazing friends I can count on to be there for me across thousands of miles and months or years apart, moving the number of times I have in the last few years means that I am in a constant state of making new acquaintances and hopefully new friends. For an introvert who has struggled with shyness all her life, this can be tough, especially in places notorious for their difficulty in creating non-superficial relationships (see also: the “Seattle freeze“).
When I lived in Vancouver, I had trouble making friends. In most of the places I’d lived prior (Ithaca, Ireland), I’d been a student, where you naturally meet a bunch of folks like you (broke, optimistic, enjoy drinking, trying and occasionally succeeding to learn how to adult), and in Seattle I was lucky (ehhh) enough to have ended up at a job with a bunch of other creative misfits who formed a ragtag bunch and descended on every happy hour in Belltown when we weren’t arguing at book club or lovingly critiquing each others’ writing.
In Vancouver, there were a number of factors that contributed to my difficulty in making many new friends. I was freelancing full-time, which mean that instead of meeting people at work I was sitting in my apartment on my laptop by myself. I was navigating moving in with a significant other for the first time, and this affected my relationships in two ways—the fact that Steve and I had been doing long distance for a year meant that I wasn’t super motivated to spend time away from him when I didn’t have to, and the fact that I moved up to where he had already been living for a year meant that he already had an established friend group. This was wonderful for making it easy for me to settle in, but made forming my own individual friendships difficult.
Coming to Wellington, one of my goals was to make some friends on my own, unrelated to my relationship. I think one of the most important parts of being in a healthy relationship is having a full and happy life outside of your partner, and that includes making friends who aren’t “couple friends” (couple friends either being couples themselves or friends that you are mainly connected to through your significant other—although let me be clear, couple friends are amazing, too!).
This is one of the reasons that I decided to step back from the full-time freelancing I had done in Canada and at home in Pennsylvania, and return to temp work in order to get out out of the house and meet people. If you’re in a good environment—coworkers with your interests, around your age, etc.–work is a great way to meet new people and make new friends, and this was the case for me in my first temp role. I also went the age-old route of meeting people through friends of friends. But the most important thing I did to make friends in Wellington was to step out of my comfort zone.
I’ve been a member of online communities since middle school, and I’ve been meeting up with people from those communities for years. However, these meetups have generally followed months if not years of chatting. I’ve always loved the idea of internet-based social groups like Meetup.com but more often than not when I plan to attend an event I chicken out at the last minute. I’m introverted and somewhat shy, so walking into a group of strangers isn’t usually my cup of tea.
Since moving to Wellington, I’ve made an effort to conquer my fears and check out to some of these meet ups. I’ve gone to events through Meetup itself, as well as the Wellington subreddit and the facebook group Girls Love Travel. Each time, I’ve nearly talked myself out of going at the last minute. What if it’s awkward; what if I’m awkward? Each time, I’ve forced myself to go, and each time I’ve had so much fun and met some amazing people. Once I got out of my own head a bit, I realised that probably everyone but the most extroverted social butterflies have the same feelings and fears.
Now that I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to meeting new people, I’ve gotten more confident about doing so more regularly. I’ve since not only attended but also hosted meetups for r/Wellington and GLT, and some of the GLT girls I’ve met through brunches and hikes are my closest friends here. Just yesterday I had brunch with another American woman who posted in the Wellington subreddit looking for someone to hang out with. Until recently, I think I would have just scrolled by the post, sure that I would be too nervous to actually make plans to meet up.
Moving as many times as I have in the last few years means that I’m in a constant cycle of making new local friends. I’m already looking ahead to doing so again come December when we move to Melbourne. However, this time I’ll be going in feeling much more confident and armed with the knowledge that my comfort zone was that little bit wider than I was before. I’m so grateful for all the friends I’ve made and every way in which I’ve met them, and it’s nice to know there are such wonderful people all over the world.