As we transition from the exuberance of youthful exploration to the approach of middle age, the days of effortlessly making friends and casually meeting up can seem like a distant memory. Life suddenly has more priorities, and obligations clog up our schedules. We too have changed– expecting more from our plans and the people we choose to spend our time with.
If you have yet to lock in your B.F.F. good luck finding one now. At best you’ll find a go-to friend for a night of drinking and another for brunch. Despite the dwindling opportunities, possibilities still exist. If you’re approaching or well acquainted with your 30s, here are some new ways to build your tribe and make new friends:
Meet your neighbors
“With the real estate market at its high, buildings in highly dense urban areas have to be extra creative to stay competitive,” says Nikita Subbotin, CEO & Co-founder, Riseio Smart Building Solutions. “I used to live in an apartment building that was constantly organizing different events for their residents. From Lake Tahoe and Napa Valley trips to sushi classes and rooftop happy hours. Meeting your neighbors is not only convenient but also smart. Your neighbors most likely come from a similar socio-economic background which makes it easy for you to relate. In fact, I met my co-founder at the building grand opening party.”
“When I was apartment hunting,” says Arianna O’Dell of BoardVitals, “if I knew the apartment wouldn’t work out, I told the tenant ‘I don’t think this apartment is for me, but you seem really fun – we should hang out!’ Two years later, I still keep in touch with this group of friends.”
“I actually use the power of Instagram to make new friends when I travel to new cities,” says photographer CJ Johnson. “If they have interesting Instagram feeds or we’re already “online” friends, I usually try to meet up with them in person. We typically meet in a public place and snap pics together. It’s a great icebreaker and a fun way to meet new people. I’ve made a lot of great friends that way.”
Smile, someone is watching
“Smile, you are being watched!” says Paulo Amara, a Marketing Consultant at www.treasurefy.com. “Show the world that it’s fun to be around you. When people see me smiling, they often assume amazing things about me. I’ve heard hilarious first impressions from new friends.”
Go without a phone
“To build meaningful relationships in San Francisco, nothing beats hiking without a cell phone signal,” says Sabrina Atienza, CEO of Qurious. “I follow one rule: I always hike with at least 1 person I want to get to know better. Without phones to distract us, we’re forced to get to know each other. This constraint leads to real conversation.”
“The first 30 minutes of hiking is usually artificial conversation about work, hobbies, background, and food. Then, things get interesting. We run out of artificial topics. We get real: what makes us tick, what we love and what we hate, our crazy dreams, and our weird habits. I follow this simple rule because it works. And it works because we’re no longer hiding behind our phones, our Facebook profiles, our Instagram photos, or any other digital facade.”
Go alone (but with your phone this time)
“Doing things alone makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but in a new city, force yourself to embrace it,” says Brand Marketing Strategist at Greenvelope.com Alex Kelsey.
“Sign up for a kayaking class, watch the football game at your local bar instead of at home — engaging in your hobbies and interests solo increases the odds that you’ll meet people whom you share common interests with, which is a great start to making new friends.”
“I have traveled a lot for work for months at a time,” says Maritza Huerta. “In the past 3 years I have lived in Denver, Aspen, DC, and now New York.I sign up for social sports leagues, such as Zog Sports. You automatically get introduced to new people (teammates) and you all share a common interest (sports). It’s an easy and fun way to create a bond with new people.”
Volunteer or start something
“Over the past decade I’ve lived in London, Cambridge, Beijing, Shanghai and regularly traveled to other major cities such as Bangkok,” says Stephen Parkes, CEO of Go Enrol.
“In Beijing, I organized a monthly networking event. In Shanghai, it was a pub-quiz and regular Sunday brunch. In London and Cambridge, it has been about getting involved in the Start-up scene and organizing Startup Weekends at Judge Business School. I’ve found that getting involved in communities is key to making serious long-term friendships and business connections.”
“Years ago, I made a new friend at the National Press Club and began volunteering on a committee,” says Social Driver co-founder Anthony Shop. “This led to me becoming a committee chair and eventually being elected to our board of governors. In another case, I enjoyed chatting with a friend from business school about the amazing nonprofit he runs. So I volunteered, and ended up serving as chairman of his advisory board.”
“There’s no shortage of great people to meet and ways you can help them. If you focus on what you can do for others, then it’s difficult to make a mistake.”
“I’ve been a Beijing expat for one year,” says Monica Weintrab of www.newlifeesl.com. “Compared to my small town China expat life, of 3 years, making friends in Beijing has been more difficult, but certainly more accessible.”
“Social apps are incredible for making friends. Here, we use an app called WeChat for both locals and expats alike. Group chats are huge here, annoying, but huge. We create parties together, sporting events together, or invite someone into the chat who may have been left out.”