By Emilie. Not so much table for 10 as Deliveroo for two.
So it was a Saturday afternoon. I’d just got home from lunch with my mum and logged on Facebook to see one of my friends tagged in loads of pictures with her boyfriend and all his mates, who now seem to have become her mates. Instantly, I was sad. Sad that she had this whole new squad of friends – and that they looked like they were all having an awesome time – and sad that I didn’t have the same.
I’m not a weirdo or anything. I go to work, wash regularly, and do normal things like go to the gym and binge watch shows on Netflix. And I do have friends – a few really lovely ones actually – but y’know, geography. Specifically, most of them are in different cities, countries and continents. It now feels that I’d struggle to get a group of people to go to the pub with on a Friday night. How has this happened?
Maybe it’s just my experience, but I live and work in a city I didn’t study or go to school at. I know this is the same for a massive proportion of young people, but it seems TOUGH to build a friendship group when you move somewhere, aged 25, where everyone already has their friendz4life that they’ve known since they were two.
The second thing is my personality type; I’m not the most extrovert of people. Most of the people I’ve become friends with are either a) friends of friends that over time I’ve adopted as my own or b) people that I’ve been in proximity to for a number of weeks or months and gradually got to know, like work mates and flatmates. But it’s often it’s difficult to translate that into out-of-hours socialising. Even though there are people at work I’d like to get to know better, the thought of asking them on a friend date in the middle of the office fills me with unmitigated horror.
I think that’s what I loved about the six months I spent in Shanghai three years ago. I went on my own but as soon as I pitched up at the airport I was part of a group of people who’d also decided to leave everything behind and jump on a plane. We spent the first five days being dorky tourists, getting to grips with using chopsticks, and practising our Mandarin before we were all shuttled off to different schools.
Even once we were all in different places, we’d keep in touch and see each other at weekends, and I also made friends with other English teachers at the school I was at. Despite not particularly liking the school (long story) I didn’t want to leave because I loved the social side so much. We’d get lunch together and sneak cigarettes between classes, and Sundays were always our nights out – where we’d head for dinner before drinking into the small hours. I can honestly say I had some of the best friends I’d ever had over there, and part of it was because we didn’t have anyone else. We didn’t have families and a huge network of friends, so we were each other’s families.
So why is it so hard to recreate that back home? If it was that easy, I’ll tell you. Sometimes I walk around the park near I live with my boyfriend and I wish we had this big pack of friends that we could waste gorgeous summer afternoons with, just hanging out in the sunshine. Taylor Swift and her squad have a lot to answer for.
In light of this, I’m going to make the effort to do more this summer, whether that’s making the effort to get to know friends of friends, such as my boyfriend’s mates, or putting myself out there and being The Organiser. I might even email one of the girls in the office and ask if they fancy coming along to a gym class with me. Because the thing is, there probably are other people who are feeling exactly the same and would love to have someone to go for a cheeky drink with on a Friday night.