When you’re a kid it’s easy to make friends. You don’t even know you’re doing it. You get pushed together through school or sport, or you simply start playing together in the playground. As an adult most people have plenty of friends they’ve collected over the years, but what if you don’t? What if you’re the last single left after everyone’s married off, what if you suddenly realise that most of your friends have drifted away, and what if you’ve moved to another country where you don’t know anyone?
When I moved to Austria, hubby was quick to introduce me to his friends. As you do. And I like those friends. Those friends are great people. But those friends are also his friends. And it’s not the same as making your own friends.
So how do you make friends, especially same sex ones, as an adult, in a foreign country? Well… the same way you meet them anywhere else – you go out and you do things and you hope someone sticks. Work was the most obvious place, but the problem was that I live an hour away, so most of the people I interacted with on a daily basis lived far from me, which makes it difficult to forge a friendship.
Not long after I started at my company I fell head over heels for a work colleague. I was participating in a training session and she announced to the small group that 15 years ago on that day she’d been straining in the throes of labour. It was her way of telling us it was her son’s birthday. And for whatever reason I decided then and there: I want to be her friend!
Coincidentally or not, this particular colleague and I, (fast forward some years) did end up becoming friends. Good friends. Turns out she’s head over heels for me, too!
But she’s still an hour away. So how could I make a friend in my home town? Especially since I’m terrified of someone talking to me in German which means that although I made the effort of joining classes and going to the local pool for example, I would turn up with a quick smile and scurry away as soon as I was done.
But time is a great thing for the petrified.
My first local friendship all started with someone getting punched in the face. I witnessed a collision between two swimmers, and I recognised the girl as a regular at the pool, who seemed nice, who had a friendly face. The next time I saw her I had a conversation starter! I asked her if she was ok, and after she quickly picked up on my accent and asked where I was from, before instantly switching to English. Turns out her parents initially met in England, so her English is great. And that helps a lot.
So, after seven years in Austria I can now say that I have two friends who I actually made myself. Who, for whatever reason, seem to get me. Who speak English with me.
But it hasn’t been easy. It’s been lonely. I probably could have made more of an effort, and living in a small town doesn’t help, but the important thing is, I’ve made a start. And maybe there will be more. Maybe there are other weirdos in Austria that are just like me 🙂