Two years living here in Sydney and we now have a community consisting of families we know from school and local business owners of places we frequent. That being said we still lack the closeness of dear friends with similar interests to ours. You know, the person you can reach out to any hour of the day who will be there for you, that friend that likes all the same things that you do, who will drop everything and pop over for a run, a coffee or when the mood strikes you both to skip town.
I recently listened to a podcast with Rich Roll and Johann Hari on depression and addiction. They mentioned research stating that the most common answer today when asking people how many close friends that they could call if in a crisis was zero. Zero! It’s shocking but at the same time, I don’t have one person locally that I would call. They added that people find it harder and harder to feel connected.
So what’s happened with us that we haven’t made friends while living down under? I think we have been at a disadvantage in Sydney due to having older kids. Our three have active, busy schedules and there has been less opportunity as there was when living in the UK to meet families through mom’s groups like you would with younger children. I have also found that there are less ex-pats within a certain area or neighbourhood than we had while living in London. Families here have grown up here and have their set group of friends and seem not as keen to add more people to their mix. Perhaps people at our age aren’t looking to meet anyone new. I believe if it were more of an expat community, it would be different.
When looking online I came across a website that estimated the amount of time one needed to invest with a new friend to become a closer friend: between 40-60 hours to make a casual friend, 80-100 to become a friend-friend and 200+ hours together to become a close friend. Lack of connection, no one to turn to and the amount of time getting to know someone meant that I needed to get to work on this immediately.
Instead of spending my days cursing our decision to move away from all of those friends we adore I decided 2019 would be different. I would take the steps necessary to find some like-minded peeps. As much as it pained me to do it, I decided to reach out to my American moms group on Facebook. No offence to my group, they are wonderful. There is nothing wrong with American moms or Americans in general but living abroad I like to immerse myself with locals and not my fellow countrymen (or women).
So, I turn to the only group I know to ask for help and I place a friend advert of sorts. I list my likes and characteristics, where I’m from, where I’ve been and what I’m looking for. It feels strange to ask for a friend in this way, to advertise myself, my qualities. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Life here feels so empty most of the time and it is the lack of my people that is the root of it. I post my message to the group, with a laugh and fingers crossed, I hope for the best.
The response I got was overwhelming. Many with stories similar to mine finding it so incredibly difficult whether they have been here 6 months or 10 years. I find it reassuring and sad at the same time. Our last country was so welcoming and so easy why is this the common experience here?
I made myself a deal that I would say yes to anyone willing to spend time with me. Within 24 hours I have five coffee dates planned and a few walks in the works. Success! I’m slightly nervous about what I’ve gotten myself into but also excited at the prospect. It does seem like a strange way to meet people but am letting go of that. Bring on the friend dating.