Making friends: finding people just like me

October 24, 2011 in Life,Philosophy

It’s funny how we gravitate to people just like us. It’s a fact that I learned in social psychology–people are attracted to people like them, whether in friendship, work or relationships–but it’s still shocking to think about its application in real life.

College girls in 80s dresses, 80s night Lasalles Chico California

My friends at home are all remarkably similar to me: while there might be some variation in race or religion or political leanings, we are all college-educated, (upper) middle class, from supportive (although often not traditional nuclear) families. Most are within two or three years of my age. We went to high school or college together, played on the same sports team or were in the same sorority, worked in the same field or lived in the same city.

One of the joys of traveling has meant that my friend group is suddenly not quite so “just like me.” I have more male friends. I have more friends who are older or younger, more friends who never went to university or ones who went to more exclusive schools than I could ever dream of. My flatmate is an Australian carpenter, a “tradie” who is 10 years older than me and who is the most Aussie bloke possible-and we actually get on better than when I lived with girls whose closet I shared and whose background was identical to mine.

English Welsh American girl on the French Riviera, Antibes, France

However, I’m struck by how many of my closest friendships have fallen into place because of similarities. In France, I quickly fell into place with the English-speaking expat crowd. We bonded over the “us verses them” mentality of living in France, the act of accepting but not understanding cultural differences in customer service, in food, in relationships. In Australia, many of closest friends are Americans. Even though we are from small towns and big cities scattered across the States, we all miss cheap Mexican food, we don’t miss the politics and we can commiserate over being the only one out of our friends with a passport.

After living in France, I thought making friends in Australia would be a breeze–no language barrier, fewer cultural differences, added value of being from California (the thought of palm trees and the Beach Boys always wowed the French). But it was a challenge–just as my friend group in American doesn’t “need” any new people, neither do established friend groups here. By virtue of time, persistence and a few too many ciders at a regular Sunday sesh, I’ve made some incredible Australian friends.

Australian and American girls at The Branch, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia

Are they just like me? In some ways. We chat about boy problems, we get pedicures, we like to spend a Friday night in watching a chick flick and drinking a bottle of white wine. But in other ways, it’s a constant learning curve. The slang is different, expectations are different.  Dating here is a whole different ball game–I’m constantly in an internal debate over whether something “means” something or if it’s simply a normal Australian move.

Making new friends is never easy. Of course, when you’re forced to do it every few months, it gets easier–you get more used to taking risks, saying hello, being willing to put yourself in a potentially awkward situation. You can’t rely on friendships formed in university ice breakers or sorority pledge classes. You have to put yourself out there, and hope that you attract someone just as cool as you.

In university, my friends and I joked that I wasn’t friendly–but I was a good friend. I like to think that travel has been the singular force in making me friendly, simply because it forced me to put a smile on my face, go for a drink and hope that someone would find my sarcasm endearing.

Do you find yourself making friends with “similar” people across the globe? 

  • Elleninturkey

    No, actually I find the opposite is true for me. I find myself making friends with people I never would have thought I ‘d have anything in common with. One of my favorite things about travel is being surprised by people as well as places.

  • I’m the same with Ellen in Turkey, usually they are the complete opposite and you know how opposites attract!!!  I looooove your haircut!

  • Candice

    Interesting idea, “does travel make you friendlier?” And now that i’m thinking about my own group of friends…yep, we’re all a little too much alike. Eep. 

    I’m LOVING the new bangs, btw. 

  • Anonymous

    Definitely not exclusive to Australia – I find myself friends with some of the same types of people! That’s the beauty of not only travel, but getting older – realizing that having clones of yourself, of your life and upbringing, doesn’t necessarily make for an interesting life. 

  • I love travelling because while I meeting like-minded people the range of nationalities, ages, colours, and creeds I encounter is just astounding!

  • I know what you mean. I have learned who my real friends are through travel and why. I have met new people and wanted them to like me and realized later why I shouldn’t really care. 

    The cultural differences are fun as long as everyone is good-humored about it but I definitely know what you mean. It’s refreshing to meet someone who’s had a different life than you and it’s fun to talk about the sorority to the Aussie girls, they love it! “That’s just like the movies!” haha. 

  • Anonymous

    My flatmate is a great example of someone who I never thought I’d be friends with at home–much less live with!–we’re so different, yet we get along really well. Very surprising!

  • Anonymous

    Very true! And the haircut is the result of a simply fabulous man on Chapel Street–I’m actually SO sad to be leaving because I’m not sure how I’m going to keep up the fringe!

  • Anonymous

    Always a bit weird when you think about your friend group and WHY exactly you’re all friends–usually a few similarities :)
    And thanks re: the haircut! Loving it now, but not sure how it’ll keep up once I leave Melbourne for places that aren’t quite as straightener-friendly :)

  • Anonymous

    Love the way you put that, Lindsey–so true.

  • Anonymous

    It’s always funny how you can be so similar and just click with someone–but at the same time, be SO different!

  • Anonymous

    I love that American university life really is “just like in the movies” to Australians–always makes for some fun story telling! I just love that with so many of my Australian girlfriends, we’ve had totally different lives, but when it comes down to it, we’re so much alike–who doesn’t want a pedicure and a girls night in with wine and chick flicks?!

  • I made quite a few American friends in Australia, but I think that’s because I met them first on Twitter :-) Living out of hostels for a while always helps me meet folks from around the world I would have never met otherwise. Twitter also helped introduce me to some great Aussies that I eventually met in person and we’re not lifelong friends even though we’re quite different! My flat mate and I both love travel, Thai food, and the Queensland maroons, but I think that’s where our similarities ended :-)

    And PS, love the hair!

  •  I’m so glad it was easy for you to make friends in another country! Sometimes I make the best friends when I’m only staying somewhere for a short time!

  • strangely I feel that most of my friends abroad are really different than me, but I think those are the types of people I really connect with.  My friends back in California are all very similar, yet my friends as my years as an expat are so different from one another and I love that.  Living abroad has definitely pushed me out of comfort zone, as I was not always so great at making friends, and get me talking to people I might never have met in America.

  • For me it’s a mix. Whether at home or abroad, I make friends young and old, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, Black and White … Whatevah. I’m a good friend and I’m friendly, but – funnily enough – I’m not a people person. Does that make any sense? And I think the friendly part applies more to abroad versus at home. I’m much friendlier abroad and open to meeting new people.

  • Anonymous

    Twitter is definitely a great way to meet people–although they definitely skew more American! My flatmate and I share a love of Modern Family and beer…and that’s pretty much it :)

  • Anonymous

    A lot of my best travel friendships were made in just a few short days or weeks–if you click, you click!

  • Anonymous

    I’m definitely much friendlier abroad–although I think that I might be just as friendly at home now, after traveling so much!

  • Loved this article Christine! When I moved to Lausanne without knowing anyone (plus not speaking the language) I felt quite overwhelmed – it really wasn’t an easy task to  be friends with the swiss french. The crowds I met and slowly started to call friends couldn’t be more different than me in terms of backgrounds (so… most of my friends were male, engineers or IT experts or bio-techs!) nor when it came to age (most of them were 30-somethings)… but we did all have something in common, which was that we were expats in a 150.000 people city! That surely helps to bond :)

  • Anonymous

    The expat bond is definitely a strong one–huge whether you share the language or not.

  • Padam Giri

    dear friends in Australia, hi all friends
    i am padam i am the new friends.

    padam.g@yahoo:disqus 
    we are the friends

  • Padam Giri

    hello hi friends hi how are you ,  i am the new your friends padam giri
    padam.giri@yaho@yahoo:disqus  
    o.com

  • Padam Giri

    dear friends hi how are you,  i  am padam hi hi can i make you friends,  padam.giri@yahoo.com

    so can i make you friends please

  • Padam Giri

    hello hi how are you,    i am friends padam              

  • ElizabethGuz

    A very informative article. Finding people that get my sarcasm has also being a problem. Any tips?

Previous post:

Next post: