The first few weeks in a new city are social bootcamp. At least that is what I like to call it. From my considerable experience in strategic friend-making, I have learned that it is crucial to attend more or less any social gathering in the first weeks. When I was still studying, the first four weeks were enough. After that, you often had found your crowd, your best friends.
People often tell me that they don’t want to go out and mingle with unknown people so much because “I am just not that social”. Well, neither am I. Contrary to common belief, I do not think it is the most exciting thing on earth to constantly meet new people. The reason why I appear to be having such a great time is because I go into “having a great time with strangers” mode. I don’t always feel like refreshing my makeup and putting on my nicest smile after a work day either.
Since starting professional life and leaving the student world where socializing is so easy (and you keep meeting awesome people) behind, I have noticed that four weeks are by far not enough. It’s more like four months. Or four years. You still have opportunities to meet other lonely souls but the encounters often end in what I have come to call a social one night stand. You meet a lot of people briefly, you exchange the same questions with everyone (“What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do?”), you never touch any deeper subjects, and in the end you find a way to make quiet exit. You never add each other on Facebook. It was a brief encounter, one night you hung out together but no one really felt: this is it.
But it’s the only way to meet local friends if you are not one of the few successful experts of befriending people online from your couch. And after a while, you meet that one good person that will become a real friend.
Actually, that’s not true. You can meet people without going to mass get togethers always having the same conversation – you can build up your social circle through the system of recommmended friends. Just like you trust a restaurants or hairdresser more that a friend recommended to you, you tend to connect better with a so-called recommmended friend.
The reasons are obvious: you share a friend so you probably like the same kind of people, you have something to talk about apart from your job and name (and even if it’s only talking about your common friend), through having a common friend it almost feels like you have shared history (which you might if you have briefly met before through friend-induced points of contact), chances are you even enjoy the same activities.
I have contributed to the recommended friend system more than once. My ex-co-worker who hangs out with my former fellow student, my choir friend who get together with my friend who interned with me, or my best friend who happened to be in my other dear friend’s city and joined her for a barbeque.
In Düsseldorf, I got to benefit from the recommended friend system as well. Three people who I know from completely different countries and contexts have more or less knowingly referred me to three ladies with which I clearly felt: this is going to transcend the social one night stand phase. This could be actual fun.