I left England, a country with approximately 56,000,000 people, for a country that has a 14th of England’s population, and I realised that I have an even smaller chance of making any friends than I did at home. Living in a new country where there are a tiny 4,000,000 people, and in a new city where you can cross hundreds of paths and pass thousands of people in a day, is not scary as such but isolating.
I wander the streets of Auckland gobbling down sushi and searching for the perfect café to relax in and read The Miniaturist while my visa is waiting to be approved, and I realise that I do not know a single person. I do not cross the same person twice and I do not recognise one familiar face. Then it dawned on me and I thought – I do not have a single friend out here and I have literally started afresh with only mobile communications to contact my legendary friends from across the seas. What a ridiculous thought I said to myself, and then carried on having said thoughts and talking to myself again, and repeating this process of thinking and arguing in my head while perhaps mumbling too along Queen Street . It is not easy making new friends when you have left school, you’re not working and you’re 24 without a book club in site, or a hobby.
Something hilarious happened to me on Monday, though, and I am on track to making my first New Zealand friend, which is excellent progress since my arrival ten days ago. I have also considered adult dance classes to entertain myself seeing as Pilates is $200 I dont have, but I should save myself the embarrassment – I wasn’t a good dancer as I child, so god knows I won’t be a good one now.
I am quite an odd person when it comes to confidence, which I inherited from my parents. I have a father who tours the world following England football games, often on his own, and he makes friends wherever he goes. I also have a mother who will invite strangers she meets in Norwich around for dinner because she has captured them in conversation and likes the look of them. I don’t have the same sexy confidence my sister does (because when I try I look constipated or upset), but I do have the confidence to talk to strangers and make friends. This has its problems, though, as I probably come across as a lesbian (nothing wrong with that, except I am not and what I want is a friend and not a girlfriend) or an absolute weirdo.
I met a lovely woman in a pharmacy who looked to be about my age (I might be flattering myself, as I am yet to realise that I do not look 20 anymore). She told me about shampoos for my faux blonde locks and a few days later I used her services in the photo lab. In these two moments of conversation she reminded me of my friends from home who are funny, talkative, and so up my street in Humour Avenue. I went away thinking, hmm, what a nice person. I think she would make a cracking friend. And so, I went back and asked if she would like to take my email address and perhaps we could go for a drink sometime. Realising that I sounded like I was asking her on a date and that I was as red as a tomato because of it and I had started to sweat, I promptly told her that I wasn’t a lesbian and that I don’t actually know anyone because I have just moved over here and consequently started to ramble; awkward. When she said yes, we should do lunch, I thought to myself, YES! Lunch would have been a much better offer than a drink and perhaps I wouldn’t have sounded like I was coming on to her. Luckily, Kiwis are extremely friendly people and less judgemental than us Brits so I doubt half the thoughts that had crossed my mind had even entered hers.
So, there’s my first lesson on how to make friends in a foreign country when you’re not working, you’re not at school, or you’re not three and it’s perfectly acceptable for you to walk up to a fellow three year old and ask her what her name is and would she like to be your friend. Reality would have it, that it is socially unacceptable for a 24 year old to walk up to a fellow woman and ask what her name is and if she would like to be your friend, because if it was socially acceptable I wouldn’t have felt like an absolute knob and started to melt.