So… you’re seated at home, reading this on your phone, and silently sobbing to yourself.
Why, of all things, did you move to Singapore, where there seems to be so few friendly and kind people?
Or you’re probably in a place where you wonder where your old friends have gone to.
They are suddenly busy with their new found boyfriends, and you’re suddenly left in the lurch. When you used to expect them to initiate meetups, you suddenly find yourself jettisoned.
And no one seems to really care about you.
It’s almost as if the years of friendship you had spent nurturing was suddenly forgotten the moment they found someone new.
Or dare I say it, someone seemingly more ‘worthwhile’ to spend their time with. After all, they could get married to this person.
You’re just a friend, aren’t you?
I’ve had a friend tell me that she’s ‘low-maintenance’ and doesn’t expect much from her friends.
But I almost wanted to blurt out,
So are you saying that I can’t expect anything of you too?
Or you may have just moved to Singapore and you wonder why few here seem to be hospitable and kind, inviting you to their homes for a random meetup.
Singapore can be like a busy city, where everyone’s constantly bustling and you’re swept away in the dust of everyone’s left behind tracks.
It seems as though everyone always has somewhere else to rush to. They are looking at their watches, glancing at their phones, and you feel strangely, that you’re just taking up their precious time.
Welcome to Singapore
When I was sitting on the MRT, I once recalled a tourist sharing with her friend about how Singapore was a ‘sullen’ place. If you don’t know what that means, it means ‘dull’, boring, and unexciting.
And it can be that way, especially in a place where everyone in Singapore seems to be unwilling to connect.
Board the MRT, and you see people scrolling through their phones, or nodding to music.
It can be difficult to understand Singapore’s culture, or to re-understand it, especially after you grow up, and you go out into the real world.
It can seem as if most things are focused on the transaction, rather than the relationship.
Like what do you need? When do you need it? How can I service that need?
It can be scary.
So if you’re here now, and you suddenly realise that you’ve outgrown your friends, or worse still, that you don’t have many friends, what can you do?
First be clear about your expectations of friendship
Many people aren’t clear about what they mean by ‘friendship’ , which results in mismatched expectations, and many hurt feelings.
For example, some people’s idea of a friend is someone whom they text with regularly, but meetups can be once every quarter.
You might want more.
Some important questions to think through:
- How often do you want to meet these new friends?
- Would you rather initiate, or them initiating it?
- What do you want to do on these meetups? Eat? Play?
How you should think about meet-ups
There are two approaches to think about meeting new friends.
First, you need to be in the places where people are ready to mingle. This means that people go there explicitly to form new connections, and aren’t just there to make a transaction, and go home. For example, it might be hard for you to find new friends at the checkout counter of the supermarket, because people are just looking to get their groceries and head home.
However, at a new group like volunteering, people do want to meet new friends.
Let’s start with the principles, before we go into the how-tos.
Learn to spend some time with yourself
Perhaps the biggest way to attract people who want to spend time with you, is to be comfortable spending time with yourself.
You know what I mean. You’ve probably met those pushy sales agents at the MRT, who keep pushing the ‘free gift’ into your hand even though you politely shake your head.
It applies to friendships too. If your friend sees that you’re desperately trying to meet them, they might not agree.
Some of the best ways to spend time with yourself?
- Watch a movie with yourself
- Go run to the park
- Take a walk
Plan your weekends with someone
If you’re single, you’ve probably had those weekends when you wake up on Saturday, and think,
Gosh. What do I do now?
As difficult as this may be, you may have to take time to plan every weekend’s activity on a Monday.
It might keep your Monday blues away knowing that there’s something big you’re looking forward to.
If you want to make friends, you need to be intentional about it. It can’t just happen by chance.
Be your own hub of social activity
Over time, I’ve become known as the person who puts events together.
It’s not something I want to be known for, because it means that the responsibility for organising always falls on me.
But you can be the person too. If you’re the person who looks out for events to do every weekend, you might end up becoming the hub which everyone looks forward to.
Initiate the meetup, don’t wait
If you’re going to keep waiting for people to initiate meetups with you, you’re going to be left hanging dry.
If you see something interesting you want to do, ask your colleague. Don’t wait.
Take time to invest in one community
It can be easy to join a community, but it’s not that easy to invest time, energy, and effort towards keeping it going.
All communities need nurturing. It doesn’t just happen organically, like how we see plants grow. You need to grow it.
Rather than trying to join many different communities, just focus on one or two, and give it your best.
Give to it, rather than just solely taking from it. You might find yourself much more nurtured over time.
For example, take time to initiate meetups, to ask people to go for dinners in that little Whatsapp group you share, and to organise it.
If you want something, you have to do something to get it.
Now, let’s go to the ways.
Join a regular, weekly community like an exercise group.
One of the most difficult things of being an adult, and being out of school, is that you no longer have those regular, structured activities where you’re meeting each other everyday.
Instead, you realise that you have to organise it.
What can you do?
An easy way is to join regular communities that already take place around the island. For example,
- Yoga class
- Fitness classes like Zumba, Body Pump, at a fancy gym like Pure Gym
If you haven’t tried Friendzone, they are a social enterprise set up to form neighbourly connections with each other.
The idea is simple.
We don’t really know our neighbours. If I asked you when the last time was when you brought something over to your neighbour, and you hemmed and hawed, well.
This is for you.
They organise void deck chats, and with you seated on the tablecloth on the floor, you get to speak to other neighbours in your neighbourhood.
After the initial conversation, they will put you in a Telegram group where you can start seeing ‘jios’ (a colloquialism for ‘invites’).
Dinners, walks, whatever you think of.
Try event platforms like Eventbrite and Meetup
Another thing I like to use is Eventbrite, because of how it hosts a great variety of events, often for free!
My recommendation is that when you go for such events, take the effort to just talk to someone new. Often, one easy way to start a conversation is to use these 3 questions:
- Where are you from?
- Traveled anywhere recently?
- What do you like eating?
These questions are often really insightful, and non-threatening.
But like the Open Space Technology teaches, use the Law of Two Feet. If you find someone boring, move on.
Go (back) to faith communities
I was recently speaking to a friend who had since left church who was telling me about how hard it was to make friends organically, and why church was so attractive because of its constant flow of social activities, that you didn’t have to organise.
When you’re with a full-time job, it can seem almost crazy to have to organise weekly activities. Going to a community like church, where there’s already a captive audience, and things they have to organise to keep members engaged, can make it easier to make friends.
Of course, that depends on whether you’re big on your faith.
Make your own friendships work
When my friends first started getting attached, I found myself being extremely unhappy. What?! They were forgetting now that they had girlfriends to attend to?
And you might feel the same.
But you can take time to invest in your own newfound friendships, and slowly, you might find yourself building something new.