Why Is It so Hard to Make New Friends as an Adult?


Have you tried making new friends lately? Why is it so hard?

Last August, my husband and I moved to Norway. We’d always dreamed of living abroad, so when we found out we were both accepted into masters programs at the same university in Oslo, we knew now was our chance. Of course, this meant having to uproot our lives in San Francisco and move to a place where we didn’t know a single soul. But to us, the thrill of having the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a new culture while meeting new people and continuing our education far outweighed the intimidation of the unknown.

Fast forward eight months and here we are, about to wrap up our first year of school. In hindsight, the transition of moving across the globe wasn’t nearly as daunting as I had originally anticipated. Yet, there was one component that proved to be perpetually challenging: the “making new friends” part.

A couple of months ago, I found myself sitting in a cafe contemplating this very notion of making new friends. As an extrovert who loves being around people, I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was experiencing such a difficult time meeting people here (besides the fact that I didn’t—and still don’t—know Norwegian). It was then I realized this difficulty didn’t start when I stepped foot in Norway; it began brewing the moment I graduated college. The only close friendships that had blossomed since graduation were ones sparked from meeting (incredible) people at work.

As it turns out, this friendship complex is quite common among adult concerns. The New York Times wrote about it nearly seven years ago. Man Repeller posted a recent article on this topic. So did Refinery 29, the Guardian, and a number of other online publications.

After feeling quite relieved to find out I wasn’t the only one experiencing this problem, I started brainstorming solutions. That’s when an idea sparked (perhaps not the most creative idea, but an idea nonetheless). I decided that I would challenge myself to meet 100 new faces by striking up random conversations with strangers. While I couldn’t predict whether these encounters would eventually lead to friendships, I figured this strategy would at least force me out of my comfort zone—not to mention help break the ice, given that so many of us apparently wrestle with this same issue.

Now, I’d be lying if I said that first trial run wasn’t intimidating. But then I thought about one of my favorite quotes by Timothy Leary:

Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?.” Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…

After reflecting on his words, I realized the worst thing that could happen would be meeting people who perhaps didn’t want to talk, which was totally fine. So, I took a deep breath, collected my thoughts, and approached a girl sitting by herself in the coffee shop. I introduced myself, explained how I was trying to meet new people, and asked if she’d like to chat for perhaps five minutes. Thankfully, a big smile spread across her face and she said yes. “Ah, is this how it feels to ask someone out on a date?” I remember joking to myself. Five minutes quickly turned to 10, which soon doubled to 20, and before we knew it half an hour had passed. The conversation felt so natural, so refreshing. And the best part was that it was totally unexpected.

Although I haven’t yet met 100 new faces (still working on it!), I’ve found this self-challenge to be incredibly rewarding, not to mention a bit addicting. Not only have I spent time with some remarkable individuals whom I might never have met otherwise, but I’ve also become inspired by their stories. With each new introduction, each new conversation, and each new connection, I’m once again reminded of the happiness that can sprout from simply slowing down, smiling, and saying hello.  

What about you? Do you find it difficult to make friends as an adult? If so, have you come up with any tactics? We’d love to hear!

BY Kathryn - April 8, 2019

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April 8, 2019 11:47 am

THIS! So inspiring and sooo encouraging! Because I really struggled to find friends when I moved to my current home country, when all I had to do was just open my mouth. Next time I will take a leaf out of your book 🙂

Teresa Maria | Outlandish Blog

April 8, 2019 12:11 pm

I love this!!! The first step is the hardest step for sure. It reminds me of this wonderful video in the UK recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm12mTIUJss

April 8, 2019 2:15 pm

Yes! It’s so hard. I moved to Nashville seven years ago and the first year was ROUGH. I have a friend that lived with her husband in Germany during the late 80s. She handed out business cards to everyone she met asking them to be her friend! She encouraged me to do the same, but I didn’t have the courage to just walk up to people.

April 8, 2019 7:19 pm

To find friends get a hobby. Simple really.

April 9, 2019 6:30 am

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April 9, 2019 11:41 am

Friends are so much harder to make as an adult! I am glad I am not the only one experiencing this. I am in University right now, but I am also struggling to meet friends. I think it is because my university is a commuter-campus…no one hangs around enough to make those connections and many have busy lives beyond school. So far, the only *good* friends I have made, after high school, is through work. I am serving in the Peace Corps in September and the thought of moving somewhere new and not being fluent in their official language makes… Read more »

April 10, 2019 1:03 am

Thanks for this post!
I am in NYC where it feels like everyone is moving 100mph so approachability is often overlooked.
Work and hobby friends are often the closest friends you can make after ‘school’ friends (HS/College) by the same principle, proximity.
I love that you stepped up to someone Kathryn, and had a great convo! I liked that.
Anyone in NYC area – look me up!

April 12, 2019 12:42 pm
Reply to  YP

Just moved to the NYC area last year! living in JC but working in Manhattan! Would love to meet up!

April 11, 2019 10:49 am

Totally agree! I’ve gone to meet ups, started new hobbies, joined leagues, and even signed up for Bumble BFF. After struggling to find any friendships that stick I started wondering if I am the problem. But after many many articles, conversations with my boyfriend and therapist, and hours of contemplation – I’ve realized the reason is many others also want friends but are unwilling to commit and really “go all in”. The thing is … close friendships take time and consistency. Without both acquaintances remain just that … friendship takes risk. Courage. Consistency. As a 35 yr old with no… Read more »

April 11, 2019 6:18 pm

What a good article 🙂 The Nordic people can be difficult to get in contact with. I am Swedish and many Nordic people are by nature a little a little shy. We are not used to strangers approaching us 🙂 It seems like many Nordic people hang on to friends from school. It could be good if we were a bit more open. Don’t you agree?

April 11, 2019 10:45 pm

I really like this post. I’m a PhD student, and I find that the closest friends I’ve made after starting the program have been those in my cohort, my roommates from last year, and my roommates from this year. I don’t go to nearly as many social activities as I did in undergrad, and I don’t meet nearly as many people as I used to. If I see people frequently enough in my classes, I might add them in Facebook and try to connect with them outside, but it’s hard to make deeper friendships with that. It really scares me… Read more »

April 12, 2019 4:33 pm

Ooh interesting. I’m 40 and live in uk and metting new people is a hobby. I have lived in USA and many a new city and here is what I learnt about making friends:
1. It takes time
2. You need to make a lot of connections to find someone you click with
3. You can click with lots of people in different ways
4. Having shared history and experiences makes it easier
5. Friendship doesn’t always look or feel the same each time.
Good luck fellow friend hunter xx

June 14, 2019 10:24 pm

[…] Sharni at Girl and Grey, I discovered this piece on making friends as an adult and why do we find it so hard from Wit & […]

May 27, 2023 2:34 pm

How do you feel about this post-pandemic? I am 27 next week and worked throughout the whole pandemic in healthcare. I am having a very hard time getting myself to even get out of the house. My 20s have been completely wasted it feels like and I don’t feel like I can really salvage that. Maybe I don’t have to at all but I also do have to get out of the house. What are your thoughts?

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