How to Make Friends In Your 30s (Without Social Media)

January 17, 2023

In our teens and 20s, making new girl friends seemed easy; but as I grew older I found it harder to make new, real (and especially lasting) friendships. Most of my adult friends were work friends or girls I met in yoga classes. We used to go to the same bar or we took the same classes, but our friendship never survived the change of workplace. It was usually me, who left for a new job and despite my efforts these friendships never lasted long. My work-friends always found new work-friends to go out with and I felt abandoned and literally replaced as I assumed they made friends with my successor. It took a while to understand that I was looking for friends in the wrong places, with the wrong approach, giving too much meaning to the relationships.

As I have advanced in my chronological years, I have found that developing a rich and vibrant social life has often taken a backseat to other important life responsibilities. People in their 30s have many roles to fulfill: we are employees, spouses, mothers or fathers, sons or daughters. Our interests and lifestyles naturally change compared to our 20s. Getting together seems way harder in our 30s than it was a decade ago. Many of my acquaintances turn down in-person meetings because they already know what is up with me, because they follow my instagram or facebook profiles. But for me that’s not the real thing. I don’t share my most beautiful and most important moments on social media because I love to live those moments, so I don’t even think of capturing it. And anyways, I value the sweetness of occasional, real, in-person connection so I prefer to meet up in person, to tightly hug my friends, to hear their voice through the fresh air and not over a speaker. Nothing can replace a nice chat over a delicious coffee and cake or grabbing a frosty beer in a pub while watching football together on a large screen.

Many people don’t agree with me but I believe we need real life encounters with our friends and acquaintances, and even if you meet certain people daily, it’s nice to bring some changes in the faces you see. Sadly, it seems that our culture doesn’t place as much value on relationships in general compared to even 20 years ago. It breaks my heart even more, when I hear things like why one shouldn’t bother to keep up a relationship with someone if there’s nothing to gain from it. They can’t use the relationship to get discounts at their favorite restaurant or get a job through them, or buy their home with their help… what a shame, isn’t it the most important take-away of a relationship the actual quality time you get to spend with the person? The conversations you share with them? The memory you create?

As a (most of the time) single woman who relocates often and moves around with her job, I must say I find the prospect of starting over again is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. I have 3 best friends whom I didn’t see in years because we always lived in different countries. It’s funny how many people get surprised when I tell them two of them have been my friends for more than a decade now. But I still love to meet new people and make new friends (male or female) and meaningful connections with them. But how the heck one does make new friends -real, in-person, flesh-and-blood friends- in a time of life when it isn’t so easy to befriend others anymore?

I collected my top tips and practices that works best for me when it comes to making meaningful, adult friendships. Hope they help you out, too.

  • Know yourself and be yourself

It might sound obvious but to find the right kind of friends you need to know yourself first. Probably you won’t find the right kind of people for you at a pub, if you love to spend your nights reading books at home, don’t drink alcohol and hate to play pool. You might go out and find yourself liking those things, but don’t force what doesn’t feel good. Go with what you like and look for friends in those places or even if you end up somewhere you don’t enjoy yourself so much, you can look for others who seem to feel alike and find common ground with them.

  • Make the first step

These days making friends is not always easy especially with people staring at their phones in their hands. If you’re lucky it’s enough to look up from your book and smile on the stranger who is reading the title to start a conversation. But there are people who wouldn’t talk to a stranger first or wouldn’t even think of wanting to befriend anyone new. So I love to be the one who initiates the first move and make sure the other gets that I am open to getting to know them. They might think you’re weird if you see someone picking leeks at the market stand and you tell them you have a great recipe for leeks, but if they shy away, at least you tried.  You wouldn’t think but many people are open to befriend someone new once they get over the first shock of someone trying to befriend them. So be bold, there’s literally nothing to lose.

  • Do not force things

There’s one thing I really hate and it’s wasting anything, especially wasting time since you’ll never get that back and you never know how much you’ve given. I already wasted so much time on relationships when I knew I shouldn’t—staying too long with the wrong guy, trying too hard keep up with toxic friendships and so on… Now, if I feel that something is off I don’t try to force the friendship anymore. There are people who are really nice yet I still get anxious when I meet them, I get a headache every time I meet up with certain people—guess what? It’s the limbic system (the reptilian part of the brain that gives out early warning signs) alerting you. I give people a chance but my peace, health and sanity became more important even if it means I’m alone than being liked by the wrong people.

  • Dare to fit out

There was a time when the easiest way to make friends was to fit in the group but in my 30s I just can’t bother anymore to live up to others expectations of me. I also noticed that the things that make me fit out from the crowd are the ones that draw the right people to me and they make me interesting in the eyes of others.

  • Get out of your comfort zone

I know I said before that you should know yourself and what you like, but sometimes getting it does really good to switch up things. Of course, getting out of your comfort zone is best done in smaller steps and not going on the Pacific Crest Trail when you hate walking but if you already like baking why not sign up to a class where you can learn a specific thing you always wanted to be able to bake, like macarons? Or visit the farmers market and say hi to a sympathetic stranger who is checking out the same organic handmade soaps you like.

  • Be open to all kind of people

While I find it important to look for like-minded friends, we tend to get too picky with people. The problem with having a checklist of what were looking for in a person, even if it just a friend, is that it holds you back from meeting some amazing people. I am open to befriend all sorts of people—men, women, single, married, with or without children, bookworms and party faces, older and younger generations…

If you are looking for new friends for any reasons in your 30s, don’t be afraid. Even if you can’t befriend someone, there’s only to gain from this situations – either a new friend or more knowledge of self.

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Photo: Simon Maage via Unsplash

Imola is a Hatha and Ashtanga yoga teacher, tree planter and writer and editor of Raised by the Wolf, an online magazine for Wild Women, with a passion for exploring and life outdoors. Originally from Hungary but currently planting trees and rewilding the enchanting forests of France. Hop over to RBTW magazine, and blog and follow her on Instagram @yogiraisedbythewolf


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