Alternately, I could title this post, “How to Make 10 (Kiwi) Friends in 10 Days” (for those who struggle with math, that’s an average of 1 new friend per day). Or more than 10 friends, really, there’s no limit. It’s ridiculously easy to make friends in New Zealand (note: I’m using the term “friend” rather loosely at the moment. At this point, having just been thrust into a totally new environment, I consider anyone a “friend” as long as we’ve held a 5+ minute conversation and/or share a particular love of sloths). Isn’t there some old adage about making a new friend everyday? I can’t quite remember… I might have just made that up… but nevertheless, I’m exceeding that average (though I might be leveling out a bit around week 2…). And now, here are Lindsey’s 4 Easy Steps to Making Lots of Friends Really Really Fast:
- Leave your flat: This one might seem like a no-brainer, but for introverts like me it can be a struggle to leave the safety of Netflix and step out into the great outdoors. Just do it. Grab your Nike shoes (see what I did there?) and go for a jog around town. Walk down the main strip. Strike up conversation with shopkeepers and non-shady persons who look as if they could be fellow Uni students. You might be surprised how eager people are to have a bit of a yarn (yarn: the classy way Kiwis say “chit chat.” Last time I heard “yarn” used to describe something other than knitting material was in the phrase “to spin yarn” which means “to tell a story” and was popular back in the 1800s…. And to think I’d believed the wonderful phrase to have gone out of style a few hundred years ago. Nope. Antiquity is alive and well in Dunedin).
- Get texting: Everybody, especially younger folk, send texts here. Texting is a primary form of communication and it’s worth opting for a texting plan with your new phone (or if you already have an iPhone 5 and can just use it anywhere in the world you please, well good for you. I’m sure you already have texting. And lots of friends to text. If you have an iPhone 4 and the option to upgrade before traveling to New Zealand, do yourself a favor and take the upgrade). Expect to receive a reasonable number of emoticon bedecked messages. The tongue-sticky-out face – 😛 – seems to be quite popular. I have yet to see a winky-tongue face – ;P – for which I am grateful because whenever I see one of those emoticons in the States I ponder: “Who actually makes a face like? Winking and sticking out your tongue at the same time? I mean, it’s not an attractive face. Is it supposed to be seductive? Conspiratory? Sexy? Actually, a beauty magazine (always a trustworthy source) told me it’s sexy to lick your upper lip, but unattractive to run your tongue across the lower lip. I wonder what level of attraction you could inspire if you just wagged your tongue in a generally circular fashion and went for both lips….” I’m also thankful that texters here generally avoid “lol.” I’ve never been a fan of “lol,” especially when it is used in situations that I’m pretty sure didn’t merit a chuckle let alone laughing aloud: “I’m headed to the grocery store.” “Lol!” (No. I don’t see how that’s funny) / “Gran just died. Lol.” (No. Mothers everywhere, lol doesn’t stand for “lots of love”). If I believe that my text could have conceivable elicited some laughter, I’ll accept a “lawlz.” Or better yet, give me a “haha,” a “bwahaha” or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could splurge with a nefarious “muahahaha!”
- Initiate conversation. Will, a man who works for the International Office, informed me that Kiwis are friendly, but shy. I’ve noticed that Kiwis tend to be less likely to start a conversation, but are skilled at carrying one. Thus, you just have to take the first step. My go-to solution: Nonchalantly walk up to someone and ask, “How much does a polar bear weigh.” “I don’t know…. How much?” “Enough to break the ice!” And move on from there. Works like a charm. Also, whilst attempting to make friends, eavesdropping and creeping are perfectly acceptable strategies. Listening to strangers talking about a film? Jump in with, “Oh, did you just say Django? I wanna see that movie.” Bang- you’re invited to movie party. Awkwardly following a group of people for two blocks because you recognize one dude in the group? Jump ahead of them, stop at the crosswalk before they do, turn around and coolly ask, “Hey – are you by any chance international students?” Next stage – Lunch. Then, BFFs. Wanting for familiar faces in your class of 150 students? Walk up to the first person with an empty seat next to them and ask, “Is this seat taken?” Smile. Proceed to sit even if they don’t answer or respond with “yes” (because you know that cretin is lying, but you’re going to be friends regardless. They can’t stop you). Honestly, Kiwis (and by osmosis anyone who is in New Zealand) are off-the-charts friendly and hospitable. Making friends here has been laughably easy and takes me back to kindergarten playground days when I could do an accidental face-plant next to some rando kid in the sandpit and suddenly we were sharing toys and all our deepest, darkest secrets (which at age 6 aren’t that deep or dark, but hey, besties share secrets).
- Accept offers to hang out and, in turn, invite acquaintances to participate in activities that you host. Chances are, if you meet people and talk for a bit, they’ll ask to exchange contact information and a day later you’ll be invited to party or go to the beach. Without throwing away common sense and safety, take advantage of these offers. Oftentimes, you’ll meet even more people and make more mutual friends at these little sessions. What, you may ask, does a low-key New Zealand party look like? Well, I can tell you about my first night out. I’ll first mention that I’m not really one for smoking, drinking, couch-torching, etc. Put me on the prude end of the scale. When I was younger, my friend reminded me that our parties used to be called “reading parties:” a group of us girls would sit in a silent circle with our books. Even by my standards, this is rather pathetic. And awesome. I could totally go for a reading party right now (oh wait, I just did that this afternoon. We laid out on the grass in the sun. It was glorious). Bottom line: Other than a single viewing of Animal House, I have very little “party” experience. So, when my Kiwi mentor took me to meet some of her friends at a friend’s house (not rank frat basement), I played my first drinking game. It was ok. The only games I’ve heard of that I’d really want to play all involve movies: 1) Watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Take a shot every time the film says “who.” All players are dead within 5 minutes. 2) Watch Lost and drink every time Ben Linus is beaten up or Jack cries. 3) Watch any film, tape a mustache to the screen, and drink whenever the stache matches up with a face.
The environment at this party was laid-back, welcoming, and non-pressuring. I discovered that people think I’m even funnier when they’re tipsy. I was claimed as a group’s “token American” for the first time in my life. I studied New Zealand pop culture through the lens of Uni students and reveled in commonalities, elements that are spread across cultures. For instance, I found out that my Kiwi friends love Macklemore’s Thrift Shop (which, by the way, Macklemore wrote after visiting Walla Walla’s St. Vincent de Paul and after playing a concert at my own beautiful Whitman College…). I also overheard a Kiwi use the phrase “calm your tits” (related to a previous post I wrote about the reclaiming of generally inappropriate language), so I taught them a little alternative that my residents had shown me – an alternative that arose from one girl’s foolish but ultimately serendipitous failure to spell check: