The science behind making friends as an adult

Quick challenge. Show me how you walk.

Easy, right? But if you’re anything like me, suddenly your walking style becomes stilted and awkward. There are parts you’ve not thought about because it comes so naturally to you. All of a sudden, it’s weird and it’s difficult.

The same thing can happen when we try to make new friends as adults.

Making friends as kids was easy. It was part of our socialization. We bonded over favourite colours or swapping lunch items. We didn’t have to analyze or think about it. It was as natural as walking and talking.

From an anthropological perspective, this way the way it should be. In the old-old days, people didn’t really leave these original communities, so the friends you made as a child could last a lifetime. Even in our parent’s generation, when the housing market was friendlier and travel more expensive, it was easier to plant your roots in your hometown.

But now, when housing is through the roof and the job market is suffocating, travelling is the most appealing and accessible way to gain life experience and pursue happiness.

This puts us all in the paradoxical position where we may have lots of friends (in the 100s and 1000s on Facebook), and yet no one to hang out with after work or on a Saturday night.

So we know why we have less friends around than any other generation. But if everyone is in the same millennial boat, what’s stopping us from getting out there and joining forces?

As it turns out, there’s a lot.


We have less of it. Studies have shown that it takes between 40 and 60 quality hours to make a casual friend, and over 200 hours to become a close friend. Due to the increase in work hours and extended commute time, big cities have become some of the loneliest places on earth. Essentially, people are ‘too tired’ at the end of the 9-6 workday and hour-trip home that meeting new people for dinner or a show is more daunting than their energy can muster.

The Remedy? Routine.

Set a standing ‘date night’ with friends. Make it as high a priority as you would a business meeting. It could be anything from a comedy show to a pub quiz, or even just watching Netflix together at home. The Whanau Challenge is a great way to get started because we provide you with the ideas and the incentives to get it done and form the friendship habit.

The ‘Liking Gap’

The phenomenon in which we underestimate how much other people like us. This is common for people with both high and low esteem. So, if you think someone doesn’t like you, know that you are probably wrong. Unless you do something to their pet. That’s always pretty bad.

Overt Avoidance

Not showing up.

The remedy? Booking in advance. If you’ve already paid for an event, you’re more likely to show up.

Covert Avoidance

Showing up, but not engaging with others.

This is harder to remedy as it can depend on the type of event. It’s easy to disappear into a crowd. That’s why we’ve designed The Expat Game with small groups in mind. Each player has an important role to play. We dare you to try covert avoidance here, but we don’t think it will work.


There is a lot to be afraid of when putting yourself out there and making new friends. The fear of rejection is so universal that it begs no explanation. The other source of fear comes from past experiences - part of why children have a much easier time making friends than adults. Meeting new people will always require courage, but you can be strategic in where you place that courage to give you the greatest payoff possible.

But we are Expats. We were brave enough to jump on a plane to the other side of the world. On our own. Away from friends and family. We are not going to let a little fear get in the way of our big adventure.

If you are ready to front up the courage to find friends the fun way, come join us at The Expat Game Experience. Meet other people in the same boat as you. Other travelers or expats who want to make the most of their time in Auckland and Aotearoa. Yes, it may take some courage, but it’s going to be worth it.

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