On Friendships

Picture this: Two young women are walking down the sidewalk, looking at their phones and accidentally bump into each other. They apologize and smile at the same time, then realize they are carrying the same purse. Want to be friends? one of them asks. Yes! is the answer. Then, they hook arms and head into the nearest coffee shop and a beautiful, meaningful, real friendship blossoms. 


I just moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone. How on earth do I make friends? Anyone who has moved can probably relate in some way. I would like to think I’m outgoing, personable, even funny sometimes, but it’s not like I can walk into a bar and be like, hey, I like your shoes, wanna be friends? Or interrupt girls dining at the same restaurant as me  and say, hey, you guys remind me of my friends back home, can I join you?

We have now been in Portland for a month and I’ll admit, I haven’t made any connections yet. Unless you count the barista at the cafe across the street. We’re real tight. I’ve let myself be consumed by this house hunt. The only way I can try to change this is by getting active in Portland and getting out. I have to “put myself out there.” Which can be really uncomfortable, even for a social person like me. It’s like… dating. Yuck. It’s intimidating. I think especially so since we’re back in the U.S. where everyone always appears established. Comfortable. Not with a sign on their back saying, hey I want new friends, come talk to me. 

When we moved to Europe, it took awhile to find friends there. I would pass little pow-wows of hip women having drinks together or shopping together and sigh. I want that! It took… four months to finally meet people. That’s a long time. I ended up stumbling into a group of other new ex-pats (none were American, interestingly) and we formed an instant bond over that commonality. Jaro once said that being an ex-pat is like being on a deserted island. You make do with what you have. And he’s right. We ended up forming unlikely friendships with people that we may not have been friends with if we were back in our cozy bubble of Chicago. I now treasure those friendships even though I may never see those people again. Isn’t that interesting?

The other thing about those ex-pat friendships is that somewhere in the back of my head, I knew it was temporary. And so rather than fully immersing myself into the group, I held on more closely to my friendships back in Chicago. This was a delicate balance that I think, in retrospect, I tipped too far. I gripped my life back in the States so hard that it was really difficult to focus on my life in Amsterdam. Most weeks, I had at least five or six skype dates, always an hour or longer. Always varying times, and varying days. It was like a job. It kept me tethered to my apartment. And, unfortunately, it prevented me from really putting myself out there in the city where I lived. That, combined with all the travel we did (I traveled a solid 1/3 of the 14 months) and wanting to spend quality time with Jaro (which was never enough), I never really got settled. I don’t have regrets, but moving forward (pun absolutely intended) I’m going to do things differently.

Now that we’re in Portland, I can’t act like this is temporary. We just bought a house for crying out loud. We are going to be here for a long time. Maybe forever. This is my life. Here. In Portland. Time to start acting like it.

With Jaro’s work schedule (he was traveling this entire week and we spoke maybe twice, for instance), I will need to focus on myself. I’m proud to say that I’m starting! Here are some things I’m going to try and where I hope I’ll meet some new friends:

  • I joined a yoga studio, CorePower Yoga.
  • I signed up to volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society.
  • I’m going to take photography classes. (started researching some options)
  • I bravely stuck my name on a sign up board at Powell’s to join a writer’s group here in Portland. (and already got one response!)

And that’s just the beginning. I’m also thinking about language classes (would love to be fluent in Spanish and eventually French), possibly a book club (’cause this girl loves to read) and maybe, just maybe, I’ll work. That’s a whole different story in itself as that would also include a career change…..

Any tips? I’d love some insights from others that have gone through a move and needed to create a new life for themselves. I admire anyone that has had to go through it. It takes so much courage.


P.S. An insightful article about making friends as adults. Anyone think I can spearhead a Portland social club?


14 thoughts on “On Friendships

  1. I’ve gone through a move before, but then again I was 10 and came over on a plane (not a boat!!!) from Ukraine, escaping Commies with my family. My parents signed me up for CYM, and of course most of my friendships came from there. What you’re doing by signing up to various activities/organizations is a great way to go about meeting new people and establishing relationships. And of course if you do decide to work, that’s another way to meet new ‘friends’. Then again, work sucks and I’d strongly discourage you from doing it. Once you start, it’s hard to stop! Can’t wait till I retire!!

    Congrats on the house! Tell Jaro I’m still waiting for new pair of Nike running shoes! 🙂


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  3. Sounds like you’re on the right track. My friends suggested “Meetup” when I had the same issue here in Japan. I never made a meetup but I did follow the places they went.

    When I moved to Denver, we had (still do) fantastic neighbors. I started a bunco group for the women on my street, we went to street parties. Winter is tough because there’s less time outside. I also joined a running club. My college has an alumni club in every town, and I went to their events.

    Personally, a job will do you good. I started at a temp agency and took a (crappy) position at the company I wanted to work at so I could start networking.

    I also know a few folks in Portland. Will connect.

  4. Hi Julie, my name is Joseph and I work for CorePower Yoga. I’m really glad that you started attending classes at CPY! Our community of like-minded yogis is a great place to make new friendships. I’d recommend that you to hang out for a few minutes before and after class, introduce yourself to your neighbors and chat with our instructors. You’ll start making meaningful connections in no time! There’s a Partner Yoga workshop coming up on February 9th at the SE Portland studio and it would be a great opportunity to bring Jaro or another friend and connect!

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  6. Hi Julie! I’ve found your blog totally by chance by looking for expat sites and blogs. After reading a few posts, surprise! You guys live in Portland and your husband works for Nike. I’m moving to Portland in about a month, and will probably be going through the same route (corp housing, yoga classes, meet ups and so on to try to meet new friends).
    I’ve heard Nike has lots of activities for the “partners” to get together and get to know each other. 🙂
    Anyway, maybe we get to see each other some day!


  7. I’ve been going through your blog this evening and I absolutely love it! When things get back to normal after my husbands surgery we should definitely meet up for a happy hour.

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