Tuesday 27 September 2016

How to make friends - the best ways to broaden your social circles

Pat Fitzpatrick

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Renting a room could be an option.
Hook up with friends from college through Facebook.
Spiritual awakening. Deposit photos.
Take up belly-dancing.
Play the ukulele.
Take up running. Deposit photos.

Lost contact with your pals? Moved town and finding it hard to make new ones? There has never been a better time to find someone for a date, or maybe for a quickie in a hotel that charges by the hour. But what if you just want to meet people for some social interaction? We take a look at the best ways to broaden your social circles without attracting hordes of nerds, pervs and weirdos (unless, of course, that's your thing)

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Facebook 'PYVKIC'

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There is an obvious contradiction here. Facebook is the main reason you don't go out and meet people any more. And even when you do, their phone is out every five minutes, so they can post a photo of their lunch. But Facebook has one thing going for it. People you vaguely knew in college. We call it PYVKIC.

You will get a lot of friend requests from PYVKICs. You will reject most of them. That's OK. We understand why you don't want to meet up with Dessie again. The last time you saw Dessie, he was wearing a tutu in a kitchen in Harold's Cross, singing along to 'I'm horny, horny, horny, horny'. We're all trying to put that behind us now. Especially Dessie.

Just like you, he has probably lost contact with a group of people who were once known as 'the lads'. As Dessie was browsing through Facebook one night, overcome with nostalgia and cheap Shiraz, the social-network site suggested your name as someone he might know, so he fired off a friend request.

And you ignored him. This is crazy. You shared some of the key moments in your life with Dessie and PYVKICs. There is every chance you lost your virginity to one of them. (If only you could remember which one. Things got so hazy after the freshers' ball.) The PYVKICs know where all your exes ended up. They know what really happened that time Monica spent three hours in the professor's office. (The rumours were true, and then some.)

So go on. It's time to put the past behind you and say yes to Dessie. Arrange to meet him for a drink, at least. You walk into that pub and recognise him immediately. Mainly because he is up on the bar shouting his way through Come on Eileen. Jesus, Dessie, things haven't been the same without you.

The Pub

The pub was rumoured to be dead and buried during the recession. Nobody could afford to drink and, anyway, hangovers are much worse when you owe 500 grand on a semi-d in Thurles. But take a look around you now. There are pubs being done up everywhere, particularly in the cities and towns. Some of them have a food menu that doesn't include a steamed ham-and-cheese sandwich. This is nothing short of a comeback. But is it possible to go into a pub by yourself and meet new friends? Yes, as long as you follow these simple rules.

Keep away from the craft beer. Irish people aren't used to pale ale yet, so it makes us piss like donkeys. You'll come back from the jacks to find your seat occupied by a man in a baseball cap saying, "My wife thinks I'm at an AA meeting". Nothing good could ever come from talking to this man, so you slip out the door and home without a friend. That's no good.

Pick a pub with some foreigners in it. We're not sure why, but non-nationals seem to know how to drink by themselves without looking like alcoholics or prostitutes. You'll blend in nicely, and hopefully meet someone who'll invite you to visit their beach house near Biarritz.

Finally, bring a canister of pepper spray. Only messing. Bring two. It would be terrible to run out when you are trying to ward off a man who likes to describe himself as a 'local historian'. Local historian: "Do you happen to know why Oliver Cromwell didn't bother coming to our town?" You: "Was it because he was afraid he'd get stuck talking to one of your ancestors?" Local historian: "No. Why are you taking that canister out of your bag?"

Man's Best Friend?

The quickest way to attract like-minded people in Ireland is to go for a walk with your dog. You'll bump into no end of other dog lovers. And two people will talk about anything to distract from the fact that their pets are basically giving each other a doggy 69. (What is with all the butt sniffing?)

Unfortunately, there has been a change of mood recently, and people have turned against the noble Irish tradition known as 'looking on while your dog has a shite on the footpath and walking away without cleaning it up'. There is now every chance someone will video this event and put it up on YouTube. This is a crying shame, as it takes all the fun out of owning a dog.

Time to go for the next best thing. A child. Your average chiseller attracts a lot of strangers and isn't inclined to foul the footpath. (Much.) There is no need to give birth or create a child. In fact, we'd recommend you don't. Kids cost a fortune, and wreck your life. Luckily, with the cost of childcare through the roof, your relations will be only too glad to hand over their kids for a few hours during the day. This gives you access to playgrounds full of other adults dying to talk to anyone over seven.

The etiquette here couldn't be simpler. If you like the person and think another meeting is in order, just agree with their parenting. If you want to nip the relationship in the bud, make a passive-aggressive comment about the food they are feeding their child. If you're not sure what passive-aggressive means, just ask your mother. It's fair to say that she wrote the book.

Now, she didn't expect any thanks for writing the book, but it would have been nice if someone gave her a little bit of recognition all the same. But then, you're all so busy with your own lives.

Rent A Room

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You don't actually have to rent the room. Just say you have a room for rent in your house, and you'll have no end of interesting people queuing up outside your gaff for an interview. (One person's rent crisis is another's opportunity. Don't say that out loud. People are very pissed off.)

Obviously, there is one big argument against taking in a stranger. The 1992 movie Single White Female, pictured right. A horror story of what can go wrong with an apparently nice roommate, it has some shocking images that can be hard to shake. And we're not just talking about Jennifer Jason Leigh's hair.

As against that, €12,000. That's the amount you are allowed to earn tax-free under the rent-a-room scheme. In your face, tax-collecting guy. Don't go around saying this out loud if your new tenant works for the Revenue.

That will just get things off on the wrong footing.

Speaking of putting yourself on a dodgy footing with the Revenue . . . Airbnb. It could be just the thing if you don't want to commit to a long lease with a man who starts to smell of cabbage over time.

The good news about Airbnb is you'll have a constant flow of people at your place, all looking for a slice of Irish life.

The bad news is, you'll have to stop sitting on the couch every night watching reruns of Modern Family. They didn't come all the way to Ireland to discover that we're basically Yanks without guns.

A word here from Tourism Ireland. They have asked us to ask Airbnb landlords to stop sending their visitors to some crappy diddly-aye Irish-music night, just to get them out of the house.

There have been loads of complaints, apparently.

Meetup.com

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A word of warning, before you head for this website. First-timers tend to get swept away by the choice of activities in their local area. They often sign up with a belly-dancing group that meets every Tuesday in the local centre for multi-cultural oneness. (That's the parish hall, with three new cushions and a lava lamp.) Anyway, we've checked, and nothing good has ever come of an Irish person who decides to become a belly dancer. There is plenty of evidence on YouTube, if you have the stomach for it. (The dancers certainly don't.)

Anyway, meetup.com. It's not exactly new, having been around since 2002. This is a plus. Online meeting places usually need a bit of time before they attract people who aren't nerds or pervs. (Or both, says you, after that Tinder date with a software analyst called Derek.) A quick look at meetup.com shows there is something for everyone in your local area. The first page for Cork includes groups of runners, writers, entrepreneurs, vegans, yoga types and people trying to learn Spanish. You get the sense that a lot of non-nationals use the site, as there isn't a group called Mad for the Pints. (Although we have our suspicions about one called Rugby Fans.)

A key feature meetup.com is you can browse photos of these groups in action. These photos include Irish people, so half the crowd are pulling a 'crazy' face because we are self-conscious about being an ugly race. But once you get over this, it's a great way to evaluate your new buddies. This is important. Let's face it, there is nothing worse than a gang of ugly friends.

Spiritual Awakening

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AKA conscious awakening. It's basically mindfulness with extra hippie. Make a slight hint on Facebook that you might be into it, and you'll have friend requests banging down your virtual door. A word of warning before you go any further. This is the kind of movement that attracts ladies called Noreen who prefer to be known as The Queen of Tranquillity. If you're OK with that, then there are potential friends all around.

Here is the tricky thing about spiritual awakening. Nobody seems to know exactly what is going on. Say what you will about the Bible, but at least it's all in there. Spiritual awakening, on the other hand, is a case of 'whatever you are having yourself'. A quick Google search reveals there is no shortage of websites or blogs written by Americans with a PhD in Making Shit Up.

Most of these take the form of '10 signs of a spiritual awakening.' None of them can agree on the signs. All of them would like you to buy their DVD. Judging by the main symptoms, it's clear that a spiritual awakening could be easily confused with a mild hangover. That probably explains why so many Irish people think they are experiencing one.

Here's our advice. Don't get bogged down in the details. There are loads of people in your area right now expressing an interest in spiritual awakening. They can't all be crazy hippies. (Unless you live in Galway.) So sound a few out on Facebook and maybe meet up for a few drinks. Have more than a few, and you could wake up the next morning with what feels like a spiritual awakening. You might even wake up with one of your new friends. How bad?

Get On The Road

An organised tour is always good on the friend front. We're not talking about Club 18-30 here. You want to come home with new friends, not an itchy crotch. These are changing times in the organised tour game. It's no longer enough to travel around a country by coach, trying to avoid eye contact with poor people. Now you have to travel around a country by coach trying to avoid eye contact with poor people while on your way to a profoundly holy site.

You should consider Bhutan. This landlocked kingdom between India and China is so hot right now. William and Kate (call us the Cambridges!) are just back from a royal tour, where they paid a visit to the Taktsang Palphug Monastery. This astonishing complex includes caves where Buddhist monks live and meditate for three years.

It's an ideal place for you to reflect on your life, and give thanks that you are not a Buddhist monk. (Don't say this out loud.) If you are looking for an Irish person here, listen out for someone whispering "Jesus, lads, it doesn't half make Knock look like Benidorm."

You might want something other than Bhutan. (For starters, there will be loads of English people there after the royal visit - let's just say they like to complain.) In which case, the whole Camino craze in Europe is worth a look.

What started out as an ancient traditional route across Spain has become a verb. You now camino from A to B. There is no shortage of makey-uppey routes for you to camino across Europe. It's a nice, cheap way to make fresh friends and learn something new.

For example, there is nothing less attractive than an Irish person who has just spent four hours walking in the sun. ("Christ, lads, look at the size of my feet.")

Run For It

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Here's a statistic from an Irish Sports Council report. Some 8.8pc of people over the age of 16 go running on a regular basis. You could use this information in two ways. One is to train to be an osteopath because a lot of people are running straight into a knackered back. The other reaction is to join a running group. Hopefully someone with experience can show you that there's more to jogging than buying the second-cheapest pair of trainers and hoping for the best.

Running is the perfect way to break down barriers with strangers. A dull weirdo doesn't seem so bad when you are off your box on endorphins. And running is less of a sport and more of a movement now. And it's a movement where you belong.

This movement has an outfit. Lycra. A strange choice for one of the fattest countries in Europe, but there you have it. Lycra has a special meaning on the school-run, where yummy mummies wear it to say, "I don't need to work. We can afford all this on one salary". You can use it to say "I'm in your gang" to people who run. And "I'm not like you, fatso" to people who don't. It's so versatile.

Then there's the apres-run. That's a thing now, for running groups. It's where you meet up with your new friends and, over a few pints, say how sorry you feel for couch potatoes. There is one golden rule at the apres-run. Don't mention James F Fixx. He started the running craze in the 1970s with a series of bestselling books. He died at the age of 52 while out jogging. Bringing up James at an apres-run is akin to standing up at Mass and shouting, "Is it just me, or does this whole thing seem a bit far-fetched?"

Remember, running is your religion now. If you want to make friends, you need to be one of the faithful.

Play that Ukulele

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It's impossible to play the ukulele without a smile on your face. Which is more than you can say for those forced to listen to it, says you. That just goes to show what you know about musical crazes that will seem daft in a few years. Because ukulele-playing is the new hill-walking.

It's not like the ukulele is hard work. By all accounts, it's easier to play than the bodhran. With the added advantage that you won't get stuck with 'bodhran face'. You know, the one where people can't tell if you're constipated or having an orgasm.

Ukulele is the new rock 'n' roll. Ukulele groups were on the bill at more than one music festival last summer, playing uplifting versions of classic swamp rock tracks. OK, anything can seem uplifting when you are eating an overpriced pulled-pork burger in the rain. But it's going to be hard to hold a music festival this summer without a local ukulele group on the bill.

Think about it. One week, you're googling 'how to make friends in Roscrea'. The next week, you're making a clumsy pass at your one from Florence and the Machine. (It's your version of a backstage pass. Go on, ya dog.) How could you even consider baking with that kind of fun on offer? So you need to get all over this ukulele craze before it burns out and ends up as naff as tag rugby.

The ukulele has another big advantage. You will be associated with George Formby, the cheeky ukulele maestro who shot to fame during the 1930s. George could never resist a double-entendre about his instrument. (Sorry, matron.) His whole act was so end-of-pier, they had to extend the pier. Thanks to George, playing the ukulele is a clear signal that you are up for a bit of the other. Joining a group is a great way to meet like-minded types on the slap-and-tickle front. And it's less obvious than Tinder. Just about.

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