Auckland? More like Awkward.
July 26, 2008 6:14 AM   Subscribe

How do I meet people and befriend them in a foreign country (New Zealand, to be specific)?

I moved to Auckland, NZ just under a month ago and I'm having a hard time making friends. I just don't know how to meet people. It was so easy to do while in college and in my old location (Washington, DC) - there was at least a solid website listing concerts and activities that I was interested in (BYT). I haven't been able to find anything like that for Auckland. Similarly, I was involved in a few league sports and group activities, but haven't found any to join here. I've tried going to bars (etc) and I'm generally a very outgoing person. I'm a 23 yr old female, if that helps.

Alternately, any experiences you have with moving to a place where you didn't know a soul and how you dealt with that would be great.

Thank you.
posted by troika to Human Relations (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite - the navigation is pretty headache-y to navigate, but it's the closest thing I can think of to the DC website you linked to. Pick up the Groove Guide as well - usually from clothing shops, cafes, music stores - it's out on Wednesdays and is a pretty good gig guide.

As for meeting new people... I find this hard too, so will be keeping an eye on this thread!

What's your living situation in Auckland? Are you working, studying, travelling for a bit?

I'll mefi-mail you if I think of anything else.
posted by minus zero at 6:34 AM on July 26, 2008

Some of the Americans I have met (in Australia) have remarked on the different organisation of social sporting leagues here. If I were moving to a new city in Aust/NZ, I would probably join a university sports team: you don't have to be a student, and they tend to be welcoming to temporary members.

I don't know where you are in Auckland or what sports you played, but here is the list of Auckland University Sports Clubs. Many sports seasons run ~April-September, but if you contact the club you're interested in/the Uni Sports association, they should know what kind of social off-season competition there is. Most universities also run social sporting competitions, and if you register as an individual they will often try and fit you into a team somewhere.
posted by jacalata at 7:31 AM on July 26, 2008

I've done major city moves twice now, each time to a place where I didn't have any friends before moving there.

First things first, every time I've moved, the first 3-6 months have been a real struggle - not knowing anyone, always being lost, often being kind of broke from moving costs, etc. The second time I moved to a new city, I felt a lot more calm about the whole thing just knowing what to expect and not obsessing over why everything wasn't always amazing and fun right off the bat. One month is not a long time, so I think you need to work on your patience.

Speaking of patience, my main advice is to give activities and groups a chance - I was disappointed a few times when I joined new groups/started volunteering/new job and wasn't instantly becoming best friends with everyone there. But a few months in, after getting to know people a little better, friendships developed more naturally.

Anyways, some general advice:
- School or work are usually the main "built-in" friendship circle - you don't mention which of these you're doing now - so that's where I would start.
- Also, try volunteering (there's a reason people always recommend this, it's really a great way to meet people).
- Where are you living? A big shared house can be a fun way to meet new people and form quick and close friendships - and help you not go insane from not talking to anyone for days on end!
- Have you checked with any of your friends back home to see if they know anyone in Auckland? Yes it can be awkward to phone up someone you don't know personally, but if you're outgoing enough it can be done
- If you're not on Facebook, start up a profile. I personally find it a lot less awkward to find someone on Facebook than it is to ask them for their phone number right away (YMMV).
- Milk the fact that you're new in town to be upfront with people, along the lines of "hey, I'm really new in town and I don't know many people yet.. so feel free to invite me to fabulous parties"
- Finally, patience patience patience!
posted by vodkaboots at 8:19 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, you're cute, so it should be easy. ;)

Seconding joining something. If activities or sports aren't working out, consider taking a University class, or a night class, just to get into that school vibe that you're accustomed to.

You could also look for MeFi members near you. Looks like there are at least a dozen in Auckland.
posted by rokusan at 9:31 AM on July 26, 2008

Ask a New Zealander. :-)

I was born in Auckland; my family still lives there. My parents and sister are extremely sports-centric and gregarious, to the point that my father's name (and thus my own) is well-known. And if you like music, primarily rock, my brother plays in a couple of bands around Auckland too. I'd be happy to make introductions, if you're interested, or at least let you know of some events. Feel free to drop me a MeMail if you'd like to follow up.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:15 PM on July 26, 2008

It's all about common interests, and doing things which you genuinely enjoy, and then meeting people there with the same interests. And then getting their phone number and doing it next time together ;)

Don't try to change your lifestyle too much: if you liked going out to listen to music, go out and do that (there are listings sites for Auckland - maybe check out BFM, too?); if you are into sports, join a team. And then when you turn up to the event, try to swallow your self consciousness as much as possible - treat the whole thing as a bit of a lark, enjoy the band or entertainment or game, if you're having fun then it's infectious.

If you're in a bar, talk first to the staff or musicians (they're paid to be sociable), then if it's a pub or bar find a space at the counter where people order drinks (this is where people socialise). For me personally I always find the music people - a beer or two and "I'm new in town - where are the best places to go and see bands?" is hardly a weird conversation starter.

Also it might pay to remember that NZers are quite casual about arranging stuff: quite often nothing is arranged, people just turn up to their regular places or end up at parties they didn't plan to go to. Don't be too fussy about dates and times and phone numbers - find a venue you like, and keep going back there - you'll end up seeing the same faces.
posted by dydecker at 1:18 PM on July 26, 2008

Also I'd treat little adventures like going to bars and clubs alone as a mission to find out good information, not a mission to make friends. Fact-finding missions. Chances are the places you pick at first will be completely wrong, but someone there will know where something good is happening, somewhere where you'll be completely comfortable, and that's the place you'll meet the people who'll turn into your friends.

With a bit of luck, they might even take you there ;)
posted by dydecker at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2008

If you're interested in sports at all, go along to your local indoor sports stadium (Action Sports is a pretty common chain) and ask about teams that need players. Generally the options are netball, soccer and cricket, and you don't have to be good or even fully understand the rules, as long as you're enthusiastic. Sunday afternoon/evenings are usually the social, less competitive and more fun games when you have a chance to meet people and just play or learn for fun.
posted by tracicle at 1:51 PM on July 26, 2008

Auckland can be hard, because since it's a very distributed, car-orientated city, people disperse after work/school and that creates some friction as far as spontaneous social shit goes - people are always heading home, unable to get a ride, whatever. Although dydecker is right - people will say things that might sound like a casual brush off but are in fact invitations. Likewise if someone is having a party, unless it is a formal catered affair, they will just expect you to turn up. And New Zealanders can seem a bit reticent/diffident if you come from a more outgoing culture (while they're sober, anyway). You might want to recalibrate your social antennae a bit.

You could do worse than call for another Auckland Mefi meetup. We had a successful one about 18 months ago.

I would keep on eye out on those small tabloid so-called "community newspapers" that get stuffed in your letter box once a week. They report on the small things that are going on, which really means the sport and recreation clubs that you might want to join, and they have listings of local events.

Flatting (ie sharing a house with others) is the no-brainer way for younger people to acquire a social life for free in NZ. You do run the risk of ending up with an incompatible set of people, but you'll be less lonely, and your flatmates will have friends and you'll end up going to their parties and hanging out with them.

If you are associated with the university, keep reading the student newspaper (Craccum) and go up to the Students Association for a list of social/sporting clubs.

Personally my big thing in the last 5 or 6 years has been taking up capoeira. As I moved cities, the local group gave me a built-in bunch of people to socialise with and see regularly. If there is any sport or activity you enjoy, go and find a group that does it and join them. Even if they aren't that great en masse, you might make one friend, who could be your entree into a larger group of people. Otherwise, check out the night classes ("continuing education"), but focus on ones where there is an existing group to join at the end of it (eg if it's a style of dance, make sure there's a club that holds events you can go to when you've learned how).

I also agre with vodkaboots: it does take some time. And it should. You're not going to like or enjoy the company of just anyone. You may pass through several different networks of people before you end up in a milieu you like.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2008 lists sports and other physical activities across the whole Auckland area, so that might be useful. The high schools run inexpensive community education classes in art and cooking and languages and all sorts of things, so that might be worth googling too.
posted by slightlybewildered at 3:06 PM on July 26, 2008

And New Zealanders can seem a bit reticent/diffident if you come from a more outgoing culture (while they're sober, anyway).

I think this is pretty important, we're kind of reserved in a weird friendly way. It can take some getting used to.

I moved to Auckland about four years ago on my own and knowing no one. It definitely takes time to find a niche and even now my social life keeps improving. All the usual things work here, making friends via work or school, joining a club, going to gigs, volunteering, but it can be kind of hard to find where those things are. You've had lots of good advice already - seriously, every comment so far has had useful things for you to follow up on.

One extra gig site that I like is Makuna. It kind of leans electronic but not entirely, and it presents the info really well. For bigger acts look at the entertainment lift out in the Thursday Herald. Also look into the local low-power radio stations. You may not be able to get them via radio but many stream on-line, and I personally really like Up FM. The Listener website has radio frequencies and I listed some over here.

Definitely call for a meetup, I think we're due anyway. What worked last time was emailing (or now I guess mefimailing) people listed as being in Auckland to give them a heads up rather than just relying on metatalk. The one time I half heartedly tried and didn't do this things fizzled. But give it a few weeks cos I'm out of town, heh.

Things like sports and other activites can be hard to find without an in. But it's worth it, much of my non-work social life comes via my boyfriend's soccer club and he also plays a lot of lunchtime and social sports at the YMCA. Maybe if you list the types of sports and other things you're interested in you'll find a mefite with an idea of where to look? For example I know of weekend female soccer teams and a mid-week female netball team that may have spaces, and possibly a hockey team now I think about it. I also know someone in a woodwind orchestra which recruits new players. Friend of a friend phone number links are a common way of finding a club at a time they're not actively rectruiting (i.e. mid season) so don't feel awkward following up on something like this.

For a big winter sport like weekend soccer just google for local clubs then contact them. They should have someone listed who's entire job is welcoming new people like you. You may have to play in a lower team than you're able to this year (since it's mid season) but it will get you known and into a good team next year (and don't be afraid to change clubs if the first one doesn't fit). The YMCA has social stuff going all the time and they often set it up so that single players can be placed into teams, and the indoor sports stadiums are the same (there's a big one on Balmoral Road which often has signs out the front asking for new players, for example). My boyfriend is also into running and apparently there's an awesome website for that too (which I don't know), so let me know if that would be helpful to follow up on.

Community education classes and high school night classes are actually subsidised by the government and therefore can be extremly cheap. Just as an extra boost for that idea.

For me part of find my space was patience. It takes time to get known and for things to happen, particularly in the middle of winter when it's cold and wet. The other part was going outside my comfort zone. I started inviting people to do stuff then asking them round for dinner. Turns out we were all waiting for someone to organise something and were all dying to get out of the house, but no one thought to make the first move. It was scary asking to socialise with people I don't know that well and it didn't always lead to an ongoing friendship, but it ended up being the best way to break through that weird kiwi reserve that so many of us have going on.

This is a big vibrant city with a lot to do once you work it out so the potential is there. Good luck!
posted by shelleycat at 5:37 PM on July 26, 2008

I feel your pain. I worked in several Scandinavian countries a while back,and those guys are seriously hard to befriend, especially when I wasn't terribly good in Swedish or Danish. It depends on the person of course, and I'm now glad to count a Dane as one of my nearest and dearest.

n-thing making the first move, though, which is a big ask when you're alone and (possibly) a bit insecure about it all.

Canberra was like this when I moved here in 1993: it's like Washington DC (as far as I know) ie a government town. Very ephemeral, people move here, then away. And very, very cliquey.

I joined several sports and cultural groups before I really started to build a circle of friends. It is a bit of a numbers game!
posted by flutable at 6:47 PM on July 26, 2008

I'll be your friend.
posted by The Monkey at 11:30 PM on July 27, 2008

Aucklanders are secretly outgoing - you know, after 2 beers! Bfm have a good gig guide, as do George. Just keep going to stuff is a fabulous advice! I've met tons of friends through shows at the Kings Arms... if you're into indie music it's the same people almost every week. Eventually they'll come up and have a chat. I guess the real question is - what are you* into? Would help when making suggestions for you!

Also, send me a message if you'd like to have coffee or something. I'm always keen to meet new people :) and I fit into the 22 year old girl demographic. And more generally - yeah we should totally have a meet up!
posted by teststrip at 3:50 AM on July 28, 2008

There actually is an easy solution for this. Couchsurfing. It is a website that brings together the world's travelers by offering couches for them to stay at as they travel. However a wonderful side effect of a website where hundreds of thousands of like minded people, is that there are local events constantly to aid people that are new to the area.

I am from NY, and just traveled throughout Europe and then settled in Helsinki, Finland. I knew very few people when I arrived. So I went to this site and joined activities. From joining 10ppl going to a specific art exhibit, or meeting at a pub for a few pints. I would even put up a quick little event saying that I am going to this pub at this time, who wants to join me? I would get 5-10 responders every time. After a few weeks, I had about a half dozen friends that I felt comfortable enough to call and go do something with.

Highly recommended. And it's for all ages, not just twenty-somethings.
posted by wile e at 5:24 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If anyone is still checking this, thank you all so much!
posted by troika at 6:20 AM on August 2, 2008

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