I was talking to a friend from the US the other day and she expressed concern about how hard it must be to make friends in India. It actually hasn't been, and I consider myself a huge introvert. Here are the tricks I've picked up along the way.
1. Be vulnerable.
Before we moved, I posted on Facebook and said something like "I don't know anyone in Mumbai and I'll be forever grateful if you introduce me to new friends there."
That simple post led to some of my closest friendships here. It led to being invited for a legit Thanksgiving dinner which really meant a lot since the holidays can be hard.
The post was inspired by a part of Eat Pray Love that you probably don't remember ... when Elizabeth Gilbert moved to Rome and asked all her friends to introduce her to people. That had an impact on me when I read it, because I'm shy and it would never have occurred to me to do that, but it led to such fun experiences for her.
2. Be receptive.
I've been really open about the new people I meet. No one has to be perfect. We don't have to have everything in common. You basically just have to want to hang out and we can take it from there.
And say yes to EVERYTHING. Get out of the house. Even if it's a stupid waste of time event, just go for one hour and make a new friend.
I went for a party with Karan when we first arrived and my clothes weren't here yet and he told me in the car on the way over that the theme was "Bollywood Glow"!! I was really not dressed for it, but it didn't matter.
I went for a lunch with the ladies in my neighborhood this week. They are older, speak Gujurati, have all been friends for years ... I was the odd one out. But who cares? EVERYTHING is outside my comfort zone in India so even if the lunch is awkward, it's not going to kill me. It was fun though :)
3. Find the moms groups!!
Moms groups are amazing. But sometimes you have to dig around for a while to find the good ones. Back in New York, our really good moms group in Manhattan was actually hosted on Meetup of all places. In Mumbai our expat mom group is called Hopping Bunnies :) It's hosted on Yahoo. I had to pay a $40 membership and submit a photocopy of my passport to join!!!! I've also joined the American Womens Club. I'm on a few Facebook groups for moms in Mumbai. I'm in a whatsapp group for the moms in my neighborhood. They are so good for friendship but also help with the many, many questions that come up along the way. That's how I've found my pediatrician, nanny, acupressure guy, and the cat cafe that Leela and I visited this week :)
If you haven't found a group with a listserve that's an incredibly valuable resource, then keep digging around until you find it ... or start one yourself!
4. Kids and pets are great conversation starters.
Bring them everywhere. They will be waving or wagging tails at strangers, helping to break the ice :)
I also bring Leela for lots of classes in the afternoons where we meet people - My Gym, swimming class, kids yoga, holiday parties, etc.
Also - Leela is only 2.5 but having her in play school has also been a great way to meet new friends.
5. Invite people over!!
We had a housewarming party and a birthday party for Rumi and I invited pretty much everyone in my phone, except my Hindi tutor who I've kind of broken up with and have been ignoring her calls :/ I also didn't invite Rumi's pediatrician because I thought that would be a bit much?
6. Ask for everyone's number.
Our whole social life in India runs on whatsapp so you have to have a phone number in order to be friends. I have gotten so good at this that I asked a bollywood star for her number last week and now we are friends.
7. Don't wait for some magical moment later to make friends. Don't count on your spouse to do it for you.
When you're brand new in a place, that's the best time to be vulnerable and ask for introductions. Own it! Karan is the more extroverted in our relationship, but he's at work all day and I couldn't sit around waiting for him to make friends for me. That would put unfair pressure on him. So I take initiative.
8. Get really good childcare that you can trust.
This was a major top priority for us when we moved and makes all the difference. I like socializing with my kids but sometimes it's nice to go out without them too, and be able to say yes to invitations.
9. Don't be flaky.
Show up if you say you're going to. It's good manners!
I'm extremely grateful for a considerate husband who cares about helping me make friends. A "best of both worlds" marriage that makes it easy to have Indian friends and expat friends. And a flexible health coaching job that allows me to do social stuff during the day. I carve out mornings for work but afternoons are with the girls.
Now if only I could get better at remembering names! That part is still a struggle, despite my best intentions!!