I went for a beer last night with someone I know from Nairobi who now lives in the UK.
We got onto how making friends is different in the two places.
For context, she’s from the US and so has experience doing so in two foreign lands.
The main distinction we saw was how in Kenya the “expat scene” is predicated on transiency.
Most people are there for a multiple of two years (the length of a work visa) and so it’s understood that the people you meet won’t necessarily be around forever.
As such, there’s a constant flow of new people arriving, and so it’s completely normal to be meeting people for the first time and getting to know them for a relatively short period of time.
Therefore when it comes to, say, BBQs you’ll just bring along this person who you’ve only just met and, if they’re around for a while, they’ll soon become part of the group.
This contrasts with (in my experience) the UK where friendship groups are more fixed.
The idea of bringing a stranger to a group BBQ with friends would be less expected, and as such as the “stranger” (or a new person in town) it’s difficult to break into new circles.
It also sparked a conversation around “How long does it take to make a friend?”
This might seem like a weird question, but especially if you’re traveling around a lot to new places it’s something you end up thinking about in terms of building relationships.
The calculation I made was that on average it’s about 8 hours to get to the stage where you’d invite someone around for dinner (a certain “level” of friendship).
When at school, university, work or where you live this 8-hour quota gets met incredibly quickly, and so these people become significant in your life.
If, however, you just meet someone for a coffee every few weeks it could take months to meet the 8-hour threshold, meaning you have months of not really having friends.
As such, the key is to get those hours in quick, preferably by doing a weekend trip or joining a club where you have regular face time with people. As my friend said, doing mundane things like waiting for the bus is paradoxically a great way to accelerate a friendship.
In other news…
I went for coffee (peppermint tea) with the Africa Editor of The Economist yesterday. We spoke about some interesting business things going on on the continent (apps for churchgoers, whether solar can revolutionise the region).
The thing by far he found most interesting was toothpicks.
This post originally featured in the weekly newsletter I write. If you’d like to sign up to receive it every Saturday (usually there’s some interesting links, thoughts etc.), you can do so below: