Has covid made us less sociable? Have we become more scared of people we don’t know? You might be wondering where this comes from. Let me set the scene for you. As of November last year I started working in Haarlem and living nearby. Before I came here I didn’t know anybody in the area. Since I started working I’ve slowly been getting to know people from the area. At first I got to know my coworkers and since I was working in a climbing gym I was also quickly seeing familiar faces among the visitors. As I was starting to climb more myself I’ve gotten to know the people better.
Why I’m making that statement in the beginning you might ask.
Well, this isn’t the first time that I started over in a new place. At those times I feel I was taken up into a group of acquaintances a lot easier. Right now it feels like there are hardly any groups around. I connected it to covid because, due to the restrictions here in the Netherlands people were only allowed to exercise in groups of two. Now it seems that people aren’t used to talking with people they know less. Inviting people to join in seems to happen less in my eyes.
But maybe there are all these other factors at play. I’m 38 now. The first time that I got to know people in a climbing gym was 12 years ago. Now people of my own age have a complete life for themselves, often with partners and children. All those years ago I was living in a very rural area. Now I’m in an area covered in big cities. In cities people tend to be a bit more solistic. There are so many people around all the time that you can’t say hello to everyone and you definitely can’t know everyone. In smaller towns it’s quite normal that you know everybody, or at least a big portion of the community.
Who knows what really is the reason for me struggling more to make new connections. Maybe it’s all of the above. I probably will never know for sure. But what I do know is that I want you, the reader, to take something away from this.
The next time you’re out with a group, doing a specific activity and you see somebody on their own, just go up to them and ask if they want to join the group. I can testify that it can be really scary to ask a group if you can join them. Beautiful friendships can grow out of this form of kindness.
I’d like to end on a story from a few years ago. I just arrived at Voyageurs National Park for my half year of volunteering. The coworker who I was temporarily living with was having a performance with her theater group. She invited me and I decided to go. When I walked in, the room was full of people. Groups everywhere. I saw space at a table, walked over and asked if I could sit there. I was welcomed in and we ended up having a lovely chat. The two women became great friends during the summer I was there. They made me feel so at home. I had so many fun experiences with them. To this day we do sometimes message each other on facebook. I’m so glad that I dared to take the first step, and thankful for them being open to take me in.
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