The past year has flown by remarkably fast despite being indoors and social distancing for most of it. The normal way of making friends through activities with shared interests or when outside walking around has changed. The social distancing guidance of masking up, maintaining distance, and limiting gatherings do not provide the traditional ways of meeting new people. As if starting over isn’t difficult anyway, to meet new people and make new friends, you have to get creative.
Meeting new friends in the current environment is not traditional. As much of military life, flexibility is key to making new friends. Much of the activities are virtual, which can be hard on extroverted individuals. Some effort will need to be made to seek out groups in a non-traditional way. The beauty of online events is no traffic, less need for a sitter, and more opportunities to check out different activities that you may not normally seek out. Be flexible and give yourself grace to meeting new people at your new duty station.
Still Say Hi
Just because you have to wear a mask or socially distant doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce yourself to your neighbors. Being a good neighbor is still appropriate. While it may be difficult to say hi when initially in restricted movement, consider writing cards introducing yourself and leaving them on your neighbors’ door, letting them know when you will be out of ROM. Something as simple as an introduction can be the foundation of a new friendship.
Technology is your friend.
Before PCSing during a pandemic, research on social media for base-specific groups. These groups can provide real-time information on-base housing, schools in the area, housing availability outside the base, and current base information. While in these groups asking about the area, consider asking if there are interest groups among the base-specific group. Maybe there is a meet-up group or running group. Maybe there is someone already there with common interests where you can talk as you navigate a PCS and build the foundation for a friendship before your arrival.
Virtual Meet Ups
Check out the base-specific social media pages for any virtual clubs. On base and off, local libraries have held various book and activity clubs for a variety of different topics. If you enjoyed a book club at your last duty station, join the virtual book club. Or maybe you are looking to try something different like tea time or trivia night. Virtual meet-ups provide an opportunity for growth on personal interest. You won’t be meeting them in person, but you will be virtually meeting with others with similar interests.
Touch Base with Your Volunteer Group
While in-person activities are limited, if you were a volunteer with an organization prior to the pandemic, see if there is a branch at your new base. While they may not be holding in-person activities, they may still hold online activities or ways to volunteer at home. This can build a friend base in an environment you are familiar with and provide an outlet for the volunteering you have enjoyed in the past.
The spouse club’s idea is to provide a social group for military spouses at each duty station. The common bond of military life is a stepping-off point. There are usually nominal membership costs involved, and these funds are typically used to provide food or activities to the group. In the current environment, the spouse clubs are doing virtual events like 80s nights, game nights, and exercise challenges. This provides an opportunity to meet new friends in a virtual environment.
Chances are, if this is not your first PCS, there may be someone at your new duty station that you have been stationed with before. That connection of a known entity can be an amazing starting point for developing a new start to your friendship. Building on someone you already know or building on those casual connections is easier.
Manners in the Time of Pandemic
Currently, there is a federal requirement for masks on base when social distancing cannot be maintained. When meeting new people, ask what their comfort level is in regards to masking and social distance. Part of building trust is respecting your community’s wishes regarding the comfort level for mask-wearing and distancing.
Admittedly, it is additionally challenging to make friends in a world with social distancing rules. It’s in the name – social distancing. It can be done with some creativity and flexibility of exploring opportunities. Good luck with your PCS, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Have a suggestion on making friends at a new duty station? Let us know in the comments!