How to make friends and irritate people

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Hi! I'm Sarah Long. I arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met my Mr Miner soon after. We're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (or DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. I came out here as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

I have a beautiful friend in the UK. No matter how many thousands of miles apart we are, no matter how busy she is, or where in the world she is, she will without fail remember to send me a lovely birthday card. And not just any card - one with every inch of space written on it, delivered on time and to the correct address, even though I move all the time.

I know what you’re thinking. She’s one of those friends who puts in lots of effort and expects lots in return. The type who gets a bit stroppy if they haven’t heard from you in a few weeks because you’ve been busy or you’ve forgotten to return their call.

This friend is not like that at all. She doesn’t expect anything in return and I know that she won’t get annoyed if I accidentally forget to do the same for her. She won’t take offense or stop talking to me if I have forgotten to reply to a message. Good friends do not expect something in return.

Last month it was my birthday and after a few-too-many vinos at the end of the night, I broke a cardinal rule of friendship. I had been talking all week about going dancing and how we hadn’t done it in ages and how all I wanted to do was just go to a club and dance. Come midnight, everyone was flagging a bit and wanted to go home. That was it. I was drunk and it was my birthday and I wanted my own way. So like a petulant child I uttered the words: "It wouldn’t be like this with my real friends."

Of course I wanted to take it back immediately and am now embarrassed I said it. I obviously didn’t mean ‘real friends’. I meant my friends from the UK and I don’t really know that it would have been any different had I been at home with them.

In fact, my little tantrum probably had more to do with getting older and not doing the things we used to do, rather than anything else. But that’s a whole other column’s worth of issues!

However, I do think getting older does make it harder to form intimate friendships with new people, especially when you move to a new place. People already have their own friendship groups and support circles and you don’t want to feel like you are intruding on them.

You also don’t have the time to share the same bonding experiences as you get older. I met my lovely birthday card friend at university. We lived together and played together, spent hours in the library, in the pub and curled up in bed, wondering if we would die of a hangover together. It’s no wonder those friendships are so strong. Have you ever spent as much concentrated time just talking to your friends as you did in the school playground?

In fact, if you asked me who my best friend is in Australia, it would probably be Mr Miner (sad but true) just because of all the things we’ve experienced, and the concentrated time together.

DIDO mining makes it hard, too. The transient way of life means that people come and go more easily, and you lose interest in putting in the effort to become close friends.

It's also difficult with non-mining friends. I love my mates and they all have great partners, but there comes a point when you’ve had enough of playing the third wheel, and you can’t always ask that they leave their partner at home because yours is away at work. It's most definitely not acceptable for them to flirt and canoodle outrageously while you’re there. Note to any of my friends who do this: I love you, but you aren’t 18 anymore so we’re a bit too old for the constant PDAs. You know who you are!

My uni friend in the UK is going through a break up and one of my other best friends at home is engaged. So while I get to work on apologising to my great friends here for my childish birthday outburst, I will also be trying hard to be there for my 'home' friends. Let's face it, we could all try a little harder with friendships. And those friends who are there not only to pour the wine, but to put up with you after one too many, are real friends indeed. 

More from Sarah:

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