When I studied abroad in Germany, making friends seemed so effortless. We had a 1 month language program before the semester started, and boom, day one, tons of international friends to party and explore with! When I moved to Japan to teach English after college, same deal. I was on the JET Programme and as soon as I landed in Tokyo for training and again after arriving in my city of Ryugasaki, bam, an intimate group of gaijin (foreign) friends you are suddenly besties with no matter how different the lives you previously led were. Both of these easy-friend-making situations arose because everyone was so far out of their comfort zones that you had this automatic bonding experience over the new and scary local and life you were living.
When I moved to New York the first time as a singleton, and again when I moved here with my hubby, it was quite a different situation. Everyone here had their set group of friends, and meeting people was soooooooooo tough! I really felt pathetic, like, "Hey, I have no friends, will you be my friend?? I'm cool, or at least I think I'm cool..." hmph. Even if you made some friends, it felt like such an effort to get invited to hang out. Sad, but true, at least in my case anyway.
But now, with a baby, the world is open and friendly and exciting again! Everyone loves babies. Everyone looks and talks to your baby, sure it's not going to turn into a life-long friendship with the lady cooing at your little one in the elevator, but still, it feels nice (unless they randomly touch your little one without asking, which is NOT cool!!!). And reaching out to make friends through meetup.com or Facebook or whatever doesn't feel so pathetic, cuz, hey - I'm a good mom looking for friends FOR MY BABY *wink wink*. Sure he doesn't know his his hand from his a$$, but you know, he needs play dates right? So does mommy! I never thought it could be so easy to make friends, and AWESOME ones at that, in New York. But we did it!
*Disclaimer: I did not in fact have a baby in order to make friends, but rather making friends was merely an unanticipated added side benefit of having said baby. ^_^
One other thing I'd like to mention on this topic happened just yesterday. Let me start by explaining that since moving to NY I've become somewhat fascinated with the Hasidic Jewish culture that is quite prevalent here in Brooklyn. The way they dress and act and talk, the various things you hear about them but aren't quite sure which are true or merely rumors. I'm just fascinated with it, much like I am with the Amish. I'm currently reading the biography of an ex-Hasidic Jew, called "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots" which gives an amazing insight into the culture (though, I don't know what is exaggerated or specific to her sect). For instance, it says they believe God sent Hitler as their punishment for assimilation, which is why they are so careful now to dress so traditionally and piously. They believe having as many kids as possible is the ultimate revenge against Hitler, so that is basically the women's job. Once married, they cannot show their real hair to any man other than their husband, and some sects mandate keeping their hair shaved under their wig or scarf. One would be correct in assuming they go out of their way not to interact with people outside of their group, and until yesterday I only had one (very negative) interaction with one - he was a realtor who showed us an apartment, and gave it away to someone else despite him promising he'd give me a warning if anyone showed interest before I could get our contract to him. A-hole. I tried not to generalize him to the entire population. But yesterday, while at H&M with baby and hubby, I briefly chatted with a Hasidic women in the elevator about our babies, and then while shopping another one asked me where I got the baby hat I was holding. Nothing major, I know, but still, imagine my elation, to have crossed such an extreme cultural division! Hoorah!!
So there you have it folks. Alcohol and babies, the ultimate tools for breaking ice, bridging gaps, and crossing the cultural divide!