Instant friends: just add water

That wise philosopher Jerry Seinfeld said it best - it's hard to make new friends once you reach your 30s.

''If I meet a guy in a club, in the gym, or someplace, I'm sure you're a very nice person. You seem to have a lot of potential. But we're just not hiring right now,'' he said.

It wasn't always like this. Kids make instant friendships - just add water. Preferably from the ocean surrounding a holiday resort or a swimming pool. There's no awkward chit-chat about the weather, the food or what-you-do-for-a-living. Someone will do a big bombie into the water and it's on for young and - well - young.

We realised this in the Atlas Mountains, in the middle of Morocco, when the kids were five and three. Taj had been playing with a local girl called Lourdes, who spoke seven languages, rode wild horses and tossed her hair like one of those ladies in the L'Oreal commercials. Yep, she was worth it. He was smitten. As evidenced by a full memory card containing 425 close-up shots on the family digital camera.

It was his first holiday romance, lasting 1½ days. Three years later, he still says wistfully, ''Remember my first girlfriend, Lourdes?''

When it comes to holiday friendships, kids have no boundaries: gender or geographic. There is no judgment or discrimination; their minds are wide open. After playing with a girl in a Samoan village, Grace asked: ''Can I bring Gardenia home with us? She's really poor. Can you believe she doesn't even have a Wii?!''

One friend used to play with a nine-year-old boy every summer when their families holidayed at Nelson Bay. Twenty five years later they were groomsmen at each other's weddings.

The blogger Tipsy Gipsy has coined an acronym for this: the INBF or Instant New Best Friend. Now, hotels such as the Marriot are using technology to take advantage of the trend, developing apps to connect tweens and teens on site. Perhaps they need to make one for adults, as well.

I remember sitting at a bar (unusual, I know) in Fiji wanting to talk to a woman next to me, but having no idea what to say. Will she think I'm some kind of weirdo? A stalker? Nigel-no-friends?


The next day I asked the kids: ''How do you make friends so easily?'' Eating her lunch, Grace decided to describe it using two pieces of thinly sliced cheese.

''You just go up to the other piece of cheese, I mean, person, and say, 'Hi! Do you want to play?' Simple.'' The cheese crumbled upon contact. ''Oops,'' she said. ''I think I broke up your friendship.''

''You've got to have something in common,'' Taj nodded, sagely. ''Like Skylanders.''

Next trip, I'm going to give it a try. Sure, it's a bit disconcerting being asked by a 46-year-old woman whether you like Lego or want to have a thumb wrestle.

But a holiday might be the perfect time to learn what it has taken decades to forget: the art of making friends.

Have your kids made Instant New Best Friends over the school holidays?


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