- Chris MacLeod, MSW
This is an ultra-basic article. At times it will talk about stuff most people find quite obvious. Maybe you're wondering why I'd even think to write down such "common sense" information. It's because I often got the question through email. Readers would write me and ask, "I want to invite people to hang out with me, but I have no idea what to do with them." I've seen similar things on forums. Posts woud say something like, "I don't have many friends. What do people my age actually do in their free time?" I'll talk about some general principles first, then list some common things friends do together.
Some principles of doing things with other people
Spending time with other people is always at the heart of hanging out with them
Here's that obviousness. Sometimes more socially inexperienced people can make the mistake of thinking spending time with someone is all about coming up with the perfect event to attend. If they can't come up with anything spectacular enough to do they may even conclude there's no point in hanging out.
When you choose to be with someone in your free time a large part of the reason you're there is to enjoy their company. Talking to someone, especially if you like their personality and conversation style, is a rewarding experience on its own.
The activity you're doing together has a few purposes:
- To add background color to your conversation, and to enhance the experience. Chatting is all well and good, but if you always talked at your place it would get old after a while. So you get out of the house. You see and try new things. New stuff to talk about comes up as the activity unfolds. Sometimes you're just getting a simple change of background scenery, like catching up at a park. At other times you're doing something more involved.
- To be fun in its own right. Pretty much everything you do with other people is entertaining in and of itself, even if it's to a mild degree, like deciding to chat while strolling around downtown as opposed to on your couch. Easy examples would be seeing a movie or checking out a new hiking spot. Still, without another person around these activities can feel a bit flat or hollow. When you see a movie with a buddy you can talk about it afterward, and share your excitement before it starts. There's nothing wrong with seeing a film yourself, but a part of you may wish you had company. Being with friends gives you access to activities you couldn't or wouldn't really want to do on your own.
If you don't enjoy someone's company then doing the greatest thing in the world together will only be do so much. You see this all the time on dating shows where two people go out on a blind date and always seem to be paragliding or horseback riding. If they don't have chemistry it doesn't matter that they're on a hot air balloon ride. On the other hand, if you really click with someone you can have a great day just watching TV and joking around.
Picking things to do with people is often more about doing variations on a few solid activities rather than coming up with something incredibly original each time
As I mentioned, a misconception is to think that every time you see someone you have to come up with some novel, ultra-interesting activity to do with them. Most of the time friends spend with each other is doing the same old things. You don't need to do something new and special each time. Again, socializing with people you like is at the heart of it, not what you do. If you like your friends' company than you can easily do things like:
- Hang around the same person's house several times a week.
- Frequent the same coffee shop, diner, or club every week.
Here are some common standbys:
- Hanging around someone's place
- Grabbing coffee
- Going out to eat - You could frequent the same place or handful of spots, or try new restaurants each time
- Seeing a movie, whether in a theater or at someone's place
- Watching TV
- Going for a walk, by taking a familiar route or exploring new areas
- Keeping each other company on day-to-day errands, or going shopping together
- Going to a bar or nightclub, whether you're regulars somewhere or like checking out new ones
- Taking part in an organized ongoing activity, like a sports league or a weekly D&D game
Most pairs or groups of friends do these few things over and over and occasionally throw in a day trip or weekend getaway. They may end up at the same bar every Friday night, but it's consistently fun and a little different each time, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel each week.
Get togethers are often planned around one activity and others follow spontaneously from it
Sometimes you can call a friend up and ask them if they want to sit around and play video games all day, or wander around the neighborhood. A lot of the time though you'll text them to do more of a purposely fun activity and then end up falling into something else after it's over. Like you might see a movie together in the afternoon and when it's over go, "What do you wanna do now?" "I dunno, what do you wanna do?", and then end up grabbing a bite to eat before going back to their apartment to watch TV.
List of things friends often do together
I could categorize this a number of ways, but I decided to group them based on the activity. Of course, many of these items often overlap each other. Some I've covered already, but I'll throw them in again and go into a bit more detail.
Hanging around and talking
I've already said this is at the center of all activities. Usually you're doing something else at the same time. This works best with people where the conversation naturally comes easily, and less well with friends that function more as partners for particular activities.
Not much else to say about this. It's mainly just an excuse to get out of the house and relax and talk somewhere.
Going to restaurants
Sometimes these are an event in themselves, like when you try to a new place, or have planned a celebration with nine friends, or you're going to a fancy bistro. At other times you just need to refuel somewhere while spending the day with someone.
Grabbing a drink
This is in the same camp as getting coffee. It's mostly a pretext to talk, in a different atmosphere. Even if you only have a drink or two, the alcohol can loosen you up a bit. It could be splitting a pitcher at a pub on a summer afternoon, or in the evening. It might be having a glass of wine somewhere, or getting martinis in a lounge. It could be having some beers while watching TV at a buddy's place.
Watching TV or a movie at home
This kills a few hours and allows you to relax around the house with your friends. I'll throw casually playing video games or browsing funny YouTube clips under here as well.
Haivng people over for a meal
This could be a a summer BBQ, a potluck, or a fancy dinner party.
Hanging around somewhere
Just going to a certain area and talking, and maybe meeting up with other people there. Examples: The park, the mall, the beach, a skate park, a certain part of downtown.
Seeing a movie
This also tends to lead to doing something after, like grabbing a bite to eat.
Seeing a concert
Could be an all-day outdoor festival, at a large venue, or at a smaller music hall or bar.
Seeing live music
I'd consider this like a concert, but instead of getting tickets in advance for an artist you know you want to see, you more show up that evening and listen to whoever is playing. It could mean hanging around a hole in the wall pub watching a grab bag of three local bands. It's often like going out to a bar, but with real people supplying the music instead of a DJ or jukebox.
Seeing some stand-up comedy
Maybe at a proper comedy club, or maybe a pub's small Open Mic night.
Seeing a play or other kind of performance
Aside from plays, there's public seminars, symphonies, book and poetry readings, quirky alternative productions, and so on.
Going for a walk
It may be around your neighborhood or on a path along the river. It could be on a light hiking trail outside of town. Going for a leisurely bike ride could fall under here too.
Exploring a new neighborhood
This could be deciding in advance to check out your city's Chinatown on a nice spring day, or just poking around the unexplored side streets of your area because you have nothing better to do.
It could be a stereotypical movie shopping trip where you help each other pick outfits, or you could just be tagging along with a friend while they buy something they need. It leads to opportunities to do other things in the area.
Keeping someone company while they run errands
Maybe your friend has to get some passport photos taken, then pick up a cake for their parent's birthday, and you tell them you'll come along.
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Watching a game
You could make an event out of it at home, or go to a friend's house or a bar to watch.
Playing a team sport together
Could be a bunch of buddies getting together to play a game of football, or two friends playing tennis. Could be spontaneous or a regular, organized thing.
Doing an individual sport together
For example, a bunch of friends go skiing or snowboarding together at a local hill.
Going to a game
For some people this is a rarer event, but it can be more regular if you have season tickets or you're in the habit of attending lots of cheap games over the summer.
Playing video games
I mean making this the main event, as opposed to half-playing while you catch up. It could be in person, or online.
Playing board games
This could be a bigger board game night with a bunch of friends, or getting together with one person to face off in a more serious, competitive game.
Playing card games
This could be an old standby like poker, gin rummy, or Magic: The Gathering, or some random game one of your friends is willing to teach everyone else.
Playing pen and paper role-playing games
Dungeons & Dragons is always the first one that comes to mind, but there are plenty of others.
Playing pub games
For example, pool, darts, Foosball, old arcade machines.
Working on something together
Training for a sport together
It could be friends spotting each other at the gym, running together, meeting at the park to practice their cricket batting, or belaying each other at the rock climbing gym.
Working on something more artsy
For example, band practice, a writer/illustrator graphic novel project, a short film you and your friends are making, etc.
Building something together
For example, helping a friend repair their house, restoring an old car, planting a garden.
Going to a pub or bar
Besides from getting a drink and chatting to your friends, this has its own relaxed atmosphere. You can do other things like play games, meet new people, watch a game on TV, and so on.
Going to a nightclub
You can drink and hang out with your friends like at a bar, but can also dance, see a DJ, and meet tons of people if you want to.
Going to a house party
It could be low key and really more like a bunch of friends hanging out than anything, or it could really crowded and rowdy.
See this other "basic" article: What Do People Actually Do At Parties?
Drinking, getting drunk
It's not everyone's cup of tea, but you have to admit that many people are into it. Often this is mixed with something else (e.g., clubbing, playing golf), at other times some friends will make a night solely out of getting wasted.
This is definitely not everyone's thing, but I want to mention it here because it is a common enough activity people do, rather than gloss over it. Among people who smoke weed, "Wanna come over to my place and smoke up?" is a common excuse to get together. It's like an instant activity you can pull out of your pocket. People will make an event out of doing other drugs as well (e.g., taking shrooms and sitting around a park).
Trying to meet someone to date or hook up with
It also feels a bit cheesy to put this on the list, but it's also something people often do. A group of single friends will go to a bar with the main goal in mind of going home with someone, or getting a number to follow up on.
More one-off activities
Visiting a local tourist attraction
E.g., a museum, gallery, botanical gardens, zoo, landmark, historical building, or amusement park.
Going to a yearly festival or carnival
For example, a parade, Jazz festival, county fair, neighborhood food festival, some sort of city-wide music, theater, or restaurant week, a cultural event (e.g., Chinese New Year, Gay Pride, Little Italy's summer party), etc.
Checking out a show or convention
For example, a sci-fi convention, car show, boat show, comic con, psychics fair, dog show, etc.
A day trip out of the city
This could be to do something outdoorsy, or to visit an attraction an hour or two away. It might be as simple as visiting a friend who lives nearby.
Organizing an original, one-off outing in your city
Like a group of friends all trying paint ball, going bungee jumping, or taking a single pottery class together. You can get burned out trying to come up with one of these every weekend, but they're fun as a change of pace every so often.
Going on vacation together
For example, a road trip, a long weekend at the cottage, a ski trip, visiting another country, etc.