Okay, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years, chances are you’re very, very familiar with the hit sitcom Friends. When it was on the air, it was a smash hit, and even over a decade after the last season wrapped (the show ended in 2004, I know, we absolutely can’t believe it either), fans are still watching and re-watching the episodes. There’s just something about the show that struck a chord with so many viewers. Whether you were a Chandler or a Rachel, there was someone you could identify with. There were storylines that had you cracking up and ones that had you tearing up – but either way, you were glued to the screen.
While sitcoms are generally considered to be light, fluffy shows that don’t require much thought, designed simply to make you laugh, that wasn’t the case with Friends. Sure, it had its funny moments – but it also taught you some great life lessons that you can apply to your life today. It showed characters going through challenging situations and dealing with it – all accompanied by a cheerful laugh track.
Here are 20 life lessons that we learned from watching Friends.
20 They’ll be there for you — literally
Everyone who loves the show Friends absolutely loves the theme song – you’d be hard pressed to find a die-hard fan who doesn’t sing along at least sometimes, and who neglects to clap along with the song. However, the theme song does more than start the show off on a catchy note – it also encapsulates a theme that runs through the entire show. Namely, that your friends will always be there for you, no matter how awful your day was, or how disappointed you are at where you’re at, or what issues you may be dealing with. Whether they’re helping you get out of a general funk or helping you get over a bad breakup, your friends are the ones who will be there. You don’t need an endless squad of acquaintances who you only see on fun nights out and when you’re feeling upbeat. You need friends in your life that you can call at any time of the day and know they’ll come over, even if it’s just for a hug and to share a glass (okay, a bottle) of wine.
19 Don’t judge a book by its cover
Whether we want to admit this or not, probably every single person has judged someone based on a simply first impression. Sometimes it’s subconscious and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. However, Friends has shown that you never know who someone is until you get to know them a little better. Sure, you won’t be compatible with everyone – there may very well be individuals who you realize don’t share your values and beliefs and aren’t a positive presence in your life. And in that case, you can absolutely decide that you don’t need them around. However, give someone at least a decent chunk of your time before you write them off. First impressions can be extremely misleading – that gorgeous woman you assumed would be a mean girl might end up being your BFF for life, that guy who made the foolish comment might actually be a really intelligent individual who you can spend hours chatting about literature with. You just never know.
18 Don’t be afraid to take risks
There’s no doubt about it – taking risks is very, very scary. Sure, some people are adrenaline junkies who live off that feeling of slight panic and nervous excitement, but for the majority of the public, it takes a lot of courage to shake off the safe, stable choices and take a risk. However, as Friends shows us, sometimes it’s just something you need to do. Tell that person you have a crush on how you feel, even if it involves getting off a plane bound for Paris. Take matters into your own hands and propose because you just couldn’t wait any longer. Embark upon a new entrepreneurial adventure if you hate wasting time at your desk job. Go do something you’ve always wanted to do but have been too nervous to actually do. Take a risk – even if it doesn’t pay off, it’s better to at least know you tried than to always wonder what could have been.
17 It’s okay if you don’t find your perfect job right away
On many television shows, 20-somethings easily waltz into their dream jobs and start rising up the ladder at a rapid pace. It can be frustrating, because that might not be your reality – and Friends proves that it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do right away. Just take Rachel, for example. When the show starts, she’s an unhappy waitress/barista who knows her heart isn’t in the food service industry, but isn’t sure how to turn her love of fashion into a career. Fast forward a few years and she goes from lower-level roles in department stores to higher level roles at a luxury brand. And take Monica for another example. She knew she wanted to be a chef, but before she could own her own perfect restaurant she had to sling diner food at a cheesy spot where she rocked false boobs and a wig rather than a crisp chef’s coat. Sometimes, it takes awhile to figure out what your perfect career is or find your perfect job – and that’s okay.
16 Just be honest with people
On screen, seeing people get tangled in a web of lies can sometimes make for good television. Friends had moments like this, such as where Phoebe and Rachel spotted Monica and Chandler from across the road through the window, leading to Phoebe’s hilarious freak out. However, in real life, there’s no comic relief in figuring out you’ve been lied to – it mostly just ends up making everyone involved feel bad, and can even jeopardize relationships. Do yourself a favour and just be honest with people. Sure, you can tell a little white lie every now and then if it’s a situation where telling the truth won’t really serve much benefit, such as telling your mother-in-law her lasagna is absolutely delicious when it’s almost inedible. However, when it comes to major things, don’t keep secrets from the people who are important to you. It always ends up badly, and the truth usually comes out in the end anyway, so just save yourself all the heartache and hassle.
15 Have a second home
Okay, this is a bit of a weird life lesson, but it’s something you might not even think about. On Friends, the group was constantly either hanging out in Central Perk or in one another’s apartments. Sure, they’d go to restaurants every now and then, or go out to activities, but the majority of the time was spent somewhere that was like a second home to them. It’s a great lesson to learn. With social media, it can be easy to feel like you should constantly be going out to the new hot restaurant, or constantly buying new outfits at the local boutiques to create a killer outfit post, shelling out for tickets to big events, etc. You should definitely make room in your life for a few splurges here and there, but there’s no need to get tangled up in FOMO. Find a spot or two you like to hang out, and it’ll make your life infinitely better. Whether it’s a tiny family-owned restaurant in your neighbourhood where they know your order or simply your friend’s apartment, you’ll save a lot of money and a lot of energy by finding a few spots where you can simply hang out and be yourself.
14 Relationships aren’t always easy
Friends had a lot of great couples over the course of its time on air, from Phoebe and Mike to Chandler and Monica to, of course, Ross and Rachel. However, in nearly all the relationships captured on the screen, one message came through loud and clear – most of the time, relationships aren’t easy. Ross and Rachel’s relationship was an absolute rollercoaster. However, there were also moments like Rachel falling for her assistant and Monica falling for Richard then realizing they just weren’t in the same spot in their lives, or Phoebe falling in love with the scientist David right before he had to move across the country for work. Sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be, and sometimes, relationships require a lot of work. Now, if your relationship is a constant struggle and you’re always miserable, that’s a sign that it may not be the right relationship for you. However, you can’t expect the course of true love to be totally turbulence-free.
13 You never know where or when you’ll find your soul mate
Most of the major relationships in Friends prove that you can just really never know where you’ll end up finding the person who you’re meant to be with for the rest of your life. In some cases, like with Monica and Chandler, it might be someone who has been in your life all along and you all of a sudden realize is more than a friend. In some cases, like with Phoebe and Mike, it may be an absolutely chance occurrence – after all, she met Mike all because Joey ran into Central Perk and shouted out a random name because he had forgotten to find a date for their arranged double date. It can be nerve-wracking to do things like create an online dating profile, or go out to a bar alone, or even just approach someone you think is cute in the grocery store. However, you don’t know where you’ll find your soul mate –you just need to make yourself open to different opportunities so that when love comes knocking you don’t accidentally shut the door in its face.
12 Dance and run and do whatever you love like no one is watching
Who could forget the storyline in Friends where Rachel is too embarrassed to run with Phoebe because of Phoebe’s crazy, arms-flapping running style, before eventually finding out that it’s a whole lot more fun to run that way. Or, of course, Ross and Monica having an absolute blast at the New Year’s Eve party despite everyone else thinking they look foolish. Sure, you could do absolutely everything by the book in life, but where’s the fun in that? You’re never going to be the best at absolutely everything, and if you try to compete with everyone in the world, you’re just setting yourself up for unhappiness. If you love to bust out the ‘90s dance moves, do it – even if you’re in the middle of a trendy club where everyone else is dancing in an entirely different style. If it makes you happy to wear brightly coloured dresses and retro-style heels, do it, even if you’re constantly surrounded by people in jeans and neutral colours. Live your life according to what makes you happy.
11 Some alcohol is fine; too much is usually trouble
Many shows revolve a lot around drinking, and while everyone is certainly free to make their own choices, Friends manages to do a great job showing how you can certainly incorporate alcohol into your life – but you may not want to drink to excess all the time. While coffee was the characters’ beverage of choice, they all enjoyed the odd bottle of beer or glass of wine every now and then. However, in moments when they got totally hammered, it was usually met with consequences. For example, Rachel and Ross getting wasted and then married in Vegas. Monica getting hammered on her 30th birthday because she was terrified of growing older and then embarrassing herself at her party. The show did a great job showcasing how drinking to excess can have consequences – it’s not always just a fun ‘night after’ story to tell over brunch. You don't need to be getting blackout drunk weekend after weekend.
10 It’s good to support the little guy
Back when Friends started, Starbucks wasn’t quite the phenomenon that it is today, but it still existed – although you wouldn’t know it from their universe, since the only coffee they drank was at the independently owned Central Perk. Rachel may have worked in major department stores and for luxury brands, but on the whole, the show made sure to keep a focus on the little guy – primarily through the advocacy of a certain Phoebe Buffay. Phoebe was constantly criticizing large corporations like Pottery Barn and the ritzy Spa she worked at, and would much rather support small businesses. After all, why buy something that everyone else will have when you could buy something unique? You may not be willing to give up all your IKEA furniture quite yet, but every now and then, it’s good to consider buying things from your neighbourhood bookstore or boutique rather than a huge chain. You’ll likely end up finding some hidden gems that people will ask you about time and time again.
9 You gotta make your own money, honey
There were a few money-centric discussions over the course of Friends, such as when the six were divided over a fancy meal because some of them (Ross, Chandler, and Monica) made more money than the other three (Joey, Phoebe, and Rachel, at the time). However, the biggest financial lesson from Friends comes courtesy of the Green sisters. When audiences first met Rachel, she showed up in Manhattan after running away from a marriage to an orthodontist where she would have been set for life, able to just lounge around at home rather than get a job. Throughout the series, she picked herself up by the boot straps and went from a struggling waitress to an impressive high-level professional at a luxury brand. Her journey was a stark contrast to her sisters’ – Jill (played by Reese Witherspoon) showed up after “daddy cut her off” from his funds, and Amy (played by Christina Applegate) made frequent references to trying to snag a wealthy husband. Rachel’s journey proves that you shouldn’t rely on a man, or anyone, when it comes to your financial health – you gotta make your own money.
8 Everyone has different opinions about things – and that’s fine
Consider this piece of wisdom from Joey Tribbiani: “It’s a moo point. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” While many of us like to consider ourselves fairly confident people, there’s no doubt that we all value other people’s opinions way more than we should. Sure, we know we should make the decisions that make us happy, regardless of what anyone else thinks – but it’s tough to totally toss out that worry that you’re being judged for your choices. Everyone is going to have an opinion about everything, from hard-hitting political issues to whether you can wear socks and sandals together. Discussion and disagreement is part of what makes the world interesting – it would be positively dull if everyone had the same opinion about everything. However, you should know when to just agree to disagree – some things just aren’t worth getting all worked up about. Sometimes, it’s a moo point.
7 Respect others’ boundaries
The storyline where Joey’s date keeps taking food from his plate might seem a little bit ridiculous. I mean, it’s just a few bites of food – what’s the big deal? However, there’s actually a great lesson buried in all the restaurant silliness: respect others’ boundaries. Joey’s boundary is his plate – namely, that he doesn’t want other people to touch his food, no matter how much he likes them. For someone else, that boundary might be a certain topic of conversation that you’d prefer not to engage in, it might be that you don’t want people hugging or touching you, it may be that you’d prefer not to be on the receiving end of your friend’s constant flirtatious comments. Whatever someone’s boundary is, it’s something that is personal to them and important to them – so just respect it, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. Trust us, they’ll appreciate it.
6 Your friends can be your family
Some people have amazing relationships with their family, and can think of nothing better than lingering over a meal with all their relatives. However, not everyone is so lucky. Some people have distanced themselves from their families because of certain choices or issues, while other people may have had the misfortune of losing several family members. Whatever the case, the cheesy saying is true – you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Over the course of Friends, we meet many of the characters’ parents and siblings and family members, but the most tightly-knit group is the Friends themselves. They spend Thanksgiving together, they spend Christmas together, they spend birthdays together, and they’re always there for one another. If that’s not a happy family, we don’t know what is. Just because someone isn’t a blood relation doesn’t mean they can’t give you advice or a shoulder to cry on or simply someone to spend important occasions with.
5 Embrace your quirks
You know all those unique, quirky traits that you have? That’s what makes you, well, you, and you should definitely be embracing them. Friends had a diverse group of characters, from a fashionista to an academic, and they all had certain traits that made them individuals. As his career might suggest, Ross was a huge geek over anything dinosaur-related and would want to do things like brush Rachel off with a fossil brush. Monica loved cleaning, and didn’t try to hide it from any of her friends. Chandler was constantly sarcastic, Joey absolutely adored food, and Phoebe just marched to the beat of her own drum altogether. They were all intelligent, fully functioning adults on the show, but they still had quirks that made them unique. Don’t give up on the things you’re passionate about, or the things that make you feel good, just because they might not be the ‘cool’ hobby or the ‘cool’ way to do things. Embrace your quirks – they make you who you are.
4 Find your own priorities
Everyone has their own priorities in life, and no storyline shows that better than the one in which Rachel is offered a job in Paris. For someone whose top priority was their career, and advancing their career, the decision would be a no brainer – you would obviously take the opportunity to go to Paris and immerse yourself in fashion and hopefully climb the ranks in the industry. If, like Rachel, you realize you’d rather prioritize your family and friends over your career, you get off that plane. Some people are totally driven by their career, while others prefer to work for a living and then spend all their down time with their family and friends, or spend their hours in the evening pursuing a passion project. Everyone is different, and no one can tell you what your priorities should be – and if they try to do so, just ignore them! Only you know what’s best for you and most important to you.
3 It’s okay to be silly
Many characters on television or in movies seem impossibly put together – they’re always poised and calm, they put together flawless outfits, and all their down time involves going out for chic cocktails with their friends or mingling at a professional mixer and showing off their skills. They’re professional, they’re ambitious, and they’re serious. Now, you definitely should put on your professional hat sometimes and express that part of your personality. However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a little silly sometimes. There’s nothing childish about it, and you don’t need to feel embarrassed. I mean, who can forget when the men made a fort out of boxes and played dress up? Or when Monica put the turkey on her head to try to cheer Chandler up on Thanksgiving? The point is, it’s okay to indulge your silly side every now and then – in fact, it’s something you should absolutely do, for your own happiness and sanity.
2 Make time for your friends
Due to the fact that they were, well, on a television show, it’s no surprise that the characters on the show were constantly hanging out together – no one wants to watch a show with everyone just hanging out alone in their apartments. However, as everyone in the real world with a real career and responsibilities knows, it’s not always that easy. Everyone has incredibly busy schedules, and sometimes it can seem like rocket science to try to find a date that works for everyone to go for a simple drink, or to come over for a dinner party one night. Most busy people have likely postponed plans because they were caught up with work or errands, but we’re betting that no one has ever regretted spending a few hours hanging out and laughing with friends. We’re not saying you need to clear your entire weekend if you’re absolutely swamped – but carve out that hour to have a cup of coffee with your friend. You’ll feel great afterwards.
1 Hustle and never give up on your dreams
When the show starts out, most of the Friends are working jobs that might not be their absolute dream jobs. Rachel is a waitress, Monica works at an awful diner that she hates, Ross works in a museum, Joey is a struggling actor, etc., etc. However, none of them give up on finding their perfect job – they pay their dues, put in the time in lower level positions, and eventually manage to climb up the ladder and work at a luxury fashion brand, as a professor, and as a head chef. Even Chandler, when he decides to switch careers, puts as much energy as he can into preparing for his meetings – he doesn’t simply put in the minimum effort required because he’s an intern. The lesson here is that you just have to hustle and believe that eventually all your hard work will pay off. Just keep working, just keep learning, and eventually you’ll achieve any goal you can think of.