4 things millennials won’t understand from the first season of Friends

When Netflix added all ten seasons of Friends to its catalogue this month, a new generation was introduced the classic sitcom for the very first time. But as we watch the stories of the six twenty-somethings navigating their way through life and love in New York City, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the show first aired almost a quarter of a century ago. Society’s values have changed a lot since then, and many millennials are shocked at the show’s jokes and storylines deemed unacceptable by today’s standards.

So let’s take it back to season one and look at how life for young people has changed in the last twenty-four years. The year is 1994: Bill Clinton is president, The Lion King has just been released, and nobody told us life used to be this way *clap-clap-clap-clap*…

  1. There’s a time when Joey can’t call to order a pizza because Rachel is waiting to hear back from a job interview and they only have a landline phone. There’s a lot to get your head around here – they don’t have mobile phones, they don’t have a computer or any device connected to the internet, and even if they did there’s no way to order takeaway online. Joey will just have to starve! A lot of the storylines revolve around the restrictions of landline phones, like when Chandler has to physically sit in the kitchen for days waiting for a girl to call. Nowadays he’d be just as stressed about being left on read, but at least he wouldn’t be a prisoner in his own apartment.
  2. When Chandler secretly takes up smoking, he is seen puffing away inside the Central Perk café and in his office. His friends are disgusted, and at least he’s suitably ashamed about it, but there is no way he’d be able to smoke indoors nowadays without falling foul of the law. Of course, at the time it was perfectly legal. Smoking in workplaces and restaurants wouldn’t be banned in New York City until 2003 – almost a decade after the first season of Friends was aired. So Chandler’s habit may put him in an early grave, but at least he won’t be in a prison cell.
  3. Monica gets fear of missing out not from social media, but from her credit card statement when her identity gets stolen by someone with a much more interesting life than her. She gazes wistfully at the list of things the thief has been spending the ill-gotten gains on: horse riding, tap dancing, art supplies… In the modern day she’d get the same feeling just by logging in to Instagram, where everyone seems to be a fashion model striking impossible yoga poses on mountaintops at sunset. Not that I’m jealous or anything…
  4. In the season’s thrilling finale, Rachel finally decides she wants a relationship with Ross and races to the airport to speak to him before he goes to China for work. She manages to get right up to the gate with no boarding pass or passport, just missing him before he gets on the plane (he can’t hear her because he’s listening to a Walkman – the perils of modern technology!). Airport security sure was a lot laxer back in the day. On a related note, it’s jarring to see that the generic shots of New York that appear between scenes often include the World Trade Centre – a haunting reminder of a future no one could have predicted.

Life has changed a lot in the twenty-four years since Friends first appeared on our screens, but the comedy holds up well and the storylines are still gripping. Despite the generation gap, there’s much that millennials will recognise about life as a young adult trying to manage money, parents, relationships and the responsibilities of growing up. So whether you’re seeing the series for the first time or catching up with old friends, make sure to give it a watch – they’ll always be there for you



  1. LOL! 😂 these are 100% true. I loved reading this lol like I remember when my little cousin was so shock to see what a landline looks like that’s not chordless. I keep forgetting the ban on smoking happened in 2003. Very well put together and quite funny 😄

    xx Lena | https://lenadeexo.com/

  2. Omg 😂 so true. Although I am a millennial (born in ‘90) I watched Friends when it ran because my parents did and although the humor was a little adult for me, I somehow loved it anyway. But it is so funny to think of how dated it is now in these ways!

  3. To be fair, if they had cell phones, there would be no story. Imagine if in the season finale, Rachel simply texted Ross instead of frantically rushing to see him at the airport.

  4. I can’t believe that Friends aired 24 years ago. I remember sending faxes to my friends (that was really ‘wow’ at that time – instant communication!). I’m so glad I grew up in a time where cell phones weren’t everywhere.

  5. When I heard about Friends being on Netflix now and the backlash against it because of the joke, I definitely was a bit confused! It’s definitely an older show and things were different then. I don’t think people were as aware and connected as they are now. It’s interesting to see the differences now!

  6. I always found it so bizarre when they would just pick up the phone in the coffee house and use it as if it was their own telephone! I don’t know any places in the UK where you could do that!

    Ellyn x | Life Of A Beauty Nerd

  7. Friends is and always has been a favorite in my household. I wish they would do at least a movie continuation. I want more! It would be amazing to see how the cast adjusts to modern technology.

  8. This is absolutely a brilliant post! I’m a big fan of Friends and can watch it over and over and over again! But I never gave those things you mentioned any thought before! Interesting read!

    Soffy // themumaffairs.blogspot.com

  9. I was born in 1997 and find this so weird, respectively!
    Just think about the generational differences there will be with the next few generations! At least we still have toys, they’ll always grow up with some form of tech.
    Number 1 will seem like total alien aha.
    Fun post! xx

    The Frugal Frenchie

  10. You make such valid points! I’ve seen posts recently about people discussing what’s wrong with Friends and how they don’t understand the show. But it was made in a completely different era

  11. What a great post! As a first time round viewer of Friends it makes me feel rather old to realise they had no mobiles or internet! It feels like yesterday that it was first broadcast but a lot has changed in the intervening years!
    I really enjoyed reading this post thanks for sharing 😃

    Melanie | http://www.frasersfunhouse.com

  12. Awesome post! I love friends! But it is super interesting watching shows from that period, because we realize how many “first world problems” having cell phones has solved.

  13. I wasn’t born when Friends first made its debut, and as way too young to watch the rest of the series as it aired. However, I did catch up on it when I was a bit older… that was nearly ten years ago! At the time it was still dated, but less so- your post has reminded me exactly how old it seems in 2018 haha! It’s still a classic though

    • Absolutely, I’d never sat down to watch them in order before and I was surprised at how good the show is! I’m introducing my friends to it who’ve never seen it before, and they’re really enjoying it.

  14. I also re-watched some seasons of Friends on Netflix recently. I had used landline, infact there is still one back at home, although only my mother uses it now and that too rarely 😊 It was so much fun reading this post 😊

  15. I love this post! I never really noticed the stark contrasts between when it aired to today’s society, but I did grow up in a time where my mum would shout at me to get off the internet so she could use the phone. Wow, how times have times have changed. I LOVE Friends, and I was honestly annoyed about the number of millennials that complained about it – times were different and I understand that it wouldn’t fly in today’s world, but people need to calm down. It’s a TV show at the end of the day and a /funny/ one at that. Just relax, have some laughs and enjoy a classic!

  16. This is a brilliant post! I couldn’t agree more. Even when people say, oh I bet you don’t remember when we didn’t have…
    I always say yes I do! because it wasn’t that long ago we started to have working mobiles and internet on more than one computer and no dial-up and colour tv’s and DVD’s etc.

    they will never know! 🙂

  17. I feel old reading that lol, I remember waiting for phonecalls from dates on the landline and dragging the cord into the hall so noone could hear my call! I wonder how Friends would be if it was remade now.

  18. I love this post – Friends was on while I was in university and I lived through all of the things you mentioned above and no I don’t necessarily want to go back to the “good ole days” but honestly, things were a lot simpler in some ways then, pure and I loved growing up in a time with just a landline and no social media – some of that stuff I still long for, great post!! xx

  19. 😂😂😂 this is all so true, cringy and humorous all at the same time. I remember life like this & forget how younger people see so much as alien to them because so much has changed in a short period of time for them compared to us.

    A great reminder of life before social media, online takeout ordering and actually getting a phone call to tell you if you have or haven’t got the job. Now a days you don’t even get told no just given a no through silence haha.

    Enjoyable read, thanks for the share 🙌👌

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