As if moving isn't challenging enough, relocating to an entirely new city adds hurdles big and small. Whether you've moved for love, your career or just to please a sudden fancy, you're now faced with rebuilding the infrastructure of your days from the ground up. Where's the closest place to buy groceries, what are the coolest cafes and how on earth do I find new friends? Never fear. Google and Yelp exist for a reason. They can show you where to go to buy your goods. And we've got some dynamite ways for you to find new friends, fast.
Why it's so important to have a social network.
Friends are an extension of your family. In fact, as an adult away from your home town, your friends and social network play a crucial part in your daily life, even more than your family. So having a solid sense of connection and community feels good, but it's also necessary. Because life gets stressful. Having people you can be yourself around and blow off steam with will help you deal with that stress ten times better than you could on your own.
A social network is fun, but that "there for you" element has a major positive impact on your mental health. We all get lonely, but feeling completely alone and being isolated is downright dangerous. Acting like a hermit is habit-forming, exacerbating all those normal "eek! New people!" nerves. Soon your anxiety is so high you can't go out at all, despite so desperately craving a sense of connection. So giving yourself a little push to get out there and get the ball rolling is extremely important in the early days of your move. You need that momentum.
If you've left most friends and family quite a distance behind you, then learning how to make friends in a new city is vital to the success of your relocation. Your first few weeks really can be a make or break situation. If you don't land right or recover well from the shock of transition, you might go months or even years before truly feeling like you fit in to this new place, like you belong. Like it's your home. Making friends is no light task, one you'll get to when you have time. It matters.
10 killer strategies for making friends in a new city.
You probably already know the basic solution to how to make friends in a new city: get out and about! Mingle, socialize. Touch a hand, make a friend. We all know it, yet that very prospect can be overwhelming, especially if you're still unpacking and trying to find all your plates and underwear. Here are our best tested and approved hints and tips.
1. Let self-care lead you Out There.
The wide world can be a scary place, period, let alone when you're in new surroundings. A little time to chill and regain your zen will do you good. Yoga can also help you find some new pals via a center, retreat or even just a gym that offers some classes. And your other self-care essentials can do the same. Many towns have running or hiking groups available, of course, but just having activities already planned means you already have something you can invite someone you're chatting with to do. You don't have to struggle in the moment for an idea.
If your new neighborhood doesn't have a Saturday morning kind of group thing going, why not organize one? That way, you get to take care of you, help others do the same and all the while keep bumping up your chances of finding some fun new pals.
2. Let tech help you connect.
There are any number of apps for getting you out there and meeting people. Good Housekeeping has a list and review article that's a gold mine. You'll find the obvious apps such as Meetup and Bumble BFF, of course, but there are also apps for more specific groups and interests. Whether you're a mom, a dog lover or an extreme marathon runner, you can use your phone to find at least a few new connections. Meaning learning how to make friends in a new city can be as easy as doing a little casual scroll-and-swipe.
3. Explore the city, explore yourself.
Your new city is an opportunity to redefine yourself, expanding your areas of interest and maybe finding new passions. Always wanted to learn how to make your own pasta? Sign up for a cooking class. Join a knitting group, even (especially!) if you don't know knit from purl. This is a chance to learn and grow. It's also a no brainer when addressing how to make friends in a new city.
Another take on this is using your newness itself as a door opener in conversations. Love music? Don't be afraid to compliment someone you see in line for coffee on the band t-shirt they're wearing. Then you can chat about albums, shows and, oh yeah, "I'm new to the city, are there any cool places to see local bands?" See how easy that was? You let them know your interests and situation and then asked for their input. Most people don't mind playing local tour guide, either, so if nothing else you'll come away with a few ideas for new places to check out. Lather, rinse, repeat.
4. Shop small, buy local, drink coffee.
Small, locally-owned boutiques, grocers and cafes are dynamite places to put yourself in front of new people in the most organic way possible. And embracing the concept of shopping small, buying less in bulk and more for just your immediate needs, will get you out and about more often. Because, let's face it, in a totally new place, it's super easy to cocoon yourself inside your home. And while you definitely need to give yourself time to feather your nest, remember that going full hermit isn't how to make friends in a new city. It's actually the opposite.
So, hit those stores, and for sure keep a weather eye for cool coffee shops. Your cafe can easily become your "third place," that great good place where you can become part of a community. Never heard of a third place? Check out Ray Oldenburg, who coined the term, for a little more "let's go meet people" inspiration.
5. Nervous? Help someone else.
Remember: you're not the only lonely heart in line at the deli. Other people are also looking for friends, and may not have a clue as to where to start. Think about it: being a local yet feeling that same disconnect from your surroundings that you feel, that same longing to belong. Awful, right?
Think of that the next time you're somewhere new and nervous about striking up a conversation. It's not always about putting yourself out there. Sometimes it's about reaching out to pull someone else in. And the sooner you do, the sooner you'll start connecting with folks who are just as happy to be connecting with you. Just by being the kind of pal you want to have.
6. New ilk, who dis?
Your instinct is going to tell you to gravitate toward places, gatherings and folk of the same ilk you always have. This, at least in part, will be an attempt to recreate the community and that sense of connection you left behind you when you moved. But having all the same types of friends, who share all the same interests, can get old, don't you think? Take a chance. Step outside that zone.
Go to a show you might not normally have on your radar, especially if you've always been curious as to what that music/art/kind of gathering is really all about. Just because it's not your "thing" today doesn't mean it can't become so, given half a chance. It might also be how you make friends in a new city, without hardly even trying. So give it a go, and be open. You never know where you'll find your next best friend.
7. Harness the power of the compliment.
In a new situation and surrounded by unknown folk on all sides? Feeling weird? Happens. There's totally going to be some awkwardness as you explore your new city. But you can allay at least some of this feeling out of place easily enough, simply by engaging with someone you think looks interesting. How do you do that? Lead with a compliment or two.
Shoes, tattoos, the color of their shirt or hair... find something you can genuinely say is cool, and then say it to them. People enjoy compliments, it's a pretty non-creepy way to strike up a convo with a stranger, and it's an excellent way to break through that protective wall so many of us are guilty of carrying while in public.
8. Study on the art of the chit chat.
When it comes to figuring out how to make friends in a new city, no skill is more of an art, or more powerful, than that of the chit chat. Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going is probably the most important tool in your socializing arsenal. The skill is so important, in fact, that one of improv comedy's principle tenets is that of the "yes, and" attitude. To yes, and someone means to take what they've said and follow it, led it lead the conversation (or skit) in a different direction.
Think of this as the active form of just going with the flow. Because when it comes to a good chat sesh, being an active participant shows that you're investing your time and energy into this encounter. And that's just a really friendly way to behave.
9. Look for gatekeepers before friends.
Keep in mind that the first people you meet and socialize with may not be your forever friends. You can't put pressure on yourself to find those kinds of bonds immediately. "Oh, please won't you be my friend" is a creepy, clingy approach. Don't be that gal. Instead, think of this first small circle as a group of gatekeepers, each allowing you access to the different flavors and communities your new home has to offer.
Aside from clingy being unattractive to potential friends, this will also hamstring you in terms of exploring new groups and activities. Be bold, go forth and find new kinds of people as well as different areas of the city to maybe grow into. The longer you live there, the more you'll appreciate the results of the effort you're putting in at the start. Because you will, eventually, wear a bit of groove into the sidewalk, creating a niche for yourself — and cultivating contacts in a variety of other niches will keep your own from ever turning into a rut.
10. Weaponize your weekends.
Free time is me time, absolutely. But you can use that free time wisely. Set aside an hour, or an afternoon, an evening, to check out a new part of the city. Hit a museum, take a guided tour and spark up a conversation. Because it's not really the museum you were aiming for. It's that convo that might turn into a coffee date or an introduction to "a friend of mine I think you'll really like." It's that connection.
Begin to socialize with intent, for real results. To make even more progress, why not take on a little part-time job, a few hours every weekend at one of those cool cafes you found? Earn a little fun money while also having access to just so many regular locals (and fellow employees!). The point here is to know what you want, and then go find it.
Your new BFF is out there.
Anyone who's ever taken the leap and made the big move will recognize the challenge of how to make friends in a new city — just as they'll recognize the anxiety of being totally new in a room full of people. The secret to success in that situation is to put yourself out there, in a relaxed and confident way, and see what happens. It can even be fun. The trick is to hunt up some new pals and a new community in a way that engages you and makes you feel excited to go forth. Because your new best friend really is out there. Go find her.