How to Find Friends in a New City
I didn’t really get it before.
I mean, I had moved before—roughly nine times in the course of nine years—but all of those were apartment switches in a city I called home for close to a decade. It wasn’t until my husband and I decided to relocate from Los Angeles to Nashville (with about three weeks notice) that I got it. Moving isn’t just the proverbial test of “which friends love us the most to help us move our stuff across town...and who also happen to have a truck and a desire to work for free pizza.” It isn’t just an exhausting trek that takes a toll on your wallet, hygiene, and sanity. Moving, despite the excitement and adventure therein, is hard. Really hard.
And as an adult who is no longer tucked safely in the cohort of college dorm rooms or lecture halls, it can be especially hard to make new friends in a brand new city. It’s hard to leave what’s familiar and comfortable, and it’s hard to open yourself up to vulnerability. But, I promise, you can do it. And you’ll be all the more wiser, smarter, and compassionate because of it.
So, if you find yourself in a similar place of starting over and in need of friends, wind up that virtual Rolodex and start here:
Use Your Current Community
Source: Gal Meets Glam
Take advantage of everyone (seriously, everyone) who says, “Oh, you’re moving to ___? You should meet ___!” This is no time to feign interest in blind friend dates (there will be time for that later). One of the best places to start when moving to a new city is to tap the resources you currently trust for friend leads.
The girlfriend of your roommate’s second cousin could be a worthwhile email, even if all it leads to is a recommendation for a great hairstylist. You need to start somewhere, and it’s best if you start with those you know. In the mobile and widespread generation we live in, don’t underestimate a six degree separation from your new BFF.
Maybe you found a killer deal for a private backhouse way out in the country. That’s great for your budget, but in the early stages of a new city transition it may not be the best for your social life. If you’re moving to a new place solo, then seriously consider the pros and cons of how your new living arrangement will put you in the proximity of other people.
This might mean a restructure of your finances so you can live central to the town’s main hub or you choose to rent a room in house with three roommates (when you thought you wanted a place of your own). Remember: You don't have to stay in any one apartment or neighborhood forever, but when starting out, it may help you find friendships (in unlikely places, even) if you maintain regular human contact.
Develop a Routine
Source: Margo and Me
I often think about the scene from Under the Tuscan Sun when Diane Lane’s character says: “The trick to overcoming buyer’s remorse is to have a plan. Pick one room in the house and make it yours.” I really think this can be applied to any transitional time in life. When you’re overwhelmed, start small and with one thing. Make it yours.
Your daily routine is a great example. Could it be SoulCycle after work? A scone at the local bakery every Sunday? A trip to the dog park on the weekends? Developing a routine will get you outside of the house quicker than your social calendar might, which will help you own your new city. You may even feel more confident to introduce yourself to those who might share a similar routine. After all, you have nothing to lose—and possibly a new friend to gain—by being friendly.
Source: Jillian Harris
Speaking of SoulCycle, any fitness activity is great for meeting people. Whether it’s a recreation league at the gym, running club in your neighborhood, or the hot yoga studio with the best reviews, friendship has the potential to blossom where people gather to workout. Pay particular attention to flyers around the studio or gym, too. Many will advertise special workshops, guest teachers, or other social events.
Not into working out? Find classes that appeal to other hobbies you have. Is it improv comedy? Learning how to weave? A writing club to finally start the book you talk about? Moving is a great time to focus on your passions and find some new friends along the way.
Source: Erin Boyle
You might think that committing to a volunteer schedule is too much to think about after a move, but it could actually be the best time to dive in. While your co-workers might be a good source of friendship outside of the office, it's never guaranteed. It's a lot of pressure if a new job also needs to be the source of everything else “new” in your life.
Instead, moving to a new city is a great time to think about what causes you’re really passionate about. A clear social calendar means you don’t have a million obligations to distract you from going after it. Volunteering will also surround you with like-minded people that are easy to bond with—it's a natural, organic place to start.
Source: Jamie Beck
As you start putting yourself out there, keep “Maybe another time” or “Thanks for the invite, but...” far from your vocabulary. Moving to a new city is the time to say, “Sure!” and “That sounds great!” to whatever invite comes your way, even if it’s something you’d normally have no interest in doing.
This isn’t about pretending to be someone you’re not, but about leaving yourself open to potential opportunities for mingling. Maybe a gallery opening isn’t quite your thing, but over a cocktail you meet the sister of an artist who went to your alma mater. Perfect! Maybe you’re terrible at beach volleyball, but you go along anyway to keep score and have a few laughs. You might just surprise yourself as a result!
Be Honest (and patient!)
There will inevitably come a time when you just can’t do it anymore. No more right swipes. No more MeetUps. No more surface-level conversations about career, travel, and weather. You’ll be so over this whole transition thing that you’ll spend all your time Netflix-ing and researching flight deals to your old hometown.
And that’s OK; necessary, even. Building a life somewhere new takes time. Don’t let the peak of the mountain prevent you from stepping on the trail. Also, don’t be afraid to be honest in sharing that you’re actually having a difficult time. Almost everyone can relate to a time of feeling new, and sometimes skipping the surface to get to the heart of where you are can take a casual coffee to the next soul-enriching level of conversation. You just might have to open up first.
In the end, the best friendships are a slow build. By moving, you’ve already allowed your story to start a new chapter, so remain available for the unexpected still ahead. It won’t be helpful to compare where you’ve been to where you are now, but it will be a relief to find out that you’re still YOU through it all. Just with new zip code.