Few things in life are more emotional than moving to a new city. Between the stress of packing, the excitement over starting fresh, and the goodbye tears, it’s a whirlwind of emotions. However, when you’re making the move alone, it’s easy to feel isolated, small, and like an outsider who simply doesn’t belong in your new home. But having friends by your side can help make the transition easier. That said, like most things in life, finding a new friend group is often easier said than done. Stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting and interacting with new people is intimidating AF.
If you’ve moved to a new city recently and don’t know how to find new friends, don’t worry. Despite what you may think, your social life doesn’t have to suffer simply because you’ve moved somewhere new. In fact, with these 15 tips, you can start to make friends in a new city and build a brand new friend group.
How To Meet Friends In a New City
1. Use your current community
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. 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.
2. Develop a routine
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.
3. Join a club
Joining a club is one of the best ways to start meeting new people. You’ll connect with others who share similar interests and will always have something to discuss. So, be sure to check out flyers at coffee shops, the market, etc. to learn more about the local groups in your area. Book clubs are great for avid readers and offer a laid-back vibe both introverts and extroverts can get into, while recreational sports teams are great for those who love physical activity and a little friendly competition.
4. Take classes
In addition to group-oriented activities and hobbies, classes are also a great way to organically meet new friends. Think about what interests or excites you; it may be painting, pottery, yoga, or learning a foreign language. Once you know what you’d like to learn more about, sign up for that class. No matter what you do, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people, which will automatically give you something to bond over and help the conversation flow more naturally.
And yes, workout classes count too. Whether it’s a recreation league at the gym, a 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.
5. Volunteer in the community
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. Take some time to give back by volunteering in the community. This could be raising money for the local animal shelter, making food or donating old clothes to a women’s shelter, or helping at a local soup kitchen. Volunteering will also surround you with like-minded people that are easy to bond with—it’s a natural, organic place to start.
6. Join local Facebook groups
Never underestimate the power of social media. Joining local Facebook groups is an easy way to connect with others in the community from the comfort of your couch. Start by searching the name of your city followed by a buzzword. You can try phrases like “newbies”, “transplants”, or your neighborhood name. You can get more specific and search for specific things you love like “book club” or “Golden Doodles”. From there, you might have to request permission to join the group, but simply follow the prompts and don’t be afraid to attend one of their meetups.
7. Check out local haunts
In order to meet the locals, you need to go where the locals hang out. Be sure to check out the local haunts in your new city—whether it be a bar, coffee shop, library, museum, etc. Find the one you like best, then start visiting it regularly. The employees and regulars will start to recognize you and understand that you’re now part of their community, which will likely inspire them to start a conversation with you, welcoming you to the neighborhood.
8. Say yes to everything
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!
9. Partake in community events
Partaking in community events is another surefire way to make friends in a new city. Stay up to date on all the happenings in your area through social media, flyers, or the good ol’ local newspaper. Community events happen more often than you think, and they’re a really good time. Participating in local movie and TV screenings, block parties, or trivia nights are all great ways to meet new people.
10. Visit local parks and beaches
Not only do parks and beaches provide beautiful scenery and relaxation, they’re also a hot spot for making new friends. If you have a dog, head to your local dog park and start a conversation with another pet parent; you’ll be able to bond over your fur babies and swap funny stories. Take some lunch breaks or enjoy your morning coffee at your local park, and head down to the beach at sunset for a leisurely stroll. Getting out and about will feel good and naturally increase your chances of meeting others, which is a win-win.
11. Find friends of friends
Meeting friends of friends is one of the quickest ways to expand your social circle, meet new people, and forge new friendships. If you have a close friend who knows people in your new city, ask them ahead of time for an introduction to help you get your feet wet. Likewise, don’t discount friendships with your coworkers and accept invites to happy hour (especially in the beginning). Forging new friendships isn’t always easy, but with a small group of people by your side, it does get easier.
12. Use an app
There’s an app for everything and there are tons of apps to make friends that will come in clutch after your move. Striking up conversations with strangers and establishing connections IRL can be scary, but starting online can make things easier. Whether you want strictly platonic dates or group meetups, signing up for a friendship app with your needs in mind is bound to expand your social circle and remind you that you’re not alone.
13. Host a housewarming party
Most people won’t turn down the chance to enjoy delicious food and drinks, so put yourself out there and invite your neighbors over for a housewarming party. This will give you the chance to connect one-on-one and will also give them a chance to get to know you better. Spending time with the people who live next door to you will make you feel more tethered to the community, and in turn, more comfortable putting down roots and building a life for yourself there.
14. Don’t isolate
It’s easy to let your job eat up all your time, especially if you WFH doing something you love. But try not to isolate yourself because you’re scared of putting yourself out there, trying to establish connections, and forge new friendships. If you do WFH, try to work in a coffee shop or bookstore from time to time. Likewise, accept invitations to happy hour or meals at a neighbor’s house. Stepping out of a comfort zone can be scary, but it will be worth it in the end. Once you establish a close circle, you’ll totally forget why you were so scared in the first place.
15. 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.