Trying to make friends at all in your 20s and 30s can have you feeling like the new kid on the playground again. Compound that with the stress of moving, and it can start to feel like too much to handle. Learning how to make friends in a new city, though, doesn't have to be as difficult as it sounds. You'll just have to put in a little bit of effort.
"One of the things that makes finding friends so intimidating is because we’re so quick to believe our perception of the situation is reality," life coach Desiree Wiercyski tells Bustle. "We think that everyone else has their lives together, all the friends they would ever want, and wouldn’t care or having time for new connections." But that's not actually true. The reason so many people have advice on how to make friends after a move is because so many people have been there.
And being nervous is just fine. "When we are out of our comfort zone we forget how we even made friends in the beginning and have a tendency to become more shy or nervous of being vulnerable to new people and experiences," Jenn DeWall, millennial life and career coach, tells Bustle. While the basic places — work, networking groups, and bars — can be good options for finding your new group, looking into other ways to find friends can make your new life all the more fun and interesting.
Here are some unexpected ways to make friends in a new city.
1. Visit Local Shops
Online shopping is great, but when you move to a new city, try visiting into the local stores for a bit. Yes, you can find some cool new stuff for your apartment (duh), but also you can get an inside perspective on your new hometown. "[One] somewhat uncommon way to meet people is by popping into local stores that connect with your interests," Wiercyski says. "They often have the pulse on what’s going on and could point you in the direction of a group that may not be on social media or know of someone who could connect you."
If it's too intimidating to just walk into stores at random, create a plan of action and go from there. "Make a list of your top five hobbies and start asking around," Jess Hopkins, millennial life and career coach, tells Bustle. "Love to read? Go to your local bookstore and inquire about open-enrollment books clubs. Love to run? Go to your local sporting goods store and ask about running groups that train on weekends." Plus, you'll be supporting local businesses while you're at it. It's a win-win, really.
2. Actually Read Those Coffee Shop Flyers
You know that table in the front of basically every coffee shop? The one with business cards and flyers? Actually read it. "Coffee shops can be great hubs for generalized information about local groups," Wiercyski says. You'll never know what might pique your interest.
"I always remind my clients that they won't make new friends doing the same old things so think about the things they like and find new ways to be where others who also like the same things might be," life coach Erica McCurdy tells Bustle. Who would have thought you'd be the newest member of your cities gardening club?
3. Walk A Dog (Even If You Don't Have One)
Dogs are the best. Yes, they make you happy, but they can also help you make new friends. "If you have a dog (or know someone in the area that would be willing you loan you their dog for a bit) head on over to the dog park," Wiercyski says. "Dogs serve as instant ice breakers, the joke that a dog is [the] best wingman is a trope for a reason." If you are dogless but still looking to find some four-legged companions in your new city, try Wag or Rover. You'll find some like-minded dog people in no time.
4. Have The Internet Plan Your Next Dinner Party
While it seems like everyone likes to harp on how much millennials text and how it's ruining friendship, it turns out that the internet is actually a hotbed of opportunities to meet new friends. "Many people overlook how technology can facilitate new friendships. There are so many apps that work to help you," DeWall says.
One subset of those apps, it turns out, is devoted specifically to dinner parties. OneTable helps young people coordinate Shabbat dinners, EatWith lets you explore your new city's cuisine with locals, 10ChairsNYC is all about the food experience, and The Dinner Party Project (based in Orlando) is, well, for dinner parties. Foodies forever.
5. Connect With A Faith Group
This won't be for everyone, but connecting with a faith group can help create a really solid foundation as you build a life for yourself in a new place. "For a lot of people, religious and spiritual organizations can help promote finding new friendships in a new city," Wiercyski says. This is for a variety of reasons, of course, but when you move to a new place, traditions can make you feel at home. And the routine of a spiritual or religious practice can feel really comforting during a time of upheaval.
"While not exciting, the truth is that most people meet new friends in the places they spend the most time," McCurdy says. "Something about the regularity of seeing the same person day after day or week after week makes it easier to start a conversation, connect, and let that connection develop into a friendship." So the people you connect with in a spiritual group, if you choose to, might become some of your best new friends.
6. Crowdsource A Friend Group
Most of our friend groups are built out around meeting friends-of-friends ad infinitum. But that process can feel disrupted when you make a new city your home.
Luckily, even if you're far away, you can still rely on your existing friends for support. "The best way to meet people in a new city is to source friends from people you already know. Tell friends and colleagues when you're planning a move and then — most importantly — ask them if they know anyone in the area and if they can make an introduction," Jaclyn Schiff, media consultant and digital nomad," tells Bustle. "Getting connected with people who are already connected to your social circle is a great way to plug into the social fabric of a new place."
So post a "looking for recommendations" status on Facebook, or an update on your Instagram story, and see who comes out of the woodwork. It might surprise you who's already in your new city.
7. Turn Exercising Into A Social Event
In all the hustle and bustle of your new life, you may forget that exercise is often also about community. And a lot of cities have whole social circles built around that idea.
"I think another overlooked area is recreational leagues or workout classes. You already have your fitness in common which can make initiating a conversation that much easier, think about what else you could have in common. The next time you're at a workout class, ask someone if they come to the classes often and if they would ever want to try a new class together or ask them what other classes they would recommend as you're new in town," DeWall says. Or Google "rec league" and your town name and see what you find. Guaranteed you'll have more fun than you would on a treadmill.
8. Take What You Love — And Run With It
This idea takes the walking into your local stores concept and turns it up a notch. Basically, it's all about getting really creative with your passions.
"If [drinking tea] is a passion ... that passion for an afternoon cup of tea might extrapolate into attending high tea at a high-end hotel (the Ritz Carlton and the St. Regis in Atlanta have beautiful ones). Small tea houses often have weekend and evening events where people gather to share their love of tea. Even the tea accessories open doors for finding new friends with similar interests," McCurdy says. Pick up your journal and brainstorm all the ways you can find people who love what you love.
If you're feeling less like going to tons of events, the internet can also be on your side for this one. "Social media groups, not dedicated to the city or region, can be a great place to connect with local people. A lot of times, larger groups have 'roll call' lists and members will post where they’re from. Then from there, meet ups and friendships naturally happen. I’ve met two amazing people from this method since moving across the country, and I really wasn’t even trying," Wiercyski says. So if you're already part of a group for a podcast you love or in support of a cause, you can check out if other members are already living where you're moving.
9. Do Something Way Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Moving is already incredibly brave, but if you're having trouble recognizing that in yourself, give yourself a dose of something extra-thrilling by trying something totally new. "[You can meet people at] any social event where it is natural to develop relationships with people," DeWall says. You just have to find those places.
Try pole dancing for example. "Pole studios are little communities of women who will elevate you, support you, and soccer-mom cheer you on every step of your fitness journey. It's a place where women of all sizes, colors, and backgrounds can come together, build confidence, and celebrate their sexy ... It's such a great way to meet people who are fun-loving, open-minded, and amazingly supportive on and off the pole," Jada Hudson, Founder of Curvy Girls Pole, tells Bustle.
If you're feeling more low-key, one great opportunity is Sofar Sounds, which brings you to intimate secret concerts in 404 cities all over the world (Karen O, Bastille, and Leon Bridges have all performed recently). It may seem intimidating to go to a private concert alone, but there will definitely be some cool people there. Who wouldn't want to have their friendship meet-cute be at a secret gig in someone's living room?
In all, getting out and actually trying new things is going to be the key to building your new social circle. "The biggest way to an unexpected friendship [is to] just say yes to opportunity — volunteer, explore, show up," McCurdy says. "New friendships won't happen if you don't go to new places, so when the opportunity arises to do something new, go for it." You've already taken a huge plunge; you've got this.