If you're moving to a new city — or a new country, or a new hemisphere — after college, it can be an intimidating and lonely experience. While moving for school comes with in-built structure and social systems, picking up and moving your life in your 20s and 30s, for work, a relationship or something else, is less adventure, more potential isolation. The possibility alone is daunting —
how as an adult, do you make new friends when you move to a new place especially if you happen to be an introvert?
"Too many people who relocate go home at night after work and over the weekends, and catch up on doing chores," author, sociologist, and friendship
expert Dr. Jan Yager tells Bustle. "This increases their isolation because it is harder for them to make new friends." Not to mention, isolation and loneliness aren't good for your mental health. Even if you want to snuggle and nest a bit initially, you're going to have to push yourself out of the house to make a connection with somebody. Though it's definitely harder to make new friends as an adult than it is when you were in school, it isn't impossible. Here are seven expert-approved ways to do it.
Remember Your Past Connections
"Before you rush to seek out and form new friendships, be curious if there are any old friends in your past you may want to reconnect with,"
therapist Annie Wright tells Bustle. "There may be old friends who have moved to your new city that a quick alumni network or Facebook search could reveal." This system has the benefit of giving you a built in topic of conversation with some folks.
And keeping in touch can also help ease the transition period. Dr. Yager tells Bustle that if you really miss your old home, it's important to keep in touch with everybody you've left behind. But, she says, there are limits. "Be careful not to let all that connecting with the past stop you from having the courage to initiate and, hopefully, continue relationships that become friendships with those you meet," she says.
"Get active in associations — local chapters of any national organizations you belong to — or go out and do activities when you are not working," advises Yager. "Whether this is a mastermind group, recreational ultimate leagues, weekly Zumba classes at Y, a night class at a local community college, an REI training class, a MeetUp, put yourself in situations where you’ll meet multiple new people face to face," Wright says. Look for groups that do hobbies you already love (crafting, mountain climbing, book clubs) or take up one that you've always wanted to try, so there's extra incentive if you're feeling shy.
If you're introverted, you can look online for new connections. "I think one of the best parts about social media is how we can more easily seek out our like-minded kindred spirits — our Wolf Pack! — that we may not otherwise have had any other way of meeting," Wright tells Bustle. "Connecting and following someone online may not bloom into a real friendship right away, but this may happen over time if you two decide to take it offline (and this has definitely been the case for me!)."
Dr. Yager advises being cautious when going this route. "Be friendly and open to new friendships online," she says, "but also be wise and careful if you meet someone through an online site. Namely, meet in a public place. Make sure you always share the contact information with the person you are meeting, even if it's in a public space, with someone you know and trust."
It helps if you understand the psychological terrain of friendships in a new place.
Leslie Fischer, an entrepreneur, tells Bustle, "Most people in your town have existing friendships that nourish their need for connection with others, so you need to do the inviting." If you're not up to this, she says, "it is often less intimidating to meet somewhere away from your home because it is neutral ground and both parties can control their exits and leave when they need to." That way you're not just inviting everybody into your space or feeling uncomfortable in somebody else's.
"Deliberately plan time in your calendar month for friendship," says Wright. "Put a friendship date — whether with an old friend or a new one — down in your calendar and stick to it. Don’t let schedules overwhelm keep you from prioritizing this if making friends is, in fact, a priority for you in your new city." This also means you should do your research; look up friendly cafes and chat with the barista, take your dog to a popular dog park, or show up at a music night. Being the new person in town also always gives you an "in" for conversation; ask locals for tips about their favorite places.
It's not unexpected if you feel sad while trying to find your social feet in a new place, says Dr Yager. "If you don't know anyone in the new location, you may have to work hard not to let your loneliness make you too sad or depressed," she tells Bustle. Your wellbeing is important, so if you notice that your loneliness is getting you down, take steps. "Work on that by joining a support group or seeing a therapist," says Dr Yager.
A therapy group in general can also be helpful as a starter social group, Wright tells Bustle. "Whether this is a Women’s Circle, a grief processing group, a recently broken-hearted or preparing yourself for relationship group, find a circle of people journeying through something you’re going through in your new city. That kind of connection can be vulnerable and powerful."
Use The Three-Meeting Rule
Remember that making a connection takes time. "I always make sure that when I make a genuine connection with a gal, I plan three successive meetings with her," Fischer tells Bustle. "Those three meetings in quick succession cement your connection and if you don't get together for a long period of time, you still feel like you are friends." It's an easy system and a good one, particularly because adult life is busy. "It is easy to not see someone for a few months," notes Fischer. "If this disconnection happens after only seeing each other one time, you can feel like you have been 'dumped,' but if the disconnection happens after seeing each other three times in a row, you still feel connected."
Give Back To Your New Community
A quick way to feel connected both to your place and to other people who love it is to give back to it, even if you've only been there for three days. "Volunteer, join a board, host a fundraiser," advises Wright. "Host something for your new neighbors, or at least say 'Hi' in the hallway. Once you're more established, host a monthly potluck, gather at a restaurant, and ask your friends to bring somebody new into your group each month. Bonus! You get to check out a bunch of new restaurants in your new city." The point, she says, is "all about putting yourself in environments where you’ll be exposed to new folks, and you'll also feel good for giving back."
Whatever strategies you use, it'll take time for you to feel comfortable in your new city with a host of connections around you. Don't expect it all to sort out within five days. Give it a few months, though, and soon you'll be settled with some excellent mates around.