Friendship

How To Make Friends In A New City, According To Experts

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Three new friends have coffee at a diner. Experts share their tips for how to make friends in a new ...
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When Halle, 23, moved from NorCal to SoCal with her fiancé, she knew it would be hard making friends in a new city, but didn’t anticipate spending all of her time alone in an empty apartment with her new dog, working remotely. “I knew I was going to be lonely, but moving to a new place with no friends is hard. Nobody talks about how making friends as an adult is so awkward,” she tells Bustle.

Trying to make friends at all in your 20s and 30s can have you feeling like the new kid on the playground again. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that it took adults about 94 hours to turn acquaintances into casual friends, and an average of 164 hours to turn casual friends in to friends. Add in some post-lockdown social anxiety and a new city, and making new friends becomes quite the challenge.

In June, Monse, 25, moved from Kansas to Dallas, Texas, for a new job, which went virtual days after she signed her new lease. Since then, she’s found creative ways to socialize. “I’ve met a couple people here and there with who I’ve exchanged social media accounts: One was working at a car shop that I took my car to, another one was my Uber driver, and another was a family friend,” she says, adding that she also follows a “thing to do in Dallas” Facebook group which she hopes will lead to IRL connections when she feels comfortable meeting up in-person.

"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." In reality, many people are in the same position as you: wondering how to meet people in a new city.

According to life coach Erica McCurdy, the key to making friends in your new town is making a commitment to something. "While not exciting, the truth is that most people meet new friends in the places they spend the most time," McCurdy tells Bustle. "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."

But just signing up for a class or course or club isn’t always the most intuitive endeavor, especially when you’re new. "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, a 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 sometimes new friends are hiding in much more obscure places.

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, going shopping IRL can help you immerse yourself in your community and meet people drawn to same things. “A 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."

"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." You could also try striking up a conversation with whoever beats you to the last copy of the latest Sally Rooney book; clearly, you already have something in common! Plus, you'll be supporting local businesses while you're at it.

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 — these flyers advertise things like interest-based meet up groups, local events, clubs and organizations. You might find out about some virtual meet ups that will feel even less intimidating to go to.

"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 city’s 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, which connect dog walkers and sitters with people whose pets need walking or sitting. You'll find some like-minded dog people in no time (and make a little spare cash to boot).

4

Have The Internet Plan Your Next Dinner Party

"Many people overlook how technology can facilitate new friendships. There are so many apps that work to help you," DeWall says. Check out the Groups tab on Facebook and search for your neighborhood, city, or interests, and join groups to meet like-minded locals and learn about events in your area. “Sometimes people make posts saying they’re new and it’s easy to interact with them, and also see what suggestions people comment on those posts,” Monse tells Bustle.

5

Connect With A Faith Community

Finding a faith community that resonates with you 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. When you move to a new place, traditions can make you feel at home, and the routine of a spiritual or religious practice can be extra comforting during a time of upheaval. If you’re not super into organized religion, you might find meaningful connections at a yoga or meditation studio in your city.

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. Recreational sports leagues and group workout classes are a great way to making friends as an adult.

“You already have your fitness in common, which can make initiating a conversation that much easier,” DeWall says. “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,” she suggests. You can also Google "rec league" and your town name and see what you find.

8

Find Inspiration In What You Love

McCurdy suggests turning your passions into friend-making opportunities. For example, if you’re a tea person, you might seek out a high tea at a hotel or an event at a tea house nearby. “Even the tea accessories open doors for finding new friends with similar interests," McCurdy says.

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. 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."

10

Use Instagram As A Friend Matchmaker

One out-of-the-box idea to meet people as an adult? Find them through their geotagged pictures on Instagram. Catherine, 33, made a new friend during lockdown using this method. “I ended up becoming friends with this girl because we had both recently tagged the location of a hike we did,” she previously told Bustle. The two followed each other on Instagram and kept in touch through DMs. You don’t have to be into hiking to make this work, either: If you’re a big-time foodie, check out some tagged photos of restaurants nearby, and message people who have posted pictures of the food to ask how it was, and if they’d recommend it. This could get a conversation going or even score plans to dine together. If you’re looking for a dog walking bud, check out the geotags of local parks and connect with other dog owners. Bonus points for puppy-inspired icebreakers.

11

Start A Club

If you can’t find a club to join, start you own. If you’re into books, pick a good one, and post flyers at local cafés and on your social media letting people how to get in touch with you. Once people start to reach out, you can plan a time and place to meet. Keep an eye out for bulletin boards, flyer stands, and neighborhood groups online that advertise clubs and organizations and submit your own ideas to take the lead.

Study cited:

Hall, J. A. (n.d.). How many hours does it take to make a friend? - Jeffrey A. Hall, 2019. SAGE Journals. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407518761225.