Madison Wise, LPC Associate
Let’s be honest – making friends as an adult can be challenging, especially after a move. We’re no longer automatically grouped with classmates in our homeroom or living down the hall from potential new friends in dorms. And while working from home comes with plenty of perks, it can make it even harder to connect with people. So how do you get out there and make new friends after moving to a new city? It will require effort, energy, and a bit of daring – but there are many ways to meet new people, regardless of how adventurous you consider yourself. Remember that you’re not alone – lots of people are searching for connections and community – we’re social creatures and need one another.
- Become a “regular” – Becoming a frequent visitor of a local coffee shop, bar, or bookstore – this is my personal favorite. I still remember the first time a barista at my new go-to coffee shop recognized me and the joy and comfort it filled me with. When you show up somewhere consistently, you start to recognize people, and they begin to recognize you, making it easier to initiate a conversation and feel a sense of belonging throughout your day. This familiarity might be comforting enough, or you may decide to transition it to a friendship outside the regular establishment.
- Join a club or meet-up group – There are so many meet-up groups for so many different occasions! There are groups for hiking, dancing, bird-watching, Dungeons and Dragons groups – you name it. Whatever you’re interested in, someone else is too, and they want someone to share it with. So if you’re nervous about going on your own, remember that the others showing up probably are too.
- Try out a recreational sport – Whether you’re competitive or just there for fun, having an activity to engage in with new people can help ease social pressure and make it easier to engage with others. Recreational leagues often have a wide variety of options ranging from flag football to volleyball to bowling to cornhole, so there’s something for everyone.
- Reach out to people you already know for connections – So, your half-cousin Steve has an old buddy from high school in your new city, and he’s offered to connect you? Go for it! Grab a coffee and take a walk with this stranger, and you might make a new friend, explore a new neighborhood, and learn about a new restaurant to try from this connection.
- Volunteer – Volunteering is a great way to go if you want to build a community with like-minded people. Choose something you’re passionate about, and you’ll meet new people who feel the same and are dedicated to helping out. You’ll be actively cultivating the city you want to live in when you take deliberate action. This can be a great way to learn more about the new city you’re a part of and other happenings in the area.
- Find your scene – Reflect on what interests you and seek out ways to engage with it. Are you really into the arts? Join your local museum, frequent local art markets, or attend a pottery class. Into sports? Join a fan club for a local team and seek out watch parties for their away games. Whatever you’re into, be into it out loud and in public, and you’ll increase your chances of connecting with others who feel the same way. I’ve met some of my best friends at concerts after striking up conversation about how we discovered the artist we were seeing.
- Get to know your neighbors – If you want to build community: Start where you are, right at home. Get to know the people around you and spend time with them if possible. Your neighbors may be in different age groups and share very different interests than you, and that’s ok. Find some common ground, swap stories, and maybe swap ingredients or lawn chores when need be. Getting to know my neighbors helped me feel safe in a new place, and we sometimes provided each other with much-needed support.
- As much as you can, say yes – When you’re new to a city and looking to make friends, it pays to take advantage of as many opportunities that come your way as you can. It can be draining to be “on” and put yourself out there, but investing energy into your social life early on in your move can help you adjust to your new city and reap big rewards for years.
- Follow up – Once you’ve connected with someone new and exchanged numbers or social media handles, take action. Make it a point to follow up with them within a week and set up another hangout. Maybe you invite them to your new regular spot or ask them to try out a different meet-up with you. Friendships are formed with intention and effort, so don’t shy away from making plans with someone new.
- Focus on building safety – From a biological perspective, polyvagal theory posits that we must feel safe in our environment and body before we can be social and receptive to others. If you find yourself having difficulties putting yourself out there, it might be time to investigate your safety and your internal sense of security. Working with a professional counselor can help you to determine threats to your safety, whether external or internal and find ways to navigate them. Our environment affects us, and while I hope you’re feeling great about yourself and that you moved to a place where you are celebrated and accepted in your community, I know that’s not always the case. If you’re feeling unsafe or unsupported, seek help from a therapist or support group to build a community and spaces where you can relax and feel safe.
Undoubtedly, moves are exciting, stressful, and full of potential. There’s a whole new life waiting for you in your new city, giving you the chance to be intentional about creating the lifestyle you want and the community you crave. I know it can feel risky, but the best way to make new friends is to put yourself out there. You’ve already made a move – keep your momentum going and explore your new city, one “hello” at a time.
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash