How to Make Friends in a New City

Moving is so hard. Moving cities, impossible. There’s the hiring of movers, the packing and unpacking of the stuff. The inevitable day where a beloved piece of furniture breaks or your favorite box of clothes is lost. But it doesn’t get easier once you’re settled in. Figuring out new public transportation, learning a new job, and most terrifying, the MAKING OF NEW FRIENDS. Even if you’re in a relationship, it still gets lonely without girlfriends. I’ve moved a lot, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert in this space…

In the last 15 years, I’ve moved from Michigan to New York, to Chicago, to San Francisco, where most places, I had little or no friends. Finding and crafting friendships takes work, but the first and hardest step, is finding people with similar interests. You really have to put yourself out there to find a new BFF – believe me, I’ve “cold called” friends multiple times, but none of those friendships fell into my lap. Here’s how I’ve met people in the last four cities I’ve lived in:

  • Join a club: What do you like to do in your spare time: Watch movies? Knit? Hike? Shop? Whatever it is you love, I guarantee there’s a club for it. Search for local clubs with a particular hobby in mind or go to sites like meetup.com to search for groups in a specific zip code.
  • Volunteer: This could be a one-time thing or an ongoing commitment. You already have something in common – a passion for volunteering! I volunteered at the NYC marathon to meet guys, but instead got paired up with another girl, Yasmeen. We handed out heating blankets together for 8 hours, chatting the whole time, and at the end of the day, I asked for her number. She’s still my good friend today!
  • Have a friend set you up on a “friend date”: When I started telling people in Chicago I was moving to San Francisco, a few friends told me: “I’ll introduce you to my friend so-and-so, you’ll love her!” Initially, I didn’t take anyone up on their offer, thinking it felt like a blind date. Finally, my friend Anna (whom I also met through a mutual friend) insisted and introduced me via group text to two of her college girlfriends, so we set a date for drinks/tapas after work. When we met, we immediately started talking about how we knew Anna, and the conversation carried on all night. I realize now that a mutual acquaintance is the easiest way to meet people. It means you probably like the same people (your mutual friend!), but also gives you something to talk about when you first meet (your mutual friend!).
  • Skim the office: You spend most of your day with your co-workers, and if you’re in a corporate space, there’s probably lots of potentials to choose from. If there’s someone you connect with that you see day-to-day, awesome. But don’t stop there, reach out into extended teams. Eat lunch in a communal space, and never turn down a happy hour!
  • Join a sports league: This is the most obvious way to meet people – a recreational sports team. Find a local league where you can join teams as a single player, and pick level based on your skill: casual to experienced. But pick a sport you like! If you aren’t into running, don’t play football, go for volleyball. Not a good athlete? Try a kickball or bowling team, where you don’t need a 5-minute mile to be a star. Those semi-sport leagues are usually more social anyway, since you can drink and play.
  • Learn something new: Is there a skill you’ve been dying to learn? A language? Coding? Ballet? In Chicago, I took French classes at the Alliance Francaise on Saturdays, and although I didn’t meet any new friends, I learned French. Really, what’s the worst that could happen?
  • Get a dog, borrow a dog, or take your dog to new places: Believe me, I have a dog, and EVERYONE WANTS TO TALK TO THE PERSON WITH THE DOG. Take your dog to the beach, around the block, or even sit on your stoop. Camp out at the park with a blanket and a snack. I promise, people will come to pet your sweet pup and probably have a dog of their own, all the more to talk about.
  • Hang out alone at a bar: This is only for the bravest among you. When I first moved to NYC, I was often lonely, so I used to go to restaurants and sit by myself at the bar. I’d bring a book and just hang out, talking to people around me, the bartenders, anyone. You’d be surprised how many people sit at the bar alone.  Look for spots that are more causal, and not “date-y”. At a small Hell’s Kitchen restaurant 10 years ago, I made a friend that I still hang out with today. If you’re single, you might also get a lot of dates. (BONUS!)

Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, once you find someone that you want to be friends with, don’t be afraid to seal the deal. People like being liked, so they’ll be flattered if you say, “I just moved here and don’t know many people. Would love a new friend and had a great time talking to you, could I get your number?” Then once you have the number, FOLLOW up. Ask them to hang out again, and BE SPECIFIC. Invite them to a day/time and preferably, an activity. Don’t give up if they aren’t free the first time. What do you have to lose?

If it feels like I am giving you dating advice, I basically am. Meeting and making friends is JUST like dating. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it, once you find the right lifelong friendship for you.

xo Alaina

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