If there’s one thing I’ve learned from starting fresh in a new city where I knew a grand total of zero people, it’s that making friends as an adult can be tiresome, daunting, and at times, just plain awkward. Moving to a new place is one of the most exciting and liberating decisions a person can make, but for some, those initial months of getting settled in prove to be a real struggle. There were many a nights where I’d sit cross-legged on the balcony of my cozy downtown apartment questioning my life choices. My boyfriend is a social butterfly who has relocated numerous times throughout his life, so naturally, he had no trouble adapting to a new environment. I, on the other hand, am somewhat of an introvert who had just made a cross-country move for the very first time and was still trying to grapple with reality.
What I did eventually realize was that just like anything else in life, friends were not going to show up at your doorstep. You have to put in the effort to find them, nurture them, and perhaps most crucial of all, know exactly where to look. While you’re probably not going to find replacement besties in a few days or even weeks, these tried-and-true methods to make friends in a new city will give you somewhere to start.
Join a club, group, or league that meets regularly.
Whether you choose to spend your free time running several miles a day (count me out for cardio) or with your nose buried in a riveting novel, there’s a pretty good chance that there’s a group of people out there with similar hobbies. A weekly fitness class presents the opportunity to be around the same group of people on a consistent basis, making it that much easier to strike up conversations and for friendships to blossom. Meetup is an app dedicated to helping people find like-minded individuals in your area, and in my opinion, is one of the best way to make friends in a new city. A small number of groups require a yearly fee in order to become a member, but the vast majority of them are free. If the idea of meeting with a group of complete strangers sends your anxiety through the roof, opt to partake in a happy hour.
Sift through social media for people with common interests.
I realize how unconventional — and to be brutally honest, creepy — that sounds, BUT I have met some truly amazing humans from the plethora of Facebook groups I am a member of. Upon moving to Austin, I joined as many Facebook networking groups as I possibly could. If you’ve never taken the time to search through the ‘groups’ feature on Facebook, you’d be astonished at how many there are. A few months ago, I messaged a girl in a group called Austin Digital Jobs about how cool it was that she had her own freelance business after seeing her post in one of the groups — and yep, you guessed it — we’re friends now!
Um hi, be my new best friend. K, thx.
In another group, Girls New to Austin, I posted an open invitation to a girls-only pool party I was throwing at my apartment to commemorate the beginning of summer. I was a little nervous about blindly hosting an event because I wasn’t sure who would show up – if anyone at all – but when the day finally rolled around, a group of fabulous ladies showed up and it turned out to be a wonderful time. Yay for friends! Since then, I’ve made a solid (IE. awesome) crew of girlfriends that I can pretty much count on to show up places, especially when brunch is involved (see picture below).
One would never guess I moved here from Florida because I am ridiculously pale.
Network. Network. Network.
I can’t stress this one enough. I’ve gone to several networking events put on by local organizations like Texas Young Professionals, BossBabes ATX, and Young Women’s Alliance, and I’ve met some really wonderful people throughout the process. I had a stack of about 200 business cards printed up last year when I changed website domains, and each time I go to a networking event, I make it a personal goal to hand out at least 10. Setting a goal like this forces you to break out of your bubble (which I am oh so guilty of) and chat with people you normally wouldn’t otherwise. You can network through your coworkers, through social media, through friends of friends – it doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it!
Bring your dog places with you.
I might be a little biased considering I have the most adorable babe on the planet, but so many conversations have been initiated because of my dog. Once, I struck up chatter with one of Matthew Mcconaughey’s neighbors because she wanted to know where I got Mocha from (she was mortified when I told her Craigslist). The next time you head out to a pet-friendly bar, bring your pet(s) with you. Trust me, there’s no better ice-breaker than having a cute dog! If the bar scene isn’t for you, find a route that you both enjoy and start walking it regularly. You are bound to meet other pet owners and potentially score some future play dates. Dog people are the best people.
Give Bumble BFF a try.
If you didn’t know that Bumble offers a sector of their wildly popular app solely for girls looking for their new BFF’s, now you do. Signing up for Bumble BFF is much like any other dating app (sans the corny pick-up lines and unsolicited nudes): You register with a Facebook account, add a few of your most flattering pictures, talk about how much you love brunching, yoga, dogs, etc. in your bio, and swipe right until you find your perfect friend match. You can alter location settings to show people as close or as far away as you’d like, and both of you have the option to send each other a message – but only for a 24-hour time frame. If you just so happen to live in Austin, TX (where their headquarters are located), Bumble hosts multiple events each month that make finding new friends easy AND fun.
Say ‘yes’ to everything.
For a long time, I was that friend who’d decline event invitations (or jump up and down when plans got cancelled – you guys can relate, right?) in favor of spending the evening parked on the couch. As an introvert, this is what made me truly happy. I quickly came to the revelation that in a new city, this mentality isn’t going to fly. Feeling inspired by the book ‘Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rhimes, I started forcing myself to say yes to every event and get together that I could (time permitting). And you know what? Nine times out of ten I ended up having an amazing time and meeting some pretty awesome people.
This book will change your outlook on life (and no, this is not an affiliate link – although it probably should be).
You can also volunteer, take a cooking or painting class, initiate plans with colleagues, attend social gatherings put on by your apartment complex or housing association, or join neighborhood groups like NextDoor (although if you choose the latter, make sure you turn off e-mail notifications or you’ll end up with about 357 a day). I encourage you to stay in touch with old friends as well, because even though they may not be there with you physically, simply hearing their voice over the phone or via Skype can be cathartic.
If you take away nothing else from the article, let it be this: lose the fear of rejection, make a continuous effort to foster friendships, and nurture them so they don’t dwindle away. Reach out and be the one to make plans from time to time – I’m positive this gesture will be greatly appreciated. If you met someone once or twice before and are debating whether you should text them to make plans, go for it it! You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Making friends in a new city can be difficult at first, but it’s certainly not impossible. If you’ve been settled in for a few months and still haven’t found a handful of new friends, don’t fret — it’ll come with time. Cheers to new beginnings!