So, you took that great job in a new city, or you moved to a new place for a change or a partner’s career opportunity. However you landed in this unfamiliar place, you’re a stranger in a strange land—and craving new friendships.
As an adult, it can be tough to find a new friend group. “It’s fairly easy, in a new place, to make acquaintances—to just start recognizing people and saying, ‘Hello.’ It’s a lot more difficult to make deep friendships, like the kind where you can ask someone to watch your cat when you go out of town, or you have someone to call up and just say, ‘Hey, let’s go do something this weekend,’” says Melody Warnick, author of This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live.
Doing so takes a bit of creativity, plus courage to put yourself out there. Oh, and one other thing: “When you’re moving into a new community and trying to find your tribe, let your freak flag fly a little bit,” she says. It’s easier to find real friends when you’re sharing what you’re passionate about and not trying to fit in for the sake of making friends. Relationships built on false impressions aren’t the ones that are going to stick, anyway. And here are some ways you can find likely prospects.
Start At Work
If you’ve moved to a new place for your job, your company’s HR department might have some tips and resources to help you get acclimated and start meeting people. And your coworkers might be good prospects to introduce you locally, says Jonathan R. Bennett, cofounder of The Popular Man, which teaches men and women to be more successful in social situations and at work. If they’re not forthcoming, take the initiative, he says.
“Too often, people sit back and wait for someone else to do the work, and that’s why I believe a lot of adults of all ages are lacking in friends,” he says. Your coworkers are an immediate source of contacts who know the area and other people. Dive in!
Seek Out “Blind Dates”
When Elaine Appleton Grant, creator of One More Shot, a podcast about people who are making great ideas a reality, moved from rural New Hampshire to Denver, she reached out to her contacts and asked them to “set her up” with people they knew in the area. She wasn’t looking for romantic relationships, she was looking for friends. A mutual friend introduced Grant to another woman who lived in Denver, and the two met for coffee.
“It really was like having a blind date for a friend. Because she was this good professional friend, and they were good friends, I think that [our mutual friend] really had a sense that we would hit it off,” Grant says.
Revisit The Familiar
If you had communities in your former home, look for them in your new city, too. If you practice a religion, seek out your local house of worship and introduce yourself to the staff and clergy. If you belonged to a hiking or cycling club, look for similar groups in your new city. These types of groups give you an immediate common interest and a roster of activities for your social calendar, Warnick says. Search social media, especially Facebook, to find specialty groups and interest areas. Look for opportunities on Meetup.com or Nextdoor.
But, Warnick advises, use “Craigslist rules” for general safety when meeting people you don’t know for the first few times. “Meet in a group if you can, which is why a Meetup is really good. Meet in public places. Don’t invite strangers over to your house the first time that you’re connecting with them. Be smart about it,” she says. But don’t be overly fearful, either. Most people have great experiences with the people they meet online, she says.
Scour Social Media
Travel writer Lola Méndez has been traveling full-time for the past two years and is often in a new city for a week or less. She doesn’t have time to wait around to find new friends. When she’s planning her next sojourn, she searches Instagram for popular hashtags related to the place she’s visiting. If she sees someone in the area who posts about similar interests or seems to know the locale well, she’ll contact them and explain that she’s a writer who will be in town, and ask them if they have time to meet up. She says she met most of her friends in Florence that way.
“I was able to surround myself with creative experts and locals alike,” she says.
In addition, she is involved in a number of travel writer groups online. Her colleagues there have helped her arrange meetings with people who ultimately became friends.
Tap Your Alumni Groups
If you went to a school or worked at a company that has an alumni group, look for local chapters. If none exist, contact the head of the group to find out if there are other alumni in your area, and see if they’ll arrange an introduction, Warnick suggests. Many also have online groups that can be useful for meeting local people.
Mix Business And Personal
Grant found another friend, who she calls her “professional twin” because she also produces podcasts, by attending a women’s networking event. The two became fast friends.
Those types of in-person professional events might sound so old-school to millennials, but going to local professional group meetings can help both your career and your personal life by introducing you to more people who are either a fit for friendship or know people who might be, she says.
Whatever route you decide to take, Warnick urges new residents to not overlook the value of building new friendships. “It’s almost impossible to feel really at home in a place and to really love where you live unless you have friends, neighbors, coworkers, and people that you like to spend time with to go along with that. It really is priority No. 1 when you move to a new place,” she says.