How to make friends in a new city?
Trying to meet people in a new city isn’t easy. For the first few weeks after moving, you are getting used to your new job and apartment, finding your routine. After things settle down, you realize that you don’t know anyone. A year goes by. You still don’t have any good friends. This isn’t uncommon, and it gets harder to meet people as you get older. We will take a look at this problem and see if there are any fresh ideas for making friends in a new place.
Take part in group-based activities
If you want to meet people in a new city, this is perhaps the most common piece of advice, and for good reason. It is the most natural and accessible way to meet people who already have one shared interest with you – the activity. This can be a sports club, religious group, volunteer activity, or even a social consumer event like concerts or baseball games. You have many easy conversation starters centering around the hobby or interest that brought you together. Expand on that hook and get to know the people a bit better.
No matter what your interest, you can probably find a group in any decently sized city. Don’t be afraid to try a new hobby either. You don’t have to be an athletic superstar to join the city mixed kickball league. Meetup.com is a great resource for finding social gatherings with interest-based themes, whether that is a profession, a hobby, or a demographic.Don’t neglect other obvious places like work for group activities. Maybe your workplace is taking part in a charity 5K race or your street is organizing a Neighborhood Watch program. These are all opportunities to try something new and meet people. If you are shy or need a confidence boost, consider volunteering to help the less fortunate, tutor children, or take part in organized conservation. These communities are often extra welcoming and you feel great contributing.
We will give you a big list of ideas for possible activities at the end of this article, but we want to first go over some other strategies or aspects of how to meet people in a new city.
Make use of networks and revive old contacts
Remember that you aren’t necessarily the only one having trouble meeting people in a new city. If you had old classmates that were just casual friends, you might be surprised how happy they could be to hang out with you now. In most large cities, there is a good chance that somebody you used to know is also there. People at different stages of life may sometimes disappear from the social scene, like married couples with young children, but others will be just like you, looking for people to meet. Look up old acquaintances, or ask your friends to introduce you to people they know in the city. People change over time, so give some a chance, even if you never quite clicked before. If there is a university alumni group, that is a good opportunity to revive old contacts or to build upon them.
Engage online communities that translate into the real world
Some folks are quiet in person but quite gabby on the keyboard. For these people, it might be easier to develop online friendships. It’s great, but not always easy, if these online friendships can translate into the real world. The difficult of doing this is two-fold. First, you can’t meet an online friend who is halfway around the globe. So you need to find active online communities that are local. Good options are city subreddits like /r/boston or /r/nyc. Yelp communities can be fairly active as well. Both reddit and Yelp groups hold city meetups or other local events.
The second challenge, though, is the fact that online friendships sometimes don’t translate into real world friendships, especially when both sides are not very comfortable in person. This can be partially solved by focusing on event-themed meetups. If you regularly play online games with a friend, meeting up at a local gaming tournament is a pretty natural extension of your online friendship. If you are active on your local photography forum, going to a group nature photoshoot outing can work. Open-ended Reddit meetups don’t always work well because they lack this theme. Yelp meetups, on the other hand, are often event-themed (meet at a sponsoring restaurant, gym and so on).
Polish your social skills
Some of us aren’t used to meeting new people. You might have to work on how you present yourself, like posture, speaking up, or the art of small talk. There are a lot of great resources on these subjects, a famous one being Dale Carnegie’s book “How to win friends and influence people”. One of the main points of that book is that you need to find out what makes the other person tick and be genuinely interested in him or her. This might seem obvious, but many people don’t do this. It’s like the golden rule. If you are less confident meeting people, practice often. Say hello to strangers. Make eye contact in a friendly manner. After a bit of practice, you won’t be worried about people brushing you off or feeling awkward. It’s no big deal, you are just chatting, and move on to someone who connects with you.
Be an active social media creator and user of conversation sparks
Of course Facebook and Instagram are great tools for getting to know people, but make sure you are an active creator of content. Take plenty of pictures. Don’t be the weird guy constantly annoying people with selfies. But it is nice to snap a shot at social events. Then, this gives you an excuse to connect with people again. You can connect with them again through Facebook to share a photo, for example. If you take a particularly awesome photo, you can offer to email it to them.
Your social media can also be a nice conversation tool, as long as you don’t overdo it. Say you are with a bunch of foodies and want to share a picture of that delicious burger from last week. Pull out your Instagram and scroll by your delicious photos to get to the burger. These tools don’t replace your small talk skills, but they can help smooth things over and bring up ideas for connection. Remember this last point, that your aim is to create a connection. If you bring up your photos only to talk about yourself, you aren’t doing it right. They are a tool to bring the other person into the conversation.
Practicing displaying a positive and approachable persona
No one likes a negative person. Stay positive all the time when you interact with people. If you are invited for something, try to always agree to go if at all possible and reasonable. People don’t like being rejected either. Plus, every social activity you go to is a chance to develop a connection or meet even more people through an expanding circle of acquaintances. Be sure to follow through after as well. Being a friend is also about being friendly! Smile more frequently. Just think about it yourself. Would you want to say hello to a gruff looking neighbor. What if your neighbor has a friendly smile? Make yourself approachable. Don’t always stare at your smartphone or always have headphones in your ears. If you want to meet people in a new city, sometimes the little things like this can make a big difference.
Know your city events and participate in them
Don’t wait for people to invite you to events. Come up with great ideas for outings or just casual hangout events, and ask people to join you. Be aware of various city events and other happenings so that you can always make suggestions for things to do each weekend. There are a lot of great local websites and event calendars to help you with this. The next time you meet someone, you can say you are going to the banjo festival on Saturday or the free museum day on Sunday – do they want to join you? This also makes you a more interesting and energetic person. Asking someone to go to a bland coffee meetup, on the other hand, is not only boring but might also send confusing signals about your intent. Essentially, always be ready to make a friend by both accepting or inviting. Some cities or neighborhoods will have a distinct flavor, whether that is technology, art, or some other type of “scene”. Stay in tune.
Spend less time alone in your routine
The chance of striking up a friendship with a random stranger on the street is low. Still, if you are strategic, you can increase the odds. Do you drive your car when you could take the train? Maybe you will find a friendly stranger on the train, or maybe you won’t. However, you definitely aren’t meeting anyone in your car. You can improve your odds by trying to go places that might have similar demographics. Do you shop for groceries where it’s mostly people around your age, or is everyone much older?
For all of these tips, simply going to these places won’t help. You have to be willing to say hello to a stranger and risk that awkward discomfort. Maybe you tend to grab coffee on the go. Why don’t you try sitting in the cafe, and if it’s crowded, ask to sit at a shared table. Or eat your meals out in public. Again, you have to be willing to go out and make small talk. You can aim for places where small talk is more acceptable. Do you go on long solo runs? What about trying some gym routines instead? Chatting at the gym is generally socially acceptable. Pokemon Go is a recent and perhaps brief example of this as well. It is hit or miss, but staying alone all the time in physical isolation is a guaranteed miss.
Take part in the sharing economy and other local commerce
There are a lot of interesting business-related opportunities that actually help you meet people in a new city. With your landlord’s permission, you can rent a spare room or couch on AirBnB. This is a great way to meet random people. If you do this, most will be visitors, but you can screen incoming applicants to look for people who are moving into the city as well and getting temporary lodging. They may be in the same boat as you. You can drive people around with Uber. You now how some taxi drivers love to talk? Well, you can try to chat with your passengers and see if you have anything in common. There’s also craigslist for selling items. Are you selling your old comic book collection? Whoever is buying them is also a comic book fan. Chat with the buyer about comics. You might make a new friends. More and more, new types of online businesses will bring people with common interests together in fresh ways.
Last resorts: Tindr or other dating apps to meet people
Yuck, right? Most dating apps have very skewed gender ratios are very specific reasons for people using them. Still, at least there is a population of people who want to meet strangers and have a chat. In varies from city to city, but using Tindr as a friend-finding app can be socially acceptable in some places. It is a problem if two parties meet with quite different expectations, but occasionally you will hear of buddies who met through an app and stayed friends. There are a lot of new apps specifically for making friends, although not many of them have the critical mass of user base. We may cover some of them specifically in a future article.
Big list of activities to meet people in a new city
Let’s finish off by brainstorming ideas for people-meeting activities:
- Sign up for the city marathon.
- Get a gym membership.
- Find a language learning group.
- Help out at your local food bank.
- Try your hand at a karaoke contest.
- Speak at your local Toastmaster’s club
- Host a neighborhood house-warming party.
- Learn first-aid at a class.
- Attend an art gallery viewing.
- Meet new co-workers with a side job.
- Perform in a theater group.
- Play on a recreational soccer league.
- Take adult education classes at a nearby college.
- Sing for a choir.
- Attend entrepreneur startup talks.
- Find a martial arts training house.
- Join the volunteer EMS or firefighter division.
- Bike in your local Critical Mass event.
- Join the early morning Tai Chi group.
- Attend a wine-tasting event.
- Watch baseball games regularly at the local sports bar.
- Walk the dog at a crowded dog park.
- Take improve classes.
- Play in a boardgame group.
- Sit in on an author reading at the bookstore.
- Learn how to swing dance.
- Contribute time to a political campaign.
- Participate in a bitcoin user group
- Offer to teach free computer classes at your library
- Rock climb.
- Break out your moves at a planned flashmob dance.
- Work for free at anime conventions