Making friends in a new place is always hard, whether it’s in the next town over or in a new country. Trust me, I’ve moved around a lot, but I’ve found the key thing when it comes to how to make friends in a new city is perseverance.
That’s right. You don’t need to be a social butterfly, you don’t need to know the local language and there is no magical secret to getting people to like you. You just need to persevere and hold strong to the fact that you will find your people. Everything takes time.
So, even if they sound super-obvious, here are the steps I follow to make friends in a new city or a new place. If you do them all and stick with it, then I guarantee that you will find your tribe:
How I Make Friends in a New City: Ask Around
Ask your friends, family, neighbours, your cousin’s goldfish, social media and the woman who runs the post office if they know anyone in the place you’re moving to. The world is big, but it is also small.
When I moved from the UK to Hong Kong, I was introduced to three separate people who were moving there at the same time as me. And that was before I even got on a plane. It’s the law of six degrees of separation, right? Everyone knows someone who knows someone.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Share a Flat
Even if you can afford to or prefer to live on your own, sharing a flat is a better way to make friends in a new city. You’ll not only build a relationship with your new flatmates, but also with their circles of friends too.
Plus, if they’ve been living there a while, then they’ll know all the best things to see and do. And if they haven’t been living there that long, then you’re all in the same boat. It’s a win-win situation.
For finding flatmates, EasyRoommate and SpareRoom are both great, or ask your employer or similar for recommendations. Sometimes a personal link is better. Oh, and it goes without saying that you should meet with potential flatmates and make sure you’re somewhat compatible first.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Say Yes to Everything
Make a rule to say yes to everything for the first three months. No excuses. First impressions count and showing that you’re up for things is a big part of that impression. The bad news? That means saying yes to things you really don’t want to do.
You will end up in places you don’t want to be with people you don’t like. But, you’ll also surprise yourself by doing things that you’ve never tried before and enjoying it. You’ll meet people you wouldn’t have done otherwise. You’ll never know until you say yes.
For those first few months, try and be busy every single night of the week and every weekend. Challenge yourself with the new. It will also help with figuring out what you want from your new life in this new place and where you can find it.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Take Initiative
Sometimes your new flatmates or workmates aren’t sociable types or they aren’t forthcoming with the invitations. If this is the case then you need to take initiative. It can seem daunting, but the three things you need to do are invite yourself along, suggest plans and ask for recommendations.
1. Invite yourself: be bold and invite yourself along to any social plans you get wind of. You have the perfect excuse that you’re new in town and need to be shown around. If they say no for a valid reason, then suggest you can do something similar again in the future (and name a time).
2. Suggest plans: what do you mean you guys don’t have post-work drinks on Fridays? There’s a great bar around the corner, why don’t we try it out? We can celebrate my first month at the company! I really want to see that new film, where is the best cinema? Let’s make it a group trip!
3. Recommendations: who doesn’t like voicing their opinion or being made to feel like an expert? Recommendations lead to plans. Hey, do you know where I can buy XYZ? I’m not sure where that is, would you mind showing me after work? Hey, are you hungry? Let’s grab dinner.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Join a Club or a Team
Take up a sport or a hobby, but the condition is that it has to be a team sport or something you can do in a group. That’s a direct order. There’s a comradery in team sports and group activities that cannot be replicated anywhere else, despite your personal sport preferences or interests.
Now, I love yoga and it’s my favourite way to keep fit, but it’s not sociable. Sure, I’ve got chatting to one or two yogis before and after class, but I have made very few yogi friends. There’s never an opportunity to even learn someone’s name in a yoga class.
On the flip side, I know everyone on my dragon boating team. We practice one or twice a week and we all go for drinks after practice. Am I particularly good at dragon boating? No. Had I ever even heard of dragon boating before I moved to Hong Kong? No. But, it doesn’t matter.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Take a Class
This is essentially the same as above, but particularly essential if you’re moving to a new country. It’s respectful to at least attempt to learn the language, even if you’re awful at it.
In Hong Kong, I took both Cantonese and Mandarin classes and I was appalling at it! However, I got to know the other people in the class, my teacher and a lot about the local culture, which ultimately helped me to better communicate and understand my local colleagues and friends.
If you’re not moving to a new country, there’s still no reason why you can’t take a class in something else or even take up sign language. Same same.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Volunteer
Hey, you can make friends in a new city and make the world a better place! Yay! Sparkles and unicorns and rainbows! If the form of volunteering that you do involves working on a passion of yours and working with people, then that’s even better.
Research volunteering programs, schemes and opportunities in your local area; it’s hard to advise websites to use because everywhere is different. Also, have a look a job websites etc. to look for things you can do on a voluntary basis.
How I Make Friends in a New City: The Internet
To be used in moderation. Oh my god, there are so many options to choose from here, I don’t even know where to begin. Here are just a few that either I or my friends have found helpful. However, the key is not to rely solely on the Internet for your socialising. It will only get you so far.
Couchsurfing: this absolutely saved me when I was living in Catania, Sicily. I had never couchsurfed myself, nor had I been a couchsurfing host, but I attended the weekly meet-ups for couchsurfers and hosts (i.e. fun travelling people and new local friends who spoke English).
Internations: a community for expats in 390 cities worldwide. In Hong Kong, Internations were forever holding events for people to sign up to. Some, like a wine tasting class, cost money, while others were absolutely free. Their junk boat trips were pretty fun too.
Meetup: I’ve never personally used Meetup, but I know those who attend meetups and those who host them too. It’s another great way of meeting like-minded people to do things that you actually want to do. Genius.
Apps: Tinder, Bumble, Squad, CLIQ… to name but a few. Just Google it. You’ll find a million.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Don’t Date
Yeah, you heard! If you’re single, I would advise against actively dating for at least the first year that you move somewhere. Unless you meet someone naturally and sparks literally fly, I don’t advise juggling a new partner and new friends at the same time.
I mean this in the kindest way because this move is about you and your new life in a new place. That has to come first. Once you’ve settled in with your job, your living situation and you have a support network of close friends, then is the time to get your flirt on. Not before.
And you certainly don’t want to lose all the progress you’ve made making friends when you realise all of your new friends were actually your ex’s friends.
If you’re in a relationship, it’s trickier. For me personally, when my boyfriend moved out to Hong Kong two years after I did, we lived separately. This meant we weren’t relying on each other for our social network, we had our own friends and lives, and Rob could decided if he liked Hong Kong for himself first before we committed to moving in together, which we did after a year.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Be Your Best Self
I’m not saying don’t be yourself because that would be cruel of me and also counterproductive for you. But, be your best self. What do I mean by that? By that I mean be positive, be kind and generous, and be genuinely interested in other people.
1. Be positive: don’t say anything negative to anyone about anything for six months, including when you talk to people back home. Now, I definitely feel the need to vent, bitch and complain every now and again, who doesn’t? But set yourself this challenge because first impressions count, so be known for who you are at your best.
2. Be kind and generous: do nice things for people. Cook your new flatmate dinner to celebrate your moving into the flat. Buy a box of biscuits for your colleagues at the end of your first work week. Buy someone a drink. Offer to do the worst tasks at work. Trust me, people will take notice.
3. Be genuinely interested: by this I mean ask people questions. People love talking about themselves and in doing this you’ll find that you have more in common than you think. If you’re stuck for questions, then do a repeat-loop of ‘What happened next?/How did that make you feel?’.
How I Make Friends in a New City: Grow a Beard or Get a Dog
The funny thing is I’m not joking. I have a friend with a big, bushy beard and people come up to him all the time and compliment him on it. Hey man, nice beard. Thanks! They start chatting and suddenly there’s a new person drinking with us at our table.
It’s the same with dogs. When someone has a dog, other people can’t help but stop to pet it, stroke it and end up chatting to you about it. Especially if they have a dog too, then you can end up walking your dogs together or offering to dog sit for each other. Plus, your dog will be your friend!
I’m not saying you literally have to grow a beard or buy a dog, but if you have something that’s a bit of an ice-breaker or a conversation starter, then that can work in your favour.
How I Make Friends in a New City
So, there you have it: the winning formula for friendship (just kidding)!
You might find that you don’t need these tips to make friends in a new city and your friendships will come naturally to you in your new place anyway. However, sometimes it’s more of a struggle and I know it can be tough because I’ve definitely been there, as have we all.
To be honest, I think it’s even tougher for the Millennial generation to make friends in a new city or place. In fact, just making friends as adults in general! We’re strapped for cash, we move more often and we rely too much on the Internet for our socialising.
But, know that you are never alone. Your determination and perseverance will eventually pay off. Your people are out there waiting for you. Or, alternatively, just comment below – I’ll be your friend!
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