Moving to a new city is hard. There are so many basics that need to be re-learned: where to live, where to shop, where to eat. You’ll need to carve out new routines and familiarize yourself with a new environment. When they add up, all these little things up can be stressful.
But there’s one other thing you’ll leave behind when you move: your friend group. In the early stages of building a new home, it’s important to have a support network. But it’s also important to have people to vent to, go out with, find common interests with, and build connections through. Friends are important mentally, emotionally and even professionally.
Making new friends in your new place, then, is essential. But it’s also hard, especially as an adult. How do you find “your” people when you just got there?
It can be easy to say, “I’m not making new friends because no one wants to be friends with me.” It’s harder to accept that making friends is largely up to you. If every day you keep your head down at work and spend every evening home alone, making friends is going to be an uphill battle.
“It can be really easy to default into staying in, flaking on plans and wallowing in the ‘I’m new here and have no friends’ mindset,” said Angela Melpolder, co-founder of the B Hive Apiary, a social community for women trying to make authentic friendships in the Austin, Texas, area. “But when you commit to putting yourself out there, actually making plans with new people and showing up, it’s how you can create a solid friend group.”
Once you’ve settled into a routine in a new city, you’ll probably notice many of the same people popping up in the background of your daily life.
Maybe you’re in line with the same handful of caffeine enthusiasts at the coffee shop every morning. Maybe you sit by the same people at work daily without much interaction beyond a basic “hello.” These people already have something in common with you—some pattern of behavior, career path, priority—so you have conversation starters built in. Take the plunge and make a simple introduction: “Hey, I see you here a lot. My name is _____. What’s yours?”
Paying attention to the people you work with can create not only a stronger professional network, but potentially some meaningful personal relationships as well. In addition, you’ll enjoy your work more if you do it with people you feel connected to.
“You spend 40 hours a week, oftentimes more, with your coworkers,” said Micah Pratt, marketing manager at business and career resource site Business.org. “Taking the time to get to know them will not only make those working hours that much more enjoyable, but can also foster long-term friendships.”
There’s another key here: If you’re seeing people in the background of your life, you’re not recognizing them as interesting individuals. It’s easy to get caught up in your own world, especially if you’re feeling insecure in a new environment, but taking a step back and taking note of the people you see and interact with can open up your world to many more potential friends.
Many friendships are built on a foundation of common interests. If there’s something you love and you find other people who also love that thing, there’s already an opportunity for conversation beyond small talk. And that’s the key, really—we can have a surface-level conversation with anyone (“How was your weekend?” “Isn’t it hot today?” “Did you see how full the parking lot was this morning?”), but to move the relationship from “acquaintance” to “friend” requires a lot more than those quick, and ultimately weightless, questions.
But there’s no way people around you will know what you’re interested in if you don’t tell them or show them somehow. With this in mind, be obvious about the things you love. If you’re into geek culture, wear your superhero T-shirt with pride. If you love baking, offer to share some recipes with coworkers. Outside the office, spend time at places that make sense for your interests, and don’t be afraid to try to engage with people around you.
“Sometimes it takes more than one group or more than one meeting to find the right people you ‘click’ with,” she said.
If you join a few groups in subject areas you know and care about—whether they’re based on your industry or your hobbies—you’re more likely to meet like-minded people.
Finding people interested in things you already love is great, but there’s a lot of value in trying new things, too. Maybe you’ll discover a talent you never knew you had, but even if it turns out you’re just as bad at painting as you always imagined, you’ll find people with different lives and abilities than you, widening your social circle. The shared experience of attending a new activity creates common ground.
Along the way, you may even learn some new skills to help in other areas of your social journey.
“Improv classes are amazingly popular for those people who want to be able to come out of their shell and learn the art of small talk,” Safran said.
Although moving to a new city can be hard, especially as a young adult, making new friends can make your world warmer, friendlier and more meaningful. With a little dedication and the willingness to try new things and open yourself up, a new friend group is just a “hello” away.
Alex Haslam is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who loves classical music, comic books and especially television. You’ll find her writing about tech, culture, personal finance, travel and adulthood in general, though you’ll also find the occasional movie rant. You can find her on Twitter @ahaslam_writing.