Moving to a new city can be both exciting and terrifying, especially when it comes to making new friends. Meeting and connecting with new people can be tough, even in your hometown. Starting from scratch makes the situation infinitely more stressful.
There’s plenty of advice out there for dating, but if you’re just trying to make friends, you can feel a bit rudderless. How do you approach someone you’re interested in getting to know (on a platonic level) without coming across as a huge weirdo?
Here are five key points to keep in mind as you search for new friends in a new city.
1. Expand your search criteria.
When you’re starting from scratch, don’t be too picky. You never know who you might connect with.
When Danielle Nuchereno moved to Kagoshima, Japan, she found herself befriending people she never would have connected with in the U.S.
“I became close friends with a Republican from Texas when I lived in Japan, someone I never would have befriended in the States,” Nuchereno said. “But we had that common ground of being two white faces in a sea of Japanese people.”
Nuchereno is on her 12th address. She’s lived in New York City, NY; London; Germany; Japan; and other places. She emphasizes the importance of looking for people you have anything in common with, even if that shared connection is as basic as speaking English in a foreign country.
2. Mine your current contacts.
Friends of friends (and acquaintances) are a great way to establish a foothold in a new city. Since you have a common connection, it can be easier to start a conversation or ask someone to hang out.
“Start by making a list of everyone you know in your new city… . An easy way to do this is to sort your LinkedIn connections by location,” writes Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief of The Daily Muse. “Also … ask each person if he or she knows anyone else in your field that you might be able to talk to. Everyone knows that moving is tough, and I’ve found that people are more than happy to make introductions when they know that you’re trying to build your network.”
3. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Even if you’re naturally reserved or a homebody, you need to get out of your comfort zone so that you can meet new people. Chat up co-workers, people in line at the coffee shop, other pet owners at the dog park. Strike up conversations with strangers at local art festivals and free concert series.
Don’t overlook your neighbors, either.
“You never know who lives right next door until you ring their bell,” writes Janis Kupferer, founder of the networking site SocialJane.com. “When I lived in Denver, I had a neighbor show up with a plate of cookies on a Sunday afternoon. … As I noshed their cookies (it would have been rude not to!), I learned that the wife practiced yoga every day at the studio around the corner. That was all the encouragement I needed to join my first class and make a new friend.”
4. Join in.
Joining a group or club based on your favorite interests is a great way to meet like-minded people. Meetup.com may be a clichéd recommendation, but that’s only because so many people have successfully used it to meet new friends. Other sites to check out include Meet My Dog, Supper Club, Nearify and Peoplehunt.
Don’t be afraid to join activities you wouldn’t ordinarily do — that spin class might be the place where you meet your next bestie. You don’t have to become a spin devotee, just be willing to say “yes” when social opportunities present themselves.
“If existing friends and acquaintances suggest you come along to a party or gathering, go. Saying ‘no’ when you feel tired is just going to keep you indoors and friendless,” said Razwana Wahid, a writer who recently moved from London to Paris (without knowing any French).
5. Get over yourself.
When you’re putting yourself out there, you will get rejected. Learn to not take it personally and realize that establishing a new group of friends won’t happen overnight.
If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you’ll find it easier to approach new people. Starting a conversation with a stranger can be as simple as commenting on something you’ve noticed about him or her.
When she’s in the U.S., Nuchereno makes friends with random people “by finding some common ground. So, for instance, if they are wearing a Star Wars T-shirt, I’ll say, ‘Oh hey, there are new movies coming out’ and then build from there.”
Once you’ve made that initial connection, follow up.
“Assume that most people are lazy and won’t do the work of asking you to meet up again,” Wahid said. “With those that you genuinely want to get to know, ask them if they’re free to meet for a drink. … Then ask for their number, and make it happen.”