19 Creative Ways to Make Friends in a New City
I've had a bit of a writer's block, so I decided to write about something that is pretty relevant to my life right now: making friends!
And a quick scroll through my Facebook feed shows that I'm not the only one in this boat - I have friends who have moved across the country in search of new adventures and know former DM students who have pursued first-time jobs beyond Indiana.
I took a leap, too. After coming home from 10 months abroad, I moved to Oxford, Mississippi in November 2016 for a new job. I had never been to Mississippi before and had zero connections to Oxford, which was half thrilling / half terrifying.
So, now I'm in that awkward stage of trying to make friends, which can be a challenge considering Oxford has 23,000 people, compared to the 800,000+ bustling bodies in Indy. Moving somewhere new can feel lonely and overwhelming - it takes time to not only meet people, but to also build up friendships and maintain them. It's totally normal to feel a little isolated in your first few months!
So, having moved to a new city in 2014 and then a new town in 2017, here's my advice on how to make friends when you don't know a soul:
1. Start at work. Assuming you moved to a new city to take a new job, start there. Ask a colleague to introduce you to the rest of the team, make connections to other people based on hobbies or interests, and don't hesitate to shoot someone an email asking if they want to grab lunch. Make an effort to start up conversation with others when you're getting coffee or checking your mail box.
2. Try Bumble BFF. Bumble, the dating app, also has Bumble BFF, a platform that connects women looking for friendship (cheese and wine, anyone?). You'll be comforted knowing lots of other women are new to the area and looking for friends! (This app really only works well in larger cities, since there are far more users on it.)
3. Join a church. If it's your thing, find a church that you connect with. The church I go to in Oxford has a student mass at 5pm followed by a spaghetti dinner. Plus, churches have youth ministry groups, bible study groups, and volunteer groups.
4. Connect with your alma mater's alumni club. Many universities have alumni clubs across the country - check to see if there is a regional club in your area. They often have organized events and happy hours. I joined the Saint Mary's Alumnae Club shortly after I moved to Indy, and met many amazing women who I've since stayed in touch with.
5. Say hi to people in your apartment complex. If your complex has a study area or pool, take advantage of these common areas. The first time I went out in Indy, it was with a group of people I had just met at the pool. Some apartment buildings also hold community events - the complex I live at in Oxford just hosted a huge ping-pong tournament!
6. Get a dog. Foolproof way to get people to come up to you and start a conversation, all while they're petting your dog. But seeing as how I can barely keep a plant alive, I've got to forego this option (but don't forget about fostering!).
7. Join an intramural team or gym. I don't have a competitive bone in my body, but I've got lots of friends who are on community flag football, soccer, and kickball teams. I joined a yoga studio and gym in Oxford. While you may not make friends instantly this way, you'll quickly recognize familiar faces if you go often enough (actually, I just connected with a new girl friend when she complimented my yoga mat!).
8. Try Meet Up. Meet Up features member-created groups based on interests, from rock climbing to gaming to knitting to hiking. These groups then host meet ups in the area. Get out of your comfort zone and go to a meet-up; you're guaranteed to meet new people.
9. Volunteer. Every organization is looking for volunteers! Volunteer at your local hospital, homeless shelter, food pantry, or community nonprofit. You'll easily make conversation with other volunteers who have similar interests. A quick Google search will show you different volunteer opportunities, or keep an eye on the local paper or community board.
10. Become a regular. Becoming a regular at a small bookshop, cafe, or coffee shop can go a long way, too. In a small town (and even a big city), you'll begin to notice familiar faces. And you'll be surprised at the conversations that can start between strangers in a coffee shop, from asking for a drink recommendation to commenting on a book someone's reading (true story). Plus, spending time in a local spot gets you out of your apartment and around people, even when you don't know anyone.
11. Take a class. Google classes for whatever you're interested in - knitting, pottery, painting, photography. Then sign up! I'm hoping to take a community photography class through Ole Miss. See if you can audit a class or take a class for certificate credit.
12. Ask other people to introduce you to people. Ask friends with any connections to your city to introduce you to anyone they may know. One of my former Riley colleagues introduced me by email to a girl she knows who works at Ole Miss, so I reached out to grab lunch with her. You never know! (This is especially true in a small town: the people you meet will eagerly begin to introduce you to people they know who may have similar interests as you.)
13. Find your nearest university. Colleges and universities are big hubs for cultural events and community discourse. Many events like panels, forums, speakers, and performances are open to the community and may be free to attend. Attending open university events will quickly clue you into the local community and give you an opportunity to meet others who have similar interests or viewpoints.
14. Seek out mentors. So these people may not be your BFFs, but I am a big believer in mentorship and you should always attempt to connect with people in your field. For me, that's fundraising, so I'm always interested in meeting up with other fundraisers to learn about their experience and expertise. But it could also be the result of a hobby - if you admire someone's photography, ask if they'll grab coffee with you to share a few tips. They'll be flattered!
Bonus: Quick, last-minute edit... Go to a bar by yourself! Find a cool, chill spot in your city or town, then pluck up the courage to grab a seat at the bar and order a drink. Guaranteed you'll strike up a conversation with someone or, at the very least, enjoy a nice glass of wine outside of your empty apartment. I haven't tried this yet, but I should give it a shot next weekend.
But the above tips won't work unless you…
15. Say yes! It's always tempting to cozy up with Netflix (guilty), but you're not going to meet people that way. You've got to accept people's invitations and make an effort, so always say "yes" to a friend date.
16. Then follow-through... If someone says, "Let's grab lunch sometime!" then shoot them an email and set up a day. Too often, people have the best intentions to make plans, but lunch never actually happens in the chaos of life. So make it a point to reach out and solidify plans.
17. And be patient. No matter where you move, you may feel like there are barriers to you making friends. In NYC, it could be the breakneck speed at which everyone works, which leaves little time for making plans. In Seattle, it could be the locals' cold reputation for not bothering to embrace outsiders. And in a small town like Oxford, it could be the pervasive feeling that everyone already has their set group of friends. But these are all stereotypes! Remember to be patient and be yourself.
18. Get outside your bubble. Many people seek to make friends with people who are their age and in a similar stage of life. But there's no reason why you can't connect with a colleague who might be ten years older than you, or with someone who has young children. I've got friends who are married with children and I've got other friends who are five years younger than me. Doesn't make any difference - we all have a great time when we get together!
19. Stay connected with your friends back home. My friends in Indy and Chicago gave me the push to go abroad, and they cheered me on when I decided to take a job far from anything I'd ever known. Talking to them always brightens my day, and reminds me that I've got rock-solid friendships just a plane ride away. Be sure to make time for FaceTime calls, Google hangouts, and a good ol' phone call.
What tips do you have for making friends?!