If you’ve ever moved to a new place with your family as a child, you know how hard that can be. Being the new kid in school is awkward and unsettling, but you’re given dozens of opportunities every day to build meaningful connections with your peers.
Between school and extra curricular activities, you’re pretty much set on opportunities to make new friends in your new town. And then at the end of the day you get to go home to a place with familiar faces to recuperate from the taxing task of meeting new people.
But as an adult? That’s a whole different thing.
When I moved to a new town and a new state after graduating from university, I discovered just how hard it is to make adult friendships. You may have people in your demographics at your workplace, but if that’s the only place you’re going to meet new people- that well can run dry real fast.
For the first time in your life, there’s no friend-making environment handed to you at every turn. You’re going to have to make some amount of effort when it comes to finding new friends in your new city. Here’s what worked for me, and some other helpful ideas that others have found success with.
I wanted to get a little advice from my friend Mariette Frey, certified life coach who helps coach people through big moves and relocations. She said, “Moving to a new city is tough, especially when it comes to making friends as an adult. When I moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone outside of work, I’d do a few things- I’d post on Facebook & LinkedIn to let my network know that I was interested in meeting new people and asked them to connect me with anyone they thought I might jive with, I’d join a few volunteer groups around things I was passionate about like Habitat for Humanity or a local dog shelter and I’d find a local running group. I made friends with all different interests and made my time in those cities more enjoyable.”
Here are our best pieces of advice for building those new relationships in a new city:
Facebook, the original social network, is still doing today what it meant to do when it was created. It is a great tool for getting connected with other like-minded people in your area. Depending on how densely populated your new city is, you can find everything from local online yard sale pages, to city update pages, to mom clubs, and the list goes on!
Begin my searching using your town name and adding in any kind of special interests afterwards. Here are some ideas to get your mind thinking:
This is a great first place to start if you’re a little nervous about meeting new people in person. But you need to be an active participant, make sure you’re engaging with other people’s posts and making your own to allow others to get to know you as well.
Apps aren’t just for dating anymore, there’s so many “people meeting” apps available to make meeting people easy and accessible.
One popular app is BumbleBFF and Bumblebizz. Originally only a dating app known as Bumble, these two new additions to the app have made it extremely easy to meet new people in your new town. It works essentially the same- you create a profile and share a little bit about yourself and what you’re looking for in your new friendships. If you and another person both approve of each other’s profile- you can be connected. BumbleBFF is for making new friends and Bumblebizz is for networking with other local people in business.
Meetup is another app designed to help you find places and events that match your interests. Instead of making a profile and matching with other people, you will enter your town information and some of your interests, and Meetup will pull up local happenings and events they thing you might be interested in. I love this tool and plan to start using it more myself!
Nextdoor and OneRoof are two apps designed to help you get connected with your neighbors. Nextdoor is for neighborhoods and communities, and OneRoof is used for people living in building to connect with others inside your building. Not only is this a great place to learn more about what’s going on where you live, it can be a wonderful resource to meet the people who live near to you. We all need someone to grab the mail and water our plants for us when we go on vacay- this is where you can find those people.
When my husband and I first moved to a new city alone, having a church to be a part of was the best thing we did to build a community from the ground up. Not only were they there for us in times of need (like when we were living paycheck to paycheck and our car died- all the mechanics came to our aid and they did it for free), but we were able to meet people who would become like family to us.
Being a part of a local church has so much to offer you (seriously… have you ever been to a church hosted baby shower??) but more than that it’s about what you can offer to others. It does so much good for your soul to be in a communal environment, where everyone is expected to help meet the needs of others. This is how people used to live, before the “look out for number one” mentality became the way of the world.
When a group of people who are united by common beliefs gather together weekly and serve each other diligently, you can’t help but make friends. And these friendships tend to last forever.
In the same way being part of a local church is good for you, serving other charitable organizations is a great way to meet people who care about the same things you care about. Do some research in your new city and find which organizations are looking for volunteers and which causes you are passionate about.
Then when the day comes to serve, don’t find a reason not to. I know cleaning up trash on the side of the highway isn’t the most fun thing you could do on a Saturday, but maybe the friendships and connections you make will lead to the type of community you’ve been thinking about having in your life.
Happy hour at work, church lunch, networking event in town… whatever opportunities come your way you should consider accepting. Can you say yes to everything forever? Of course not. But in those first few months in a new city, the more you put yourself out there the more comfortable you will begin to feel as the new kid in town.
It might be tempting to think that nobody else around us is looking for new friendships, but I’ve found that that just isn’t the case. Besides the fact that many others may be just as new to town as you, you never know who will find you interesting, charming, or funny enough to want to pursue a friendship with you.
In general, everyone is looking for more connection in their lives and everyone is much more lonely than they like to portray in their day to day lives. And don’t worry too much about what others are thinking about you, most people can’t stop thinking about themselves long enough to notice you.
What are the things you liked to do in your last city? Odds are there are people in your new city that are already doing those things together. Whether it’s a sports league, book club, yoga class, crochet group, find when and where they are meeting and join.
Having something to do that you already enjoy can be a great way to break the ice with new people. You don’t have to think as much about getting to know people, and you can use your common interest to build those relationships in a more natural way.
To find where these people are meeting, start with your local parks and recreation department. If your interest group falls outside of what this department offers, look online and on social media to see if people in your area are meeting to do the things you enjoy. If you’re looking for art classes, call the art studios. If you’re looking for a moms club, check for a group on Facebook or try local churches. And if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, ask the people you do know (colleagues, employers, neighbors etc.)
At the end of the day, you are the only one who can find and build the community you want to be a part of. If you choose to neglect this important step after moving to a new town- you will likely feel the consequences of that 1-2 years down the line. We can only be happy without community for so long. Make this a priority in your first few months in your new town.