Making friends in a new city—whether you relocated for work or seek a new adventure—can feel hard, especially if you’re shy.
“Most people don’t want to make the first move by introducing themselves,” said Alexa Loken, the founder and head coach at Loken Careers. “It can feel hard and complicated, with a mental calculus of risk for friendship.”
Loken has a lot of practice chatting with strangers as someone who describes herself as outgoing and a frequent mover. For her, strangers are simply friends she hasn’t met yet.
“If you reach out and make an effort to ask for a phone number, make a date for a dog walk or plan to play board games and get rejected,” Loken said, “you’re still where you started and haven’t ‘lost’ anything.”
Whether you’re outgoing or aiming to come out of your shell more, knowing where to start can be a challenge. In other words, where can you find like-minded people?
Making new friends requires time and energy, said Shontel Cargill, a licensed marriage and family therapist who is the assistant clinic director at Thriveworks, an online counseling company. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of where you seek out potential friends and to nurture relationships when you find someone you like. Below, we list 15 tips for making friends in a new city.
1. Find friends of friends
Yes, it’s fairly common sense, but asking your friends about people they know may be one of the most efficient ways to meet new people. Post a request on social media, or call friends to see who knows anyone. If they do, ask permission first to contact their connection or have your friend connect you two.
Hopefully, you hit it off with a few people this way.
2. Tap into professional networks
Like your personal network, you can also tap into your professional network to see who might know someone. For instance, you may be able to ask colleagues, especially if your company has a presence in multiple locations, to see if anyone is up for going out.
Cargill also suggests looking at industry organizations because they may have regular networking events.
“These events can be a great way to connect with people both professionally and potentially as friends as you will already have something in common and are attending events with shared interests,” Cargill said. “Let people know that you are new to a city and you will find many will be generous with offers to show you around or connect you with other people.”
3. Take advantage of local Facebook groups
If you’re not sure how to find new friends in a new town, social media can be a great way to interact with people before you commit to meeting in person. One of the best ways to interact online is through Facebook groups.
Pick groups based on your hobbies and interests or designed for those who are newbies to the city. Once you log into your account, go to the search bar at the top of the screen and choose “groups” to filter out your results.
As for what search words to use, consider searching for the name of the city you’re moving to and the interests and hobbies you like. Doing so will help you to get local results without having to sort through hundreds of others.
Once you join a few groups, scroll through a few posts before jumping in and commenting. That way, you can see whether the group is friendly and whether there are people you might be interested in chatting with further.
4. Walk around your local neighborhood
Hanging out at local businesses is a great and convenient way to meet new people. There’s an added perk to people potentially living closer to you, making it easier to meet up for a coffee or other activity.
Places you can go include bookstores, dog parks and coffee shops. It may feel strange to randomly strike up a conversation, but it’ll be worth the effort, Cargill said.
“While it may seem daunting, more people than you would imagine are open to engaging in conversations with strangers, particularly if you are somewhere that is tailored to mutual interests,” Cargill said. “Studies have shown people are more likely to think favorably of someone who asked for a favor, so ask for their favorite book recommendation, where they take their dog to the vet or the best place to grab a bite to eat.”
5. Say hello to your neighbors
You never know how friendly your neighbors are until you start chatting with them. You can start off with a simple hello when you see them walking to their mailbox, walking their dog or doing yard work.
You can move into other topics, such as mentioning that you’re new to the area or asking for recommendations on things to do in the neighborhood.
For those who don’t see their neighbors often or want to seek out people who don’t necessarily live on the same street, you can try a property lookup or use a neighborhood app NextDoor. You can sign up for your particular neighborhood and start participating in an online forum much like Facebook groups.
If you want to take it a step further, consider asking neighbors to coffee or a meal, whether in your home or on the patio. They’ll appreciate the effort to get to know them.
6. Follow up
Once you strike up a conversation with someone and you’re interested in talking further, don’t be afraid to ask for that person’s contact information. Loken also stressed the benefits of following up on contacting this person, whether it’s to invite them out, host gatherings or remember their birthday.
“Remember that they’re just as nervous about making new connections as you are,” Loken said, “so err on the side of kindness until you know them well.”
In other words, if you say you’ll invite them out, do so. You want to be seen as someone who is genuinely interested in getting to know someone better.
7. Treat finding friends like dating
When it comes to getting to know someone better, forming close friendships is similar to a romantic relationship.
“Just like in dating, the potential for a meet-up to develop into something more long-term will depend on your aligned values and interests,” Cargill said, “so think about screening for these early on.”
Be mindful in the way you want to maintain acquaintances as friends, Loken said. You need to invest time and emotional bandwidth to form close friendships.
“Think about whether that person is kind, has a good sense of humor and is even a good conversationalist,” Loken said.
8. Attend and host virtual parties
As people might still be wary of in-person interactions or gatherings—especially during the pandemic—virtual events are also a great way to meet others. You can find virtual parties for your local area or host your own to get to know more folks. That allows for you to engage with people while keeping safety in mind.
You can also use virtual parties to reconnect with friends and family back home, Cargill said.
9. Join virtual book clubs
Aside from hanging out at bookstores, joining a virtual book club is another great way to connect with those who enjoy reading (hopefully in genres you also like). It’s also a fun way to meet new people from all walks of life and find new book recommendations you may never have considered.
Even if you don’t end up forming close friendships with any of the people you meet, you walk away with some riveting conversations—that’s worth the effort, right?
10. Take art classes
Signing up for classes is a great way to make friends when you’re in a new city. More interactive classes are better, almost forcing you to talk to people.
Art, photography, dancing, cooking and gardening classes are great places to start. The main reason why you might want to stick with art classes is the increased chance of finding people who are interested in self-expression. Hence, they may be more open to forming new friendships.
11. Accept every invitation
It’s hard to feel like socializing when you just moved, but if someone invites you out, say yes!
By saying yes to social opportunities that arise, you increase your chances of finding like-minded people and hopefully develop stronger relationships faster. Of course, be mindful of your energy, but saying yes to a coffee or a short event could pay big dividends.
12. Take your fitness routine more seriously
Go ahead, join a gym or yoga studio—it’s great to keep fit and make new friends. You’re working toward bettering your fitness routine, might as well multitask and meet some potential friends.
If you’re shy at first, don’t fret. The chances of you bumping into the same people multiple times is pretty high, especially if you frequent the gym or yoga studio.
You can introduce yourself or suggest that you be each other’s workout buddy. If that’s too much, there’s nothing wrong with saying hi or even asking for suggestions on a place to eat in the area. Soon enough, you’ll invite them out for a smoothie after class or vice versa.
13. Hang out with your new colleagues
Don’t forget to try and make new friends where you spend quite a bit of time: your workplace. Think of your colleagues as your built-in social network. You see them all the time, why not attempt to form friendships?
Start with small steps by seeing who wants to go out for lunch. You might be able to join or start a group where you go out for happy hour after work. Doing so will give you an opportunity to get to know your colleagues better.
For many people, this is one of the best ways to form lasting friendships. Being in an environment where you see someone everyday usually forces you to get to know them—think of it as an accelerated way to deepen any potential bonds.
14. Join a volunteer organization
By volunteering at a local charity or nonprofit organization, you can not only make a difference, but it’s a great way to make new friends. It’s also extremely rewarding and a great way to give back to your community.
The people you volunteer with are also there to make a difference. This is a great start because it means you may have many of the same shared values. Plus, you’ll be able to regularly see these folks and work together, increasing the chances of you getting to know them better. If you hit it off with someone, why not invite them out somewhere after your volunteer shift?
Start by looking at your interests or causes you care about. Then, do an online search to see what’s available in your area. You can also look on social media or search for reputable organizations in your area. You should find opportunities to volunteer.
For instance, you love to work with animals. In this case, you can help take care of animals at the local shelter or run an animal food drive. If you like to tinker with tools, Habitat for Humanity is a great organization to help out.
15. Connect others
Just because you made a few friends doesn’t mean you should stop connecting with new people. Don’t forget, you have contacts people don’t know about, so why not connect like-minded people to each other?
You don’t have to force it. Rather, if you know two people who might find some common interests or might be helpful to each other in a professional setting, ask if they want to meet each other. It can be as simple as sending emails or inviting people out for coffee.
The more you introduce each other, the more likely you deepen the bonds with these people. They’ll appreciate that you took the time to do something helpful for them. Plus, you never know how else someone might reciprocate, introducing you to a future best friend.