10 tips on how to make friends in a new city

How to make friends in a new city

1. Lower your expectations

Straight to the point. This might come as a shock but the first thing to focus on while trying to make friends in a new city or new surroundings, is to have the right mindset. Try not to set expectations of having millions of friends or clicking with all of the people that you meet right off the bat. Friendships take time, so arm yourself with patience.

2. Use work as your first opportunity

If you moved for a job opportunity, this will be, at first, the best way for you to make friends, or at least have social interactions. Whether it is at a company event, after-work drinks with your team, team building events or even just during the coffee break, take every opportunity you get to start a conversation!

Also, oftentimes, especially in the US, companies will have ERG’s (Employee Resource Groups). These are groups formed by employees based on shared characteristics or life experiences. Originally these groups tended to be created for underrepresented groups, based, for example, on gender, race, sexual orientation,…. They are now expanding to interest-based groups. These are a great way to meet new people based on similar characteristics.

3. Get into non-professional sports leagues

This is a very good tip that many of my friends have used. First, when I say sports leagues, it doesn’t mean that you had to be semi-pro in basketball or training for a marathon. Whether it is to re-ignite the love for the sport you played in high-school, to try something new or just to participate in a fun activity, you should find something that suits you. The range of options goes from basketball, baseball, football or soccer, to bocce, cornhole or dodgeball.

Some people are joining a team for the competitiveness but a lot of people are there for the social aspect. You will have weekly games or matches, which end up at the nearest bar for a well-deserved refreshment. At the end of the season, there is usually an event which is a great opportunity to meet new people or bond over this common activity.

I am listing below some of the most common ones in Boston or other big cities in America. For Europe, you may want to search locally for the specific country you are in. In Switzerland, there are tons of “Ligues amateurs”, so by googling or asking coworkers you should be able to find out about specific opportunities in your area.

How to make friends in a new city

4. Take advantage of social networks

This is probably going to be the most efficient way to meet new people. It is how I met most of my friends when I first moved to Boston. There are tons of options! With everything being digital nowadays, it is definitely an easier time to move abroad. We are flooded with apps and social networks, so it is time to take advantage of them.

Here are my favorite apps/websites to meet people:

  • Meetup.com – This is the app/site I used when I first moved to Boston and through which I met most of my friends. It has a ton of groups for very diverse interests.
  • Facebook – I have to say, I only very recently started using Facebook to expand my circle of friends. I like that you can join very specific groups to find people that have similar interests, e.g hiking groups, photography groups, expat groups,…. I found it too be a great resource.
  • BumbleBFF – For those who don’t know, Bumble is originally a dating app. However, they came up with BumbleBFF, a similar concept as the dating app but to meet friends. Most people have a bio describing their interests, which makes it easier to decide whether to swipe left or right. Once you have matched, you have 24 hours to start a conversation. This one has become my latest favorite. This is an especially good tool for more introverted people (*raising hand). I find it way less intimidating to meet up with one person than to have to go to an event with 20 people that you don’t know.

6. Join networking groups

  • Internations – If there is one group that you should be part of to make friends in a new city, it is this one. This is not only great to attend events and meet people from all parts of the world, but before you get to your new country (or city), this will give you access to forums where people who already live there will be able to answer some of your questions.
  • Junior League – I never joined the Junior League but the people that I know who were part of it, said it brought them tremendous networking opportunities. It is based on volunteer work, so I believe it is a bit of a time commitment but a great way to meet people.
  • Rotary International – this is similar to the Junior League above and a great way to network in your local community. The advantage is that the Rotary Club has groups all around the world.
  • BYPA – In Boston you have the Boston Young Professionals Association. They organize events like After work drinks, Rooftop yoga sessions or (virtual) networking events. I don’t think they are active in other cities but for other locations, search for young professional groups or associations.

Unfortunately, some of these groups come at the cost of an annual membership fee that can be pretty high, so make sure to factor that into your decision.

5. Join volunteer groups

Similar to networking groups, you can join volunteer groups. Whether it is to help your local food bank, help prepare meals at a soup kitchen or work at an animal shelter, there are endless possibilities to get involved. And what better way to meet new people than to do it while doing something good?

I am not going to link any specific websites as there are tons of them and it is going to depend highly on your location but a quick Google search should get you plenty of options to choose from.

7. Get yourself out there

It is time for shameless begging! Just kidding. But meeting new people is hard and you will have to put yourself out there. Go to that networking event, and yes, you will most likely feel awkward and terrified and maybe even start by standing in the corner for a bit but remember that being comfortable in social settings where you know absolutely no one will only get easier the more you do it (like anything, really)!

Be ready to participate in events that you would not normally do. At first, it takes a bit of trying and expanding your horizon in order to meet the greatest people. You don’t like hiking but this awesome group of girls is organizing it? Just go! Someone is inviting you to a baseball game but you know nothing about the rules and not too keen on watching sports for hours? Focus on the beer and hot dogs!

8. Move in with roommates

I understand that if you moved with your husband and kids, this may not be an option. So if that is your case, you may want to skip this one. However, if you are moving by yourself, this is a great way to make friends in a new city. When I moved to Boston, I was 27 years old. From the start, I had decided that I didn’t want to live by myself so that I could meet people right away (well that and the fact that it is impossible to afford a one-bedroom on your own in the city!). And I am glad I did. Some of my roommates were the very first true friends I made.

When moving to a new city/country, things are going to get chaotic at first. So having people right there to help you navigate the most basic things is going to be a huge advantage. Think things like, where is the closest laundromat or what are the street parking rules in the area? This will help you adjust a lot quicker, especially if you find roommates who have lived in the area for a bit.

One caveat of course, is that finding good roommates really comes down to luck. Overall, I have been extremely lucky with the people I lived with. If you are looking for roommates, I would start with local Facebook groups. Personally, I used Craigslist, and only had good experiences.

How to make friends in a new city

9. Take classes

Why not kill two birds with one stone? Participating in classes is a great way to make friends in a new city. On top of that, you will learn something new! What makes this a really good way to meet new people is that you can choose classes based on things that you like to do and therefore, meet people that have similar interests.

This is quite important as, at first, there is a chance that, as you will be looking to meet people early on, you may find people that you get along with really well but that may not have the same interests and hobbies as you. By attending these classes, you are more likely to find people that enjoy the same things as you.

10. Be proactive

This is going to be the scary part, but if you want to meet new people, the best way to do so is to be proactive and not wait for people to come to you. You might need to take the first step. So don’t overthink it and embrace the possibility of rejection. Introduce yourself, whether it is at an event or through an app, ask to meet, organize events or just reach out.

Chances are that people you will see at events and on social networks will also be open to meeting new people. So be the instigator. All the hard work and struggle will eventually pay off. And if you are doubting it at the moment, just remember everything that you will gain from getting out of your comfort zone.

I’ve always felt lucky to be living in this digital era. It makes it a lot easier to meet people and connect when you are in a new environment. I can’t even imagine having to do that without social medias and all the apps available today.

So be patient and keep at it. I am hoping that these tips work for you as much as they did for me!


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