Grow Your Own: Making Friends in New Cities
Don’t forget to turn off the utilities. Don’t forget to return your keys to your landlord. Stuff all your worldly possessions into a car or truck, and drive to a new neighborhood, a new city, a new state, or a new country.
Unfortunately, the one thing we typically can’t take with us to our new home is our friends. We might know people at our final destination. But we might not.
Life outside of our hometown or college friend circles can be lonely. We might feel isolated and homesickness might set in. But growing one of your own circles is a challenge well worth the effort. We need friendships to feel whole as a person. Personally, I also find it necessary to have friends outside of work to have a good work-life balance.
One way to begin finding friends is to tap into your interests to find like-minded people. What are your passions? Are you interested in the environment, 1960s French movies, punk rock, or classical art? Find activities in your area that cater to these interests. Be willing to drive or travel to unfamiliar parts of your new city. Search for local activities online. Keep an open mind, or perhaps, low expectations so you are not too disappointed. But remember, no experience is in vain.
If you have hobbies, try to transfer them to your new locale even if it means taking a hit in the quality area. For example, if you’re a dancer, and the area to which you’ve moved doesn’t have as talented of a dance scene, be willing to help give back and teach others. Explore old hobbies that you previously abandoned.
Try new activities. If you move to a town where a certain activity is popular, give it a shot, even if it’s outside of your wheelhouse! Take a chance by going to seminars and conventions. Find out about these on online local forums, reading signs in local shops.
At any of these, don’t just ingest the information and return home. Connect with others by talking about the topic at hand or be blunt about why you’re there.
Finally, the reaction I usually get when people my ask about my weekly calendar is that they “could never do that”. I’m a swing dancer, so I dance with strangers. I signed up to play on a kickball team where I knew no one. I did online dating in my new city. I registered for classes in interesting topics. I don’t consider myself an extrovert, but being honest (sometimes even honest about my nervousness about meeting new people), curious, and “myself” helps me branch out towards others.
If possible, confront your personal social anxieties by practicing talking to a new person every day. Sometimes a new friendship can simply come from making a positive or curious comment about someone’s shoes, hair, or other visible characteristic.
It’s not easy to create or grow your own friend circle, but it can be done with time. Be patient with yourself, and diligent with staying in touch with others. The more people you meet and begin to get to know, the bigger (or, if you don’t want a bigger circle, the more authentic) your circle will grow. Soon one of your most treasured possessions in your new city will be your friends.