Making friends as an adult is always a bit tricky. You can’t rely on the instant bonding powers of living in the same dorm or loathing the same chemistry teacher to create your social circle. People are super busy with jobs and relationships and kids. It seems like everyone is happily ensconced in their current friend group and not open to new members. Making new friends as an adult in a new city where you know no one is even trickier. But it’s not impossible! As a Nashville newbie myself, I’m still in the process of making friends. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way and some awesome tips collected from friends who have successfully done the whole “making friends in a new city” thing before…
1. Go on friend-of-friend setup dates. Unless you’re moving to, like, an isolated Alaskan village, someone you know will inevitably know someone in your city. Let them set up a casual coffee date for you and the mutual friend. Chances are only slightly greater that you’ll like them more than a random stranger, but still. It’s worth a shot!
2. Take a continuing ed class. You’ve always wanted to learn French or master the art of watercolor. Now’s the time to take that class — and maybe meet your new BFF in the process.
3. Say “yes.” When that cute barista invites you to his buddy’s concert, say yes. When the girl at the gym asks you to try Zumba with her, say yes. When your neighbor asks you to check out the happy hour down the street, say yes. When a creepy dude asks you to go for a ride in his van, say no. But really, when you’re looking to make friends, saying yes to any and every social opportunity just makes good sense.
4. Join a sports team or running club. Most cities have adult leagues that welcome newcomers, and even if your preferred workout isn’t a team sport (say, yoga), if you practice regularly at the same studio, you’re bound to meet some likeminded people.
5. Be bolder than usual. A couple months ago I had the BEST conversation with a girl in bathroom of a Taylor Swift concert, and I’m still kicking myself for not getting her contact info (Taylor Swift bathroom girl, if you’re reading this, EMAIL ME!). When you’re new, you’ve gotta learn to go out on a limb and take a risk. Just say, “hey this may be a little bit forward, but wanna go on a friend date sometime? I’m new here, so I’m putting myself out there.” Don’t be shy about asking for people’s numbers or email addresses.
6. Follow up. Being bold is nothing without following up. Pat yourself on the back for being brave enough to ask for their number or email and then actually use it. If they don’t get back to you, try one more time. Just know that as the new kid, it’s probably going to be your responsibility to make plans. So make plans. Own it, girl.
7. If you’re single, date date date. Dating widens your social circle. Even if things don’t work out with the guy, you might make a lasting connection with one of his female friends.
8. Find or create a professional community. If you’re a writer, seek out a writing group (or start one yourself!). If you’re a lawyer, attend networking events. Surrounding yourself with people in the same industry/profession is a great way to find common ground and make valuable connections.
9. Give everyone a chance. Even if you don’t think you have anything in common with someone, one hangout is always worth a shot. The worst case scenario is a couple awkward or boring hours. The best case scenario is a genuine connection. When you’re starting your social circle from scratch, you have to cast your net wide, and that includes taking some chances.
10. Go to cultural events. Art openings. Lectures. Concerts. Museum tours. Author readings. Festivals. Every city has stuff like this going on, and it’s often affordable or even free. Go forth and mingle. See what happens.
11. Hang out at the local “cool” coffee shop or bar. It’s a great place to hang out and meet other people who — wait for it — like to hang out at cool coffee shops and bars. Just sit there with a book and at some point there will be someone you want to talk to.
12. Use social media. A lot. When you meet someone you like, friend them on Facebook and let them know how nice it was to meet them. Send them a message telling them you’re excited to hang again since you’re new here and would love for them to show you some more cool places around town.
13. Talk to strangers. I know, I know, your dad would frown on this advice, but if you’re looking to expand your friend base, it really does help to chat with anyone and everyone. Who knows how many potential new friends are standing in line with you at the bakery?!
14. Volunteer. Choose a cause you feel passionate about and commit a few hours of your time to volunteering at a local nonprofit. You’ll feel good about yourself, help your community, and meet goodhearted people who feel passionate about the same things you do. Win-win-win!
15. Don’t get discouraged. Making new friends is a trial and error thing. You’re not going to hit it off with every single person you meet or hang out with, and that is totally fine. Try to make plans once or twice, but if the person flakes or seems disinterested, let it go and — this is key — don’t take it personally. Sometimes people are too busy to make new friends. Sometimes you’re not compatible. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. But don’t give up, because as the old saying goes (I’m paraphrasing): whatever sea you find yourself in, there are always plenty of friendly fish.
Any other tips you’d add to this list? Please share your friend-finding advice in the comments!