One of my biggest sources of anxiety, when I moved to North Carolina, was figuring out how to make friends as a thirty-something. I was warned that it will take me at least a couple of years to build up a social life. That idea terrified me. Living in Austin for seventeen years helped me grow a rich life filled with wonderful people. I couldn’t imagine living in a new place and only knowing one person forty-five minutes away. So how do you make new friends when you move to a new city?
It’s almost been two years now and I’m relieved to report that I’ve found my a cozy circle of wonderful humans to share life and french fries with. I’ve been asked for advice by a few people who are anticipating big moves how I did it. So here are a few tips to help you make friends!
1. Be Lonely in Public
When you move to a new city, surrounded by many new and unfamiliar things, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and intimidated. And when we’re overwhelmed and intimidated, it’s also easy to hide and get cozy on your couch with Netflix. Try to push yourself to leave your home at least once. If you have a conventional job, you’re already one step ahead of where I was! Because I did not have a conventional work, I relied on making myself leave my cozy new apartment and find coffee shops. To do my work in public. It was not easy. I whined in public too. See below.
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Today was my first full day as a resident of #NorthCarolina and boy was I feeling homesick already. I actually cried when a coffee barista asked me how I was doing (hi @native_beachbum!). 😂 I’ve always sucked at small talk. I knew it was going to be hard uprooting my life but knowing and feeling are two different things. Anyway, tomorrow’s goals are to unpack some more and instagram something delicious from my new cities. For now here are donuts from #Austin, gifted by Austin friends. 🍩💕 #lindaeatsaustin
2. Say “Yes” Often
“…but if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.â€– Daniel Handler, author of Lemony Snicket
While you’re out and about in your new hometown, whether it’s at your new job or making small talk with a barista, you may receive friendly casual invitations. Only, it may not feel casual to you because socializing with strangers can feel so daunting. I challenge you to say yes more. You’re going to want to stay home where it’s cozy and safe. But say yes. Go to that event. You’re even allowed to leave after only eating a few deviled eggs and feeling defeated that you didn’t have meaningful conversations. You get credit for the effort! But do try to make that effort.
When I posted that sad donut Instagram post, a kind local food Instagrammer commented and invited me to a coffee and churros with his friends. I forced myself to go despite my fear and sadness over missing my friends in Texas, and now he’s one of my favorite people in North Carolina. You never know!
3. Find Events on Your Own
If the invitations are slow to come, take matters into your own hands! Find a Meetup that aligns with your interests. There’s one for everything! I once walked by a bar with about 50 French Bulldogs frolicking. Turns out it was a French Bulldog Owner Meet-Up! Literally, there’s a Meet-Up for everyone. For me, I joined Rising Tide Society and Creative Morning, Both of these organizations are also active in Texas but I never considered joining until I was lonely in a new state. I’m so glad I did!
4. Search Local Hashtags for Likeminded Locals
This is especially useful if you are a blogger or Instagrammer. Stalk the local hashtags of your town to find likeminded people you can engage with. I found many of my NC friends first on Instagram. You can also use hashtags to find events as well! Follow businesses that align with your interests on the off chance they host events.
5. Make it a Goal
I’m so goal-oriented and can move out of inaction by framing desires as goals. Instead of just wanting friends, I framed it into actionable steps. For me, that manifested as striving to meet at least two people for lunch every single week. See if you can make it a task to check off your list. It can be simple small goals like introducing yourself to someone you don’t know at an event and exchanging contact information.
Finally, please don’t be discouraged if you don’t find new friends right away.
Moving to a new city is a stressful and emotional transition. Take breaks. Be sad and mourn your old life. But keep going. You can do it!
What tips do you have on making friends in a new town? What worked for you?â €
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