How to make friends in a new city
Tips on finding a new community
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We’ve all been the new person before, and it can be lonely. You could befriend your property manager or the professionals from the moving company, but it’s in your best interest to find people with similar hobbies and passions.
You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re all moved in and ready to find your people, keep reading for a list of some practical tips and tricks to help you make friends in a new city.
- Strong social networks are known to reduce the risk of mental health disorders.
- Try taking advantage of social media and online platforms to meet new people — but also prioritize your safety.
- Building relationships is crucial to adapting, creating stability and familiarizing yourself with the new area when entering a new environment.
The importance of social connections
As stated by the Mayo Clinic, “Adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index.”
In 2020, many of us experienced what it was like to lose connection. Countries imposed self-isolation mandates in order to keep people safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, but one downside was the effect on people’s social well-being — according to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 49% of adults experienced social anxiety when faced with the return to in-person activities after coming out of quarantine.
But humans are naturally social creatures who need companionship in order to thrive. The many months of self-isolation were challenging for many, so it’s important now more than ever to prioritize building (or rebuilding) relationships and engaging in social time; it not only enhances mental health but also serves as an antidote against stress, anxiety and depression.
Some of the psychological and emotional benefits of having a social network include:
- Provides emotional support: During challenging times, it’s helpful to have people in your corner to share your feelings with — without the fear of being judged. Having trustworthy people in your life can alleviate stress and help you cope.
- Reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation: Interacting with others and cultivating healthy social connections offers a sense of belonging and support, which helps eliminate “imposter syndrome.”
- Increases self-esteem: Social connection contributes to a person’s sense of validation and self-worth. Having positive interactions and getting feedback from friends is a big confidence booster and promotes a healthy self-perception.
- Improves mental and physical health: Having a strong social network is linked to improved health. Being surrounded by people who have a meaningful impact on your life can bring stability and lower the risk of mental health disorders.
Relationships (both platonic and romantic) provide a sense of stability, belonging and familiarity and can help you navigate the challenges of unfamiliar surroundings.
Whether you’re starting a new job, attending a new school or just relocating for fun, it can be challenging to acclimate. That’s why it's important to gravitate toward people who share your values and interests and who can assist you in adapting to your new home.
» NEED TO NEST? How to unpack after moving
Tips for finding a community
Finding a group of people you click with may be challenging, but rest assured that building meaningful relationships takes time — patience and perseverance are key to building a healthy social network.
» TACKLE THE PRACTICAL STUFF FIRST: 11 things to do when moving into a new house
Here are some tips for finding the right community for you:
1. Explore the city and try new things
It’s important to go out on your own and explore what the city has to offer (e.g., local attractions and niche events). Familiarizing yourself with the area can also open up opportunities for meeting new people and making friends.
Try walking to a happening part of downtown, joining a Pilates group or attending a painting class at a nearby art studio. Engaging in the local area’s events gives you a chance to connect with like-minded individuals who share your passions and curiosities.
2. Use your phone
Nowadays, there are countless social media platforms geared toward connecting people from all over the world. Whether you’re aiming to make friends or find a date, there’s an app for that.
A word of caution, though: This approach may be quicker and more efficient than the old-school way of meeting people, but it’s important to be careful when interacting online; not everyone is who they say they are.
Prioritize your privacy and safety, and remember it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Fortunately, many of these platforms let users pay to verify their identity, which can be helpful in navigating the sites for real-life people. However, trusting your instincts and keeping an eye out for red flags is vital to staying safe online.
3. Find a job, find friends
Almost everyone has to work to live, but work can also be one of the best places to meet people and find a strong community. According to a study by Gettysburg College, the average person spends 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime. Since about one-third of your life is spent at work, getting along with your co-workers and other professional connections is important.
Workplace relationships and friendships are slightly different to navigate than those of the outside world, of course — professionalism and respect for each other’s boundaries are hugely important here. Be aware of office dynamics and ensure your friendships don’t negatively impact your work or others’ perception of your professionalism.
Below are some tips to make the most of company gatherings:
- Be open and approachable
- Smile and make eye contact to encourage others to engage with you. Try not to clique up with the people you already know; make an effort to connect with new people you rarely get to speak with.
- Engage in conversation
- And don’t make it about you. Strike up conversations with people, asking them questions about their interests, projects they’re working on or their experience on the job. Be quick to listen and slow to speak — above all, show genuine interest.
- Follow up and maintain connections
- “If they don’t text me first, I won’t text them first” is a big no-no. Be the initiator. Stay connected with people by following through with plans both in and outside of work. Be the first to invite a co-worker to coffee or lunch. If you don’t do it first, who will?
Building and nurturing relationships
It’s one thing to find friends and build relationships, but it’s another to nurture those connections. For some of us, the latter is more difficult.
Here are some tips on nurturing a healthy relationship:
- Be authentic: It’s important to be true to yourself and show genuine interest in others. Being open, honest and vulnerable when interacting with people you trust is the start of a healthy and authentic relationship.
- Show kindness and respect: Be considerate of people’s feelings, opinions and boundaries. Take the time to listen, and do so actively. Giving someone your full attention when interacting is vital in maintaining a relationship.
- Invest time and effort: Any relationship requires time and effort. Be the first to reach out to plan something — this shows you value the relationship and make it a priority. Also, know that no relationship is perfect, and problems may come up. When they do, practice forgiveness and apologize when necessary. Being flexible and understanding is key to the durability of relationships.
- Be supportive: Be your friend’s cheerleader. Support and encourage them by celebrating their successes. Offer constructive criticism when needed, but also be there to lend an ear.
Overcoming challenges and rejection
Remember: Rejection is a part of life, but it doesn’t define you. If you encounter rejection when pursuing new friendships, remind yourself that everyone faces rejection at some point. It might be easier said than done, but try not to take it personally. Maintain a positive attitude and self-image and avoid internalizing rejection; who knows what any given person is looking for in a friend.
There are sure to be good and bad days in your search for a community, but it’s crucial to treat yourself with compassion. Understand that it’s normal to face setbacks, and know that these roadblocks can be learning opportunities rather than failures.
Can I still make friends in a new city if I'm naturally introverted?
Of course! Introverts are very much capable of making friends in a new city. Make the best of social media and use dating or friend-making apps to connect with others without the stress of an immediate face-to-face interaction. Find things you like to do, and then you’ll most likely find people who enjoy the same activities.
How can I balance work commitments and still have time to make friends?
Be intentional and prioritize what’s important to you. Manage your time by keeping a digital calendar of all your social and work activities, and don’t take on more than you can handle. Also, set boundaries for yourself between work and personal life — try to limit both after-hours work and excessive socializing during work hours.
What do I do if I'm not making friends as quickly as I'd hoped?
It’s important to stay positive and understand these things take time. Don’t give up — try a new activity or initiate a conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally approach. Sometimes we’re the ones holding ourselves back from potential friendships.
How can I identify and avoid potentially unhealthy or toxic friendships?
Watch out for red flags and trust your gut when you first notice them. If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Be observant of people and notice how they treat others because that’s likely how they’ll treat you.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- Mayo Clinic, “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your help.” Accessed June 13, 2023.
- American Psychological Association, “Stress In America: One Year Later, A New Wave of Pandemic Health Concerns.” Accessed June 13, 2023.
- Gettysburg College, “One third of your life is spent at work.” Accessed June 20, 2023.
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