Moving to a new city can be pretty intimidating. Most people made friends in school, when you practically had to go out of your way to not make some BFFs. Unfortunately, it’s rare for people to actually know how to make friends. It just happens, right?

Even if you don’t move, it’s likely that one day you’ll wake up and realize that your friends have married off, had babies, and left the city. You might have a ton of friends, but you still have no one to go out with on a Friday night.

Making friends doesn't just happen Click To Tweet

Making friends doesn’t just happen. Well, sometimes it can, just like you might just meet the love of your life randomly. That’s not how it happens for most of us, though. Luckily, there are certain things you can do to make it happen.

How to make friends as an adult

First, you have to be proactive. It can seem really awkward to try to get people to be friends with you, but it’s one of those things that only seems awkward if you make it awkward. Even if you’re going to be super shy about it, that’s fine as long as you’re ready to do things to make sure you get out of the house and interact with people on the regular.

Before you sign up for Bumble BFF, you probably want to do a little soul searching.

  • Are you looking for friends who will be there with you in the retirement home or are you just looking to have some new drinking buddies?
  • What does friendship mean to you? What do you want to do with friends?
  • How much face time do you need in a friendship? Are your close friends enough to sustain you from afar, or will you find yourself longing for meaningful conversations and connections in-person?

Obviously, no matter how much you may hit it off with a new friend, building a deep friendship still takes time. You can start things today, but it’ll take time to grow your social network into what you want it to be.

How to make new friends as an adult Click To Tweet

How to meet people

The first order of business is meeting people. Maybe you’ll become lifelong friends with the first few people you meet, but more likely you’ll end up as acquaintances as you develop a social circle over time. That’s totally okay! Don’t hang out with people who you actively dislike, but this is the time to give people the benefit of the doubt just so you can get out of the house.

Magic words: I just moved here

There’s one time in life when it’s okay to be a friendless loser with no plans, ever. That time is when you just moved to a city.

Milk that for all it’s worth. As soon as you meet someone, mention that you’re new and don’t really know anyone. This will get you invites to things you would never otherwise be invited to. Everyone remembers being new in town and lots of people will exchange contact information and be much more likely to invite you out with them and their friends.

This also makes it way more socially acceptable to awkwardly fish for an invite. It’s not that you’re a total weirdo with no social skills, it’s because you’re new! Roll with it.

Fishing for an invite is easy. When someone mentions doing something cool, just say “That sounds really fun, I’d love to join you next time!”

How to make plans with a stranger

Photo by Mark Cruz on UnsplashAre you one of those people who chats with someone on Tinder for three weeks before you go out? You’re going to need some guidance on how to actually make plans to hang out.

The way to make plans is to suggest something concrete.

“Want to hang out sometime?” gets you a vague answer. “I was thinking of checking out Kensington Market for the next Pedestrian Sunday, want to come with me?” results in actually hanging out. Lots of times I’ve had people say they already have plans at that time and then invite me along with their friends. Score!

Don’t panic if someone says they’re busy. It’s okay to invite someone out twice — or even three times — before you give up. The key is reaching out, rather than sitting at home like a loser waiting for someone to invite you to something.

It can be tough to come up with activities when you’re new to a city, but that’s what you’re going to have to do. Check out the local event listings. Think of cool neighborhoods you want to explore. Find a list of bars or restaurants that sound cool.

Ridiculous things I’ve done that strangers were happy to join me for:

  • Weird art performances, especially when they’re free
  • Trying every taco/doughnut/barbecue/gelato place in a city
  • Street festivals
  • Free museum nights
  • Lectures at local universities, museums, and libraries

Even if you can’t get someone to join you, you’ve just come up with something cool to do.

Meeting people by having a routine

Lots of people will suggest that you meet people by just going to the same coffee shop or bar and becoming a regular. This, however, only works if you’re the type of person who talks to strangers at bars and coffee shops. And, let’s be honest, if you’re that person you’re not reading this post about how to make friends.

Becoming friends with people feels organic when you see people week after week and have some reason to interact with each other. So before you throw down a bunch of money on cocktails, think about what sort of things you could do that would involve hanging out with the same people on the regular that you would actually enjoy.

Who do you want to be friends with? What do those people do?

This might be signing up for a class at a gym or the local community center. It might be volunteering, assuming it’s on a project where you’d be working with the same people. It might be joining a food or bike co-op or joining a CSA.

Lots of times these things aren’t set up in a way that helps people become friends. If it’s not working for you, don’t feel bad! There’s a reason that sometimes I take a class and we’re all hanging out by the end of the semester and sometimes we’ve finished without speaking a word to each other out of class. It depends so much on the environment. If it’s not the right environment to meet new people and actually become friends with them, find something else.

Where to meet people

It’s a little awkward to email a vague acquaintance to say you just moved to their city and suggest you get beers, but it’s totally socially acceptable and it totally works. Search Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever app the kids are using these days, and see who you know in town. Reach out to them. If they don’t answer, oh well. If they do, awesome!

This is how to turn that kid you barely know from third grade into your new drinking buddy.

You can also post on Facebook — or talk to your friends individually — asking them to introduce you to anyone they might know in your new city. Friends of friends come pre-vetted.

Don’t forget to talk to your neighbors. Sure, we all know those people who will rush inside and slam the door when they see someone in the hallway. Don’t be that person. Your success rate depends a lot on the vibe of the building, but don’t we all dream of having friends next door? Chase after your dreams.

Even if you can afford to live without roommates, having roommates for your first few months in a city can be a great way to make friends.

I’m a big fan of getting involved in neighborhood organizations to meet people. Sometimes they can be super hostile to newcomers (read: the entirety of New York City), but other places are happy for someone to have intentionally chosen their city.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of CouchSurfing. The events are different in every city, but they’re almost always a great way to meet people. You might think that people at a CouchSurfing meetup are all travelers, but it’s usually a mix of people who just signed up before a big trip, people who just went through a breakup, and people who are new in town. In my experience, if you show up early you meet cool people who want to make new friends (even if just while they’re in town as a tourist). If you show up after midnight, it becomes a hookup scene. Choose your arrival time with this in mind.

There’s also Bumble BFF and other apps that are specifically for making friends. If you’re intimidated by groups or the thought of walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation, this is the way to go.

Your new home and your old home

It can take some time to find the right balance of staying in touch with your friends from home and spending time with your new friends.

If you stay in every night to facetime with friends 600 miles away, you’ll never make new friends. If you go out drinking every night and ghost your old friends, you’ll regret it when the next big thing happens and you want to talk to someone who knows the backstory.

Remember that part of making friends is being a friend. I’m pretty terrible at lots of things in life, but the one thing I’m good at is showing up. Showing up for important events in your friends lives — and also silly everyday things — goes far. That might mean booking a flight home or it might just mean putting pants on when you’d kind of rather stay in.

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