The Secret to Making Friends in a New City

If you've landed yourself in a brand new city without a single friend to accompany you, never fear. Here are seven tried-and-true ways to make friends in a new city, which I've gathered from casting my own roots in New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle.
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Your landlord has given you the keys. You've driven or flown or sailed or ski-doo'ed triumphantly into this new city that you'll be calling home. Your moving boxes are brimming with your most essential belongings. You've brought along clothes, furniture, books, photos, friends...


You didn't bring any friends.

If you've landed yourself in a brand new city without a single friend to accompany you, never fear. Here are seven tried-and-true ways to make friends in a new city, which I've gathered from casting my own roots in New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle.

1. Get out of the house.

This may seem self-evident, but sometimes when you're in a new place, there's comfort in staying nestled inside, free from awkward interactions on street corners or GPS mishaps that land you in the Bronx instead of Brooklyn in the dead of night. (Hey, it's happened to me at least.)

But it's essential that you do as much as you can outside the walls of your home. Read a book at a coffee shop. Eat at a restaurant instead of hauling take-out back to your place. Join a gym instead of exercising around your living room to workout videos on YouTube. Out in the world is where you'll have your first incidental conversations, start to recognize people who have the same routine as you, and even get your first invite. And when you do...

2. Say yes. To everything.

When I moved to New York City, I knew hardly anyone. But I was intentional about making friends. I said yes to every invite (within reason to my safety). When a friend said she knew someone who knew someone who was hosting a game night, I jumped at the chance to go. When a cute guy in the curtain aisle of Bed Bath & Beyond asked me out for a drink, I said, "Sangria, please!" When my coworkers invited me to join their volleyball team, even though the last time I'd played was in gym class 20 years prior, you better believe I signed up. At first, these invites were just welcome breaks from lonely nights in my new place. But eventually, they turned into friends.

3. Follow your bliss.

There are naturally activities that you'll enjoy more than others, and this is likely where your tribe exists. In your efforts to get out of the house, try to invest in activities that you'll truly relish. If painting is your thing, go to a local art class. If you're a dog lover, volunteer at an animal shelter. If there's something that you've always wanted to try, but have been hesitant about, now is the time. Anonymity is actually a wonderful gift, because in a new city, no one will even know if you make a fool of yourself trying something that you've always been curious about.

4. When you connect with someone, nurture that relationship.

Eventually, as a newfound social butterfly, you'll cross paths with someone whom you feel a deeper connection with. It could be just an inkling -- hey, there's something I like about this person. Or it could be an instant aha moment -- I've found my new best friend and I just know it.

Whatever it may be, nurture that instinct. Now it's your turn to extend an invite. Suggest the two of you get coffee. Meet for happy hour. Take a yoga class together. Heck, even request to be Facebook friends and ease into messaging there. The process of strangers turning into friends is a unique and beautiful one, and it grows from respecting a relationship enough to cultivate it when the right one comes along.

5. Grow your circle.

The great thing about finding someone whom you really connect with is that they probably have a dozen other like-minded friends you will also enjoy. Don't underestimate the power of one friend turning into another, and another, and a whole friend circle. Seek opportunities to meet your friend's extended group when the time is right. It could become your own.

6. Be confident.

Hey, very few people have gotten through life knowing the exact same folks throughout. Nearly everyone has been an outsider at some point, while walking into a party alone or scanning the cafeteria for a familiar face. So there's no reason not to walk into a room with your head held high. If these people knew you, they would love you. They just haven't had the chance yet.

7. Follow the golden rule.

Once you realize that everyone has been the lone wolf once or twice (now including yourself), you'll discover a new appreciation for those people who go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. Be that person; be an includer. If you see someone who looks like they may be new around town, welcome them. If someone is straddling the edge of a conversation circle, take a step back so that they're welcomed in. Be gracious when people extend those first invites. Keep your commitments. Be someone whom others would want to know and introduce around town.

. . .

The period of making friends in a new city knows no specific timeframe. Sometimes it takes weeks; more often, it takes months or even years. And all of that is O.K. The important thing to remember is that eventually, if you're diligent about putting these principles into practice, you will find your people. You'll connect with friends that make a city so much more than just a city -- that make it a home.

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