There’s no other way to say it… finding your place in a new city can be tough. Really tough. When Kyle and I moved to Columbia last summer, we suddenly found ourselves fourteen hours and a time zone away from our closest friends and family. I work from home, too, so for those first few months, I would go days (and sometimes weeks) without having physical contact with anyone other than Kyle. After reality set in that we weren’t moving home anytime soon, I started to feel depressed. If you know my personal story, you know that I’m no stranger to depression. I’ve learned over the past few years that prioritizing my mental health is both vital to my livelihood and oftentimes extremely uncomfortable. I needed to suck up my introverted pride and make some gosh darn friends.
Finding friends wasn’t easy, but it completely shifted my mindset about living in the midwest. I feel healthier, more energetic, and all-around happier for the first time in a while. So, I wanted to put together a guide to making friends in a new city for anyone else struggling with loneliness or depression. Whether you’re an introvert, you work from home, or you’ve given up hope on finding companionship in your new city, I promise these ten tips will help you if you’re willing to put the effort in. In addition to what has worked for me personally, I asked a few of my closest friends, all of which have experienced feeling lonely in a new city, for their best social tips, too. Keep reading for all ten!
1. Reach Out on Social Media
We live in a digital age, and it’s becoming harder and harder to meet people organically. This is where Instagram and other social media sites actually come in handy. Search your city’s hashtag or location and message people you’re potentially interested in meeting up with. If direct messaging makes you uncomfortable, like or comment on some of their photos and work up to a DM. I met one of my closest friends in Columbia this way. As a new Missourian herself, she saw that I was also new to Missouri and took the initiative to message me on Instagram. We set up a time to grab drinks, showed up, and have been friends ever since.
Mash Elle, one of my closest friends who frequently jumps back and forth between Florida and Ontario to maintain Canadian citizenship, also recommends reaching out on social media if you’re feeling lonely in a new city. “I have to force myself to go out and be social because I’m super introverted. It’s especially important for single girls!”
Giving back has many positive effects, one of which is potentially meeting like-minded new friends with passions similar to yours. If you love animals, volunteer at an animal shelter. If you’re passionate about feeding the homeless, donate your time to a local soup kitchen. Not only will you make some new friends, you’ll be surrounding yourself with altruistic people who have generous hearts, which is never a bad crowd to run with.
Sarah MacLellan, my best friend and president of Sarah’s Charities, a non-profit organization in Washington DC devoted to ending homelessness, swears by the friendships made volunteering. After moving from Florida to fast-paced Washington DC, she met virtually all of her closest local friends while giving back. She says,”It was all through volunteering… and not just with the homeless population but through the arts and community programs.”
3. Join a Club
Joining clubs is another easy, non-threatening way to meet new people. Whether it’s a book club, community sports team (dodgeball is always a good time!), running group, or a non-profit organization like the Junior League, surround yourself with friends who have similar interests. Also, although it’s definitely more beneficial in bigger cities, MeetUp is a great option for finding groups!
4. Set Up Casual Coffee Dates
When it comes to making friends in a new city, putting forth the effort is key. If you meet someone you like, ask for their contact information and suggest a quick follow-up friend date like coffee or a drink after work. Ashley Brooke Nicholas, my best friend who moved across the country to Los Angeles for five years, suggests, “When you meet someone you like, schedule a time to meet up like for coffee or whatever immediately. And make it a priority to go. Following each other on social media and saying you’re gonna meet up doesn’t work.”
5. Get a Dog
If you’re experiencing depression after moving to a new city, getting a dog can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Nala, our new golden retriever puppy, has enriched our lives in so many ways, specifically in the social aspect. Not only is she an incredible companion, Kyle and I joke around all the time about how much nicer people are when you have a puppy. With all your daily walks and trips to the dog park, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you become a part of the dog community without even trying.
Also, puppy obedience classes are awesome for meeting new friends! We enrolled Nala in two classes at the Canine Sports Center of Columbia and have since hung out with three other puppy parents (and even puppy sat one of their dogs!) outside of class. When we hang out, we’re happy and our puppies are happy. It’s the best possible combination.
6. Ask Mutual Friends for Help
Just about everyone has felt lonely in a new city at some point in their adult lives. If you’re struggling or feeling depressed, turn to existing friends or coworkers for help. Ask to be included in their next game night or happy hour meet-up. You can also ask them to set you up on friend dates! Ashley Brooke Nicholas says, “If you have a friend in common, ask them to go with you if you feel weird or anxious about [meeting up].” This helps break the ice and gets rid of any pressure to schedule a follow-up friend date if y’all aren’t meshing.
If you work from home and don’t know anyone in your current city (I’ve been there!), ask friends and family back home if they know any nearby acquaintances. Worst case scenario, they can provide you with an email or social media handle to connect you via cyberspace.
7. Go to Community Events
Community events are an ideal (and usually free) place for meeting new people! Check out your city’s local events guide and pick one new event to attend every month. Whether it’s a festival, concert, farmer’s market, art show, or whatever, overcome your introverted tendencies for one hour and try talking to some new people. If things go horribly wrong, you probably won’t have to see anyone there again. There’s literally no pressure, and you can just be yourself.
8. Be a Good Neighbor
When I first moved, I was desperate for friends… so desperate that I Googled “how to make friends in a new city.” I bookmarked this great article from Greatist, and one of its main takeaways was to be a good neighbor, which is something I never really considered before. Greatist recommends, “Outside of personal interests, work, and school, the next easiest place to find friends is your neighborhood. Smile and say hi to your neighbors in the laundry room, at the mailbox, or as you both carry groceries from the parking garage.” You probably won’t be best friends with everybody (especially not with the obnoxious neighbor who plays his music too loud), but you can spark some really genuine friendships this way.
9. Meet Up with Fellow Solopreneurs
If you’re feeling lonely in a new city and you work from home, it really feels like the deck is stacked against you. Without making a conscious effort, you can keep yourself in solitary confinement for weeks. Especially if you’re naturally introverted, fight the urge to stay in your safe space and expand the scope of your office. Whether the solution is to rent a co-working space or work from a coffee shop two days a week, it’s incredibly helpful to be around fellow solopreneurs. Once you’re acquainted enough to exchange phone numbers, coordinate one or two days a week to work together.
10. Commit to a Weekly Gym Class
Another effective friend-making tip I picked up from Greatest is to go to the same weekly workout class. “People who prioritize fitness automatically have a mutual interest as well as similar personality traits.” Not only will you see familiar faces week after week, you’ll have opportunities to chat before and after class. Even if it’s just quick banter with your instructor, a simple “tough class this week!” or “what other classes do you recommend?” can go a long way!
So, if you’re experiencing depression after moving to a new city, please know that you’re not alone. There are dozens of lifelong friends to be made– you may just need to do some digging to find them. Also, if you ever need someone to talk to, feel free to shoot me an email absolutely anytime!