Making friends gives our lives more meaning.
Friendship gives us a pillar or lighthouse in the world so when we get a little lost, we always know how to make our way back.
But most of us only passively make those friends. We’re friends with the kids we grew up with or the people we work with. In fact, 72% of people1 live in or near their hometown their entire lives. So we fall into casual relationships that occasionally turn into deeper relationships due to proximity.
This is part of the reason it’s hard to meet people and make new friends in a new city. You never approached making friends with any intentionality.
Living in a new city, you don’t have the old habits or your favorite spots to rely on.
But that’s a good thing. You’re in the perfect position to lean into your discomfort and establish a new group of people that become lifelong friends. This article will show you how.
How to make friends in a new city
The word of the day is ‘comfort zone’. If you want to make new friends, you’re going to have to confront that panicked feeling you get when you butt up against your former comfort zone. You are forging new patterns in your brain.
Now not all new relationships will work and you’ll have to learn to recognize the signs (more on that here). But, you’ll be far more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment the more you put yourself out there.
1. Build intentional relationships
Many people never approach friendships with the intentionality of building lasting relationships.
Instead, it goes more like: Meet person, relate to person over complaints or similar interests, hope it works out.
This is why you’ll find very successful people that feel lonely. But it doesn’t have to be this way for you. You can be intentional about building your social life and cultivating strong friendships.
Deciding the type of friendships you want to build also helps you identify when you’ve made the wrong connections.
Start by identifying your ideal friendship.
Answer these questions:
- What kind of life do you want to build?
- How do you want your relationships to feel? (exciting, heartfelt, deep, etc)
- What makes for a good friend? What things would strike you as bad friendship behavior? (What are your boundaries?)
After writing the answer to these questions, go through your list of old friends and decide if they are casual or proximity friendships, friendships to build on, or people you can grow toward your ideal life with.
Then set out to meet people. Learning to make friends as an adult doesn’t have to be difficult, but it will take actual effort on your part.
2. Start conversations about the area
Since most people never leave their hometown, chances are you’ll run into someone that knows the area very well. Strike up conversations with shop owners, neighbors, or people standing in line.
Ask about their hobbies or what people in the area do for fun. Also, get a little bold and invite them to come along with you.
Making a plan to get to know the city is an easy and interesting excuse to get together.
3. Confront your fear of rejection
There’s this guy named Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof, that was so afraid of rejection that he went on a 100-day rejection challenge. The challenge was to help take away his fear of doing what was necessary to grow his business. You can use Jia’s technique to make new friends.
While building new connections, get used to the idea that people will say no, or just completely ghost you. But don’t take it too personally.
Here’s an unpopular opinion: celebrate when people reject you. It gives you an easy out and saves you the time you’d otherwise spend on friend-making activities with people who aren’t a good match.
Think of it as your get-out-of-jail-free card.
Remember, you’re in a small segment of people that venture away from home to live in a new town. Whether for a new job or a sense of adventure, that’s going to push you to confront your comfort zone.
Luckily, your fear of rejection usually only exists in your mind.
4. Hack your network
Your old friends and friends of friends can be a pathway to new friendships.
Reach out to people and ask if they know anyone in your area. Then ask them to make a connection.
Don’t wait for that person to reach out to you. People have good intentions but they get busy or life just happens. Be the one that takes that first step.
Warning: making friends is an active process. Don’t get comfortable only spending time with people you know. You’ll find yourself in stagnant relationships years later and having to start all over again.
Moving to a new city gives you the momentum and excitement of a new beginning that’s hard to duplicate. Just like New Year’s Day, you can use it to push yourself or let it go the way of the dodo.
5. Start a new hobby
As a part of this “making friends” series, I recently posted an article on hobbies to make new friends. So, I’ll be covering the basics here. If you’re looking to meet women, I created a framework for starting hobbies to meet women. Check it out.
Hobbies can open you up to new social circles and people you may not have connected with otherwise. The key is choosing social hobbies. You can have a hobby like video gaming only if you actually go out and meet people.
I’m talking more about hobbies with enthusiast groups. Mountain biking for example attracts many people from all walks of life and mountain bikers are generally a friendly bunch. Recreational sports teams are usually a good bet to make friends with other common interests.
Look for activities with meet-up groups and local online forums.
Hobbies to make great friends fall into these categories:
- New to you
6. Say “yes” to everything
Say yes to everything…within reason. Avoid illegal or morally inept activities. Saying yes to things expands your mind and your experiences in ways you wouldn’t normally come across. It also has the added benefit of increasing your confidence and aids in helping you become a more interesting person.
One way to do this is through Facebook groups and using the Meetup app.
- Navigate to your dashboard
- Click on the Groups icon. This is usually at the top or left side panel if they haven’t changed it again.
- Search for anything you’re interested in. Even “new to the area”
This helps you become an active instead of a passive user of social media. If you’re feeling froggy, search local spots on your IG like coffee shops or national parks that you’re interested in and connect with the interesting people that posted there last. Ask if you can tag along or get together on their next trip there.
The Meetup app is a great way to find local free and paid activities. This app was created for people looking to connect offline with others over similar interests. In these environments, finding friends is easier because meeting people is built into the concept.
7. Hack the way you made friends growing up
Growing up you made friends with the people you “got stuck with”. Often your best friend was the kid that lived closest to your bus stop. Use this to your advantage. Canvas your immediate environment for potential new connections.
Start with your coworkers or your neighbors right next door. This method is great for introverts because these are natural people that you come across in your routine. Pro tip: when you invite them somewhere, ask them to bring a friend.
In the bring-your-own-friend scenario, you don’t have to have stellar social skills and the pressure isn’t all on you to carry the conversations. You get to know two people and you get the chance to expand your new friend network.
If starting conversations with someone is your weak point, read my post on how to not be socially awkward. I think that’ll help.
Bottom line: get comfortable being uncomfortable
Your comfort zone is not your friend. It only serves as a signal of your personal growth.
To build new friendships in a new city:
- Get intentional about the relationships you want to build
- Start conversations with locals
- Make rejection your ally
- Reach out to your network to discover mutual connections
- Start a new social hobby
- Say ‘yes’ to new opportunities
- Ask new friends to bring a friend
Forging lasting friendships isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be painful. Try out the tips above and find the one that works best for you. You got this.
North American Movers: Why Americans Move https://www.northamerican.com/infographics/where-they-grew-up (accessed Sep 21, 2021) ↩