How to make friends in a new place
How to make friends!
Okay, friends. I never intended to write this post, but this question has come up so many times, whenever I ask for what you guys want to hear about. Several of you mentioned this in my blog-reader survey last month as well, and so I knew I needed to address it. It’s sort’ve a weird thing to write about to me, because it’s such an organic and natural thing that it’s hard to pinpoint the process. But then again, maybe that’s what makes it such a good topic after all.
And to be totally clear, I do not feel like an expert in this arena. I’ve had times where I’ve had too many friends to count (especially back in Florida, having grown up there and gone to college there, at one point, I remember telling Dave that I literally couldn’t handle another friend). And I’ve had times when I only had a few people I could really call close friends. But right now, being one year into living in a new place, I think I can tell you what’s worked for me, because I’m doing well in the friends department both with new and old friends. I’ve spent a lot of time with my new and old friends in the last year, and it’s been amazing. Friends are an important part of life, and you don’t need a huge circle to feel fulfilled.
But of course, as always, there’s a disclaimer on this post about how to make friends in a new place (or how to make friends any time, really): This is totally subjective. I’m telling you what I think and what has worked for me. But you have to figure out what works for you. And if you ever move to Charlotte, you can hang out with me in person! I like wine, cheesecake and group fitness — so hopefully you’ll join me for any of those three — maybe all three at the same time. 🙂
How to make friends in a new place
Before we begin this post, I have to say that the people I’ve met and become friends with in Charlotte are great people. They are so sweet, genuine and caring, and I’m so grateful for them. We haven’t had a long friendship yet, but boy do I have a good feeling about them for the long term. I feel so lucky to have found them.
I’ve had a lot of good friends in my life, but truthfully, I’ve also had friendships that ended, because I’ve felt like the friends weren’t who or what I had originally thought. And this happens. It’s okay to walk away from friendships when they aren’t serving you. But this post is about making friends, so let’s keep it positive.
And now for the tips …
Chat with people when you’re out and about, if it feels right. And get comfortable with the idea of talking to people you don’t know.
Okay, if you’re shy or an introvert, I know you don’t want to hear this. But if you want to make friends, you need to be open to talking to new people who you don’t already know. And you have to be open to feeling a little strange or awkward at first, because that’s totally normal.
How does this work?
If you take your child to the park, chat with the other parents there. If you are waiting for your drink at Starbucks next to someone, chat with them. Even just the practice of talking to people you don’t know (in a friendly, non-creepy, not-too-familiar way), will help you get better at talking to people you don’t know. And you never know where one conversation will lead.
I met one of my good friends here in Charlotte at the park, while she was playing with her daughter, and I was sitting on the side of the sandbox where Brady was playing. We didn’t talk long. But just enough. I saw her again at our neighborhood pool, and we chatted again and exchanged numbers. From there, we made plans to hang out. And ultimately, she invited me to a dinner that led to our current group of friends getting together. Thank goodness we chatted at the park that first day, when I may have otherwise kept to myself.
Side note: I think it’s important to call out that depending on where you live, this point could work or not. I know for a fact that in the San Francisco area, generally, it’s less common to talk to others that you don’t know. Here in Charlotte, it’s much more common to be friendly and chatty with people out and about. But you never know where a conversation may lead, even if it’s not the norm. That’s all I’m saying. You can’t have your head down and avoid eye contact with people out in public, if you’re in the market for meeting new folks.
Join a gym, studio, running group or recreational sport.
If you’re on the fence about whether to work out from home or join a gym or studio when you live in a new area, or when you’re looking for friends, I think the answer is clear. You can absolutely make friends at the gym, and I’ve made some friends at Life Time over the last year. I have also made friends at my previous gyms.
When you show up for an activity that someone else is showing up to participate in, you immediately have a shared interest — something you can bond over. But truthfully, the first few times you go to the gym or studio or class or game, you won’t feel a connection and will feel awkward. Then one day, if you keep going at the same times, to the same classes, you’ll decide to chat to someone after class about what you felt or were thinking. Or one day, you’ll overhear someone saying their child goes to the same school as yours. This is an entry to chat. And while you have to see people regularly before you should just launch in and ask for their phone number, you will begin to feel more connected as you continue to be at the same activity.
If a gym or studio isn’t in your budget or interest, you could look for running groups (you can usually find out about these at the local running shoe store), or you can join a recreational sports league, which is usually not very expensive.
Shared experiences are a huge launching point for friendship or even romantic relationships. And another point here: You don’t have to be good at a sport or in shape to be a part of these activities. You don’t win friends by being perfect, you earn them through conversation and trust.
Join the local Facebook moms or neighborhood chat group. Participate and look for meet-ups.
I’ve been in the local “moms” Facebook groups for both Charlotte and for the East Bay of San Francisco, and these are huge groups with a million posts a day. Oftentimes, these are posts where moms are asking for assistance, guidance or sympathy for things in life. But sometimes, people post activities and meet-up requests. And I know what you’re thinking … weird to meet up with people you meet on the internet. But, as long as you are safe and you meet in a public place with others around, I think it’s okay to meet people you met online.
I’m a little bit different in that I also have a blogging community, and I’ve absolutely met great friends online. Some of my friend I’ve had for many years I’ve met through the online world. These aren’t people I see everyday at all, but I can call them if I need something, and we do get to hang out in person every once in a while (hopefully in July, if I am able to attend the IDEA World Fitness Convention).
Just like it’s totally normal and common to meet significant others online, the same goes for friends. You can even use Instagram to search location tags of places you frequent and see if you can find people there (of course, these people need to have their profiles on public instead of private to connect with them). Throw out the weird factor for this and give it a try, if you aren’t finding that you’re meeting people in real life without online assistance.
Utilize your children, partner, church or neighborhood for connections.
If you have kids, you can try to meet their class-mates’ parents. If you have a husband, you can try to meet his co-workers’ wives. If you live in a neighborhood with a community common area, you can meet people that way. Sometimes there are great friends just under your nose, but you haven’t thought to make the first step to meet them.
I’ve totally lucked out that most of my friends in my new group here live in the exact same neighborhood. It’s a huge neighborhood, but we have that common connection, and thus we quickly came together. Most of us even joined our local country club, which has given us another way to hang out — although most of our hanging out happens outside of the country club, to be honest. I wanted to mention that point, because if there is some sort of a club near you, it could be an excellent way to meet people.
Take people up on their offer to introduce you and connect you to others. And ask people to connect you, if they haven’t offered.
Have you ever had someone say that they know someone you may like and they want to introduce you? I bet you have. Usually, we thank that person who wants to do the introducing and then we brush it off and never plan to move forward with it. I’ve done this brushing off before too.
But let me tell you this: I’ve met a very good friend via Facebook messenger, because one of our mutual acquaintances introduced us online, via messenger. Truth. It was totally weird. I was skeptical. I wanted to meet people when I first moved to San Francisco, and so did she, so we took the conversation from Facebook messenger, to text, finally, to in person. And years later, we’re still great friends. And we’ve both since left California for the East Coast.
This is how friendships happen. They take time. They can start out awkward. But if there is a little spark or connection, they can totally turn into a great relationship over time. If you know someone who knows someone who may want to make a friend, there’s a built in connection already, so go for it.
Continually put yourself out there by saying yes to activities and invitations. And know that it takes effort and work to build relationships.
Here’s a personal story and example from this: The first time I was about to go to dinner with my current group of neighborhood girlfriends, who make up my circle in Charlotte, I had second thoughts about it all day. It was a Tuesday. I had a lot going on. I remember saying to Dave, “I sort’ve hope they cancel.” For real. I have no idea why I felt this way, other than it felt like a lot of work to go do this initial dinner, get ready and put myself out there with people I didn’t really know and potentially be out later than I’d like on a weekday too. In fact, I had only met two of the six ladies before that night. I’m a fairly social person and definitely not an introvert, so I don’t really get nervous about these activities nor have anxiety, I just felt lazy. Have you ever felt like canceling something because of any of those feelings? If so, you are not alone. But when you’re trying to make friends, you cannot cancel because of anxiety or laziness. You have to go. And most times, I think you’ll be happy you did.
When you are first building friendships, you will have to go to hang-outs and do activities when you aren’t entirely sure you feel like it. But you have to put in this work, because it takes effort, work, and time together to build real relationships.
Of course, as you get closer with people, you can be much more honest when you are having an anti-social day and want to stay in your pajamas. But when you are new, you need to be more available for hanging. I know that now. And boy am I glad I didn’t skip out on that first dinner, because it was the beginning of some great friendships.
Search for a few good friends, instead of a lot of surface ones. And be realistic with the time you have available for friends.
I want to reiterate that you do not need a big social circle to feel fulfilled in the friends department. While you may need to cast a wide net in order to find ones that stick, remember that even two or three good friends can be plenty.
The truth is, many of us don’t have a ton of time for friends. I can’t hang out with someone and chat with someone every single day, because I’m just too busy. I try to spend a lot of my free time with Brady and Dave, and then there’s a little room left for friend stuff. I think a lot of people are in this boat, so you don’t need to find someone who is always available for you. But yes, I hope they would be there for you, when you need them.
It may take a lot of hang-outs with someone to decide if you want to really be their friend or not. And it may take a lot longer than you want. But, slow and genuine effort should hopefully lead to some great relationships.
Be yourself at all times.
The easiest way to make friends is to be yourself. I would not recommend pretending to be anything you aren’t, because eventually people will figure it out and probably not want to be your friend. If someone doesn’t click with you, then they aren’t your person. And that’s okay. Don’t try to mold yourself to be like other people, and if you feel like you have to change who you are to be friends with someone, they may not be worth being friends with. Only you can do you like you do. So just do you.
Other ideas on how to make friends in a new place …
- If you have a new baby, look for a new moms meet-up group, which some hospitals arrange.
- Take your dog to the same dog park regularly and look around for other dog owners.
- Find a local book club and join it.
Thanks for reading my post on how to make friends in a new place. And thanks for being here! Have a wonderful week, lovelies! I’ll see you over on Instagram, until we meet back here.
Also a little request: If you know someone in your life who you think would benefit from this post, would you send it to them? And while you’re at it, if you have any connections for that person too, send them those as well. 🙂
Questions of the day for YOU …
How did you meet your best friend?
When’s the last time you made a new friendship?
What’s one quality your friends would say that you have?
Ashley, this is a great post and one I can really relate to being new to the area! I was nodding along to many of your points. I’ve become more of an extrovert on trying to make new friends. In the past I would never for example “meet” a friend on social media first lol! But, that’s how I met two friends (who were also new to the area) and I’m so glad I made that awkward step! I met friends at our boys activities, after church coffee hour, girls night out dinners. After a little more than a year living here I have a group of amazing friends I can turn to and it’s a great feeling!
Hi Joanna! I love to hear this. I’m so glad you’ve found a good group in a year, just like I have. Based on my experience in Charlotte, people are very open and welcoming and friendly, and that sure helps. Thank you for reading and we need to meet one day! 🙂 xoxo
That would be nice! 🙂
Hi Ashley! It’s been great to see how quickly you have made great friends in Charlotte.
I don’t make friends easily. I met my best friend in school and honestly can’t remember the last time I made a friend. I am doing a few things you have mentioned, like joining a Facebook group for mums and going to meet ups. It is hard because I live in the UK but wasn’t born here. I think this makes it harder, I just feel like I don’t belong. I also go to a lot of baby classes and swimming, it would be great to make a friend at one of these places but bo big deal if that doesn’t happen. At the moment I am just happy that I can take the baby to different activities where she can interact with other babies.
Hi Andrea! You are not alone in that you haven’t met a new friend in a long time. And yes, being in an area where you aren’t from could make it a bit harder. But if you are out there taking your little one to fun activities and having a good time together, that’s amazing. Hopefully you’ll connect with another mom here or there — as long as you are open to it. Maybe you can find someone else who doesn’t feel like they belong, then you can belong together! 🙂 Being a mom is hard enough, so don’t put any pressure on yourself to make friends, just be hopeful it happens!
Oh I don’t stress about it at all. I just want to take the baby to activities so she can also be with other babies and it’s good for me to see other mums and maybe have a chat 🙂