How to Make Friends in a New City

Relationships

How to Make Friends in a New City | Wit & Delight
Photo Courtesy of Wing (Ta) Ho of Canary Grey

Editor’s Note: This post was assigned and written months ago, before the pandemic made a worldwide impact. Even if you’re staying home right now, you can take some of these steps from the comfort of your own couch (and you can keep the rest in your back pocket for later). Though drinks on the town may continue to be on pause for some of us, they won’t be forever. Here’s to building some of the most important relationships we’ve got.


Whether for professional or personal reasons, moving to a new city can be overwhelming. Suddenly you’re far away from what was once your tight-knit social circle, trusted colleagues, and close family members. And, depending on where you move to, that can also mean navigating a totally new culture, mastering transport (public or otherwise), and even learning a new language. 

As an American who has willingly chosen to live most of her adult life abroad (the U.K., Sweden, and Germany respectively), I know all too well what it’s like to move somewhere new and have to start from scratch, socially speaking. Even if it’s a decision you made all on your own (meaning, a relationship or a job didn’t dictate your move), a new chapter can often feel more exhausting than exciting. 

Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. Even if it takes a little longer than you anticipated to start building up a new network of pals, recognize that what you’re doing is incredibly brave. You’re stepping outside your comfort zone and this is where your true strength lies. 

So without further ado, here are just a few ways I’ve found that can help set you up with new friends in your new city. 

Look to Your Network First

Did you just find out that your job transfer was approved? 

Did your partner just spring the news upon you that you’ll have to move an ocean away because of their job? 

Did you just decide to bite the bullet and finally move to that city (or country) you’ve always dreamed of living in?

Whatever the reason for your upcoming move, now’s the time to reach out to your own network. Start by telling your friends, colleagues, and family members that you’re planning on a move and don’t hesitate to ask if they happen to know anyone in that area. If they do, ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction. (Remember, now is not the time to be timid—you’ve got this!) Think of it this way: by reaching out, you’re potentially starting to create a social network for yourself even before you arrive in your respective city. 

Start by telling your friends, colleagues, and family members that you’re planning on a move and don’t hesitate to ask if they happen to know anyone in that area. . . . Think of it this way: by reaching out, you’re potentially starting to create a social network for yourself even before you arrive in your respective city. 

Don’t just rely on your nearest and dearest, though. Get in touch with everyone in your network, acquaintance or otherwise, so you cast an even wider net. Unless you’re moving to a super remote location, chances are at least one person in this net will be able to come up with a potential contact (or two) for you. 

“Casting a wide net” is exactly how I met one of my German friends here in Hamburg. A good friend of mine from the States (who now lives in Switzerland with her husband) was on a surf and yoga retreat last summer in Portugal where they met another couple, both German, who happened to live in Hamburg. They got on super well, exchanged contact information, and when my American friend heard I was moving to Hamburg, she promptly put me in touch with her German friend via WhatsApp. We met for a coffee soon after connecting and the following weekend, she even invited me to her birthday party. Sometimes all it takes is just one person who can help you spread those social butterfly wings. 

Join Groups for Newbies Like You

This one can also be done before you actually move or when you first arrive in your new city. 

Having recently moved with my boyfriend from the German countryside to the big city of Hamburg, I was admittedly concerned about how I would make new friends. As a self-employed writer who mostly works from home, I realized if I wanted to have any semblance of a social life (apart from spending time with my lovely boyfriend), I’d need to put myself out there somehow. Before, when I had moved to the UK and subsequently to Sweden, I hit the social jackpot given that I met wonderful people through my school (I did my master’s degree in London) and through my work (I initially moved to Stockholm for a copywriter role with a branding agency). 

Don’t Overlook Facebook Groups

So, one of the first things I decided to do before moving to Hamburg was join the official Expats in Hamburg group on Facebook. Sure, there are some odd Facebook groups out there for newbies but many are surprisingly helpful—especially for asking questions (e.g., Can anyone recommend a dermatologist?), navigating a new city, and perhaps most importantly, making new friends. 

That’s actually how I met my friend British friend here in Hamburg. I had posted a response under someone else’s question in the Expats in Hamburg Facebook group and she private messaged me, introducing herself as she and her boyfriend just recently moved to Hamburg, too. We wrote on Facebook messenger for a bit before deciding to meet for a glass of wine in the city and I’m happy to report that we hit it off. (In fact, we’re planning a double date night soon.) 

Register for Meetup

Facebook isn’t the only forum, however, to meet new friends. If you’re looking to connect IRL, try Meetup. Here you sign up with your email address, name, and respective city only to select from a wide range of interests/hobbies (e.g., yoga, movies, cooking, meditation, etc.). After you’ve created your account and selected what you’re interested in, Meetup sends you a variety of events that are taking place in your city. So why not give it a go? You never know if your new bestie will be seated on the yoga mat next to yours. (True story, this is how I met another German friend of mine.) 

Join an Expat Club

For those of you living abroad, I can also highly recommend joining an expat club. I didn’t do this before when I lived in Sweden as I was lucky to have met so many great friends through my work but when I moved to Hamburg, I decided to join the American Women’s Club. From monthly book clubs to weekly film screenings, it’s a wonderful way to get involved in your new city and become part of an extensive expat community.

Give Your Colleagues A Chance

If you do happen to move to a new city for your job, take full advantage of your built-in social network, aka your colleagues. 

Feel a little awkward asking what their plans are for after work? Start by testing the waters and asking the one(s) you get on with most out for lunch. This will give you a better idea of whether they’re someone you’d like to make actual plans with, outside of work and away from your desks. If not? No worries. You put yourself out there and that’s what counts. There might just be someone else you haven’t met yet at the office who’ll become your newfound soul sister. 

Personally speaking, work was how I made so many of my lasting friendships. Perhaps it’s because I worked for several international companies (one of the companies I worked for in Sweden had over forty different nationalities represented!) but what I found was this: If you stay open and honest about your moving experience, good things tend to come your way.

In other words, if a new colleague asks you how your experience has been thus far moving to your respective city and you answer with, “Great!” (when things really aren’t that great) chances are your colleague won’t think twice about inviting you out after working hours. They’d think you were settling in just fine. 

If you stay open and honest about your moving experience, good things tend to come your way. . . . When you allow yourself to be a little vulnerable, this often resonates with those who were, at some point, in your shoes. And that’s when those social invites slowly come in.

When you allow yourself to be a little vulnerable, this often resonates with those who were, at some point, in your shoes. And that’s when those social invites slowly come in.

Stay Local 

After you move to your new city, take the time to really explore your immediate surroundings. This gives you the chance to not only check out all the nearby spots but also the chance to meet some of your fellow locals. 

Frequent Neighborhood Businesses

Here in Hamburg, my boyfriend and I live in Eppendorf, a lovely neighborhood that’s filled with cute boutiques, cafes, bakeries, salons, etc. When we first moved, I was desperate for a manicure and I noticed (thank you, Google!) that a new beauty salon had just opened around the corner from us. After perusing their website, I realized the owner was born in Chicago. Since my German is nicht so gut (not so great), I started following the salon on Instagram and direct messaged, asking if I could make an appointment for a manicure. The owner of the salon got back to me right away and said it was no problem to speak in English. Fast forward to now? This salon has become my go-to for manicures and yes, I get a hug from the owner every time I come in. OK, so we’re not best friends or anything but just having a familiar face in the neighborhood makes me feel like I’m a local. 

Connect with Your Neighbors

I know it may sound a bit strange but don’t underestimate the power of getting to know your neighbors. Truth be told, in every other city I’ve lived in besides Hamburg, I never really knew my neighbors except for the occasional, “Hi” and “Have a nice day” when I’d pass them in the hallway or on the stairs. 

Hamburg is an entirely different story. Not only are our next-door neighbors an English-speaking couple (he’s American and she’s Dutch), they’ve also become our super close friends. Plus, our German neighbor one floor down has also become a new friend, just because a package of hers had been dropped off at our apartment while she was at work and she came by to pick it up. Real-life scenarios like this are rare but they do happen. The takeaway? New friendships can blossom anywhere, even in your apartment building. 

Say Yes (To Every Invitation)

No matter where you’re moving to, a move is an incredibly exhausting process. The last thing you feel like doing when you’re tired or potentially jetlagged is to venture outside your new digs and socialize. (Netflix and takeaway sounds much more enticing, doesn’t it?) 

My advice, at least when you’re first settling in, is to not turn down any social opportunity that comes your way. If someone invites you to an event or out for a coffee in the beginning stages of your move, just say yes and don’t think twice

By making it a conscious choice to be open to everything that’s available to you and around you, you’re well on your way to making a new life for yourself—new friends included. 

Of course it’s entirely possible that you might not click with them or might ultimately decide it wasn’t the best use of your time. That’s just reality. Just try to keep in mind that if you don’t accept an invitation, you might be missing out on an awesome new friend.

By making it a conscious choice to be open to everything that’s available to you and around you, you’re well on your way to making a new life for yourself—new friends included. 

BY Erin Huebscher - August 6, 2020

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Leave a Reply

Constanze

Wonderful article 👏❤️

Patti

Hey Erin thanks for the great ideas! Definitely going to check into Meetup, I didn’t know about that. Having recently moved from LA back to my tiny hometown in NorCal, and redoing a second home in Austin Tx , I’ve been a bit lost. I have met my wonderful neighbors and my husband and I are meeting people as we frequent local business but I’m hoping to meet more gal pals. Haha at least when the pandemic allows a bit more socializing!

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