How to Make Friends When You Move to a New City

How to make friends in a new city

In this post, I’m going to share my best tips for making friends in a new city.

In the past ten years, I’ve moved seven times. Somehow, I’ve somehow managed to make friends wherever I’ve lived. Not only that, but it’s gotten easier each time.

The truth is, I’m not the most outgoing or charming person in the world — I’ve been able to make friends because I work at it. I believe meeting people and becoming friends with them is a skill you can hone just like anything else.

Let’s begin with tip number one.

My top tips for making friends in a new place

Tip #1: Consider what you need in a friend.

Before reaching out to people, consider your friendship needs. Do you prefer to have a few close friends or a wide circle of acquaintances? Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Despite societal messaging (and Taylor Swift’s Instagram account), you may not actually need a big group of friends, a ton of friends, or even a best friend. Friendship needs are so individual, so don’t pressure yourself to shoot for something you don’t even want.

Tip #2: Ask your existing network for introductions

Next, tap into your network — friends, family members, coworkers — and ask them for introductions to cool people they know. You can do this by sending out a mass email or putting up a post on Facebook.

Remember, people love to help people. So odds are, you’ll get a few introductions lined up by doing this.

Tip #3: Get to know your coworkers

Coworkers can be some of the easiest people to befriend. After all, you see them on a near-daily basis.

The key to turning a coworker into a friend is two-fold: finding common ground (You play tennis? We should hit sometime!), and then making plans outside of work. That way you can get to know each other in a relaxed, non-professional context.

A few ideas:

  • Send out an introduction email on the first day detailing your background and hobbies (some HR departments will do this for you).
  • Ask a friendly coworker to grab drinks. Alcohol tends to accelerate everything, including friendships.
  • Bring baked goods to the office and leave a note telling people to help themselves. This won’t necessarily make you friends, but it will make you popular.
  • Get involved in office activities. Even if field day sounds like your personal hell, give it a shot.
Road-tripping in Iceland with my friend Adam, a coworker-turned-friend

Tip #4: Leverage the power of social media

Social media is a great way to connect with like-minded people. I’ve made a ton of friends just by creeping on their Twitter, blog, or even LinkedIn and reaching out.

Here are ways you can use social media to meet people:

  • Join meetup.com and sign up for groups related to your hobbies.
  • Join local Facebook groups. Once you get accepted to the group introduce yourself, saying you’re new in town and would love to grab coffee.
  • Message someone who seems cool on LinkedIn and see if they’d like to grab coffee or drinks. (I’ve done this and it worked!)
  • Send out a tweet about moving to your new city (and hashtag it, so more people see it), and see if anyone responds.
Grabbing drinks with Jessica, one of my best blogging friends, in Bologna

Tip #5 Reach out to people you admire

Reach out to people whose work you admire: authors, Instagrammers, artists, who also happen to live locally.

For example, I met one of my closest friends in Michigan because I read her book, saw we lived in the same town, and decided to email her.

Here’s the email I sent her:

Hi Emma,

My name’s Ashley. I wanted to reach out to you and let you know I really enjoyed your book. I’m in my late twenties, so it definitely shed some light on dating experiences I’ve had :)

I’m moving to Ann Arbor next week as I’m starting grad school. Let me know if you’re available to grab coffee. It would be fun to discuss the book in person!

Sincerely,
Ashley

How to make friends in a new city where you know no one
Hiking with friends in Telluride, Colorado

Tip #6: Say yes to everything for the first few months.

When you’re new in town, it’s important to put yourself out there more than usual. New acquaintances are fragile, and if you turn someone down multiple times, they may stop asking.

Say yes to as many invitations as possible until you meet people you click with.

Tip #7: Seek out large group gatherings

Large group gatherings are GOLD for making friends. If you get an invitation to attend a barbecue, pool party, or birthday party, don’t hesitate — go.

I think this is because when someone invites you to a party, it’s like a vote of confidence. People warm up to you faster because one of their friends has vouched for you.

Tip #8: Try to find people with similar friendship needs

Even if you connect with someone, it can be hard to become good friends if you have completely different friendship needs.

For example, if you’re new in town, and the other person has lived in town for a decade, they may have competing priorities and may not be able to make much time for you. It’s usually easier to become friends with someone who has similar social needs.

How to make friends in a new city where you know no one
At my surprise birthday party in Kampala, Uganda

Tip #9: Be bold

You may feel nervous when meeting new people. But don’t worry, everyone does.

Try to overcome your nerves and be the one who makes the first move. Ask for their number. Suggest grabbing a coffee. Other people might also feel nervous, so try to be the one who breaks through the barrier.

Tip #10: Follow up

It’s one thing to meet people, but it’s another to become actual friends. Following up is how you bridge that gap.

Here’s a great follow-up email or text you can send after meeting someone:

It was great meeting you yesterday at [name of event/place]. We should grab a coffee soon and talk more about [item of interest you discussed]. How does next week look for you? (source)

Tip #11: Don’t write off convenience friendships

To me, a convenience friendship is someone you enjoy doing things with but that you probably wouldn’t stay in touch with if one of you moved away.

I used to write off this type of friendship. I wanted best friends, not people to do things with. But I think it’s important to be open to many types of friends. Not everyone is bound to be your soul friend, and that’s fine — it’s still nice to have people to do things with.

Tip #12: Remember it may just take one person

Here’s the thing: sometimes, all it takes is one person to meet your eventual group of friends. I made most of my friends in Paris through striking up a conversation with a group of British and American girls on the subway, I met my group of friends in Denver through one coworker, and I made most of my friends in Ann Arbor because I reached out to one girl.

So when you’re new to a city, just remember you don’t need to meet a million people. You just need to get plugged into a larger network, so you’ll find the people you connect with.

Tip #13: Don’t sweat it if you don’t click with someone

Sometimes on a friend date, there’s no just no spark (much like dating). I’ve suffered through many, many awkward friend dates, where you struggle to find common ground.

Don’t take it personally, and keep putting yourself out there.

Tip #14: Realize it takes time

Recognize that when you move to a new city, you’re probably going to be lonely at first. When I first moved to Uganda, it took me two months to make real friends. I felt panicked, and started wondering, What if I never make any friends here?!” I was going on endless friend dates, but nothing was working.

Remember that it can take months to make friends. And don’t forget – you can always call your friends and family if you’re feeling lonely.

Tip #15: Remember making friends get easier the more you do it

Social skills are like a muscle. They get stronger the more you exercise them.

Each time I’ve moved to a new city, the process of making friends has gotten easier, faster, and slightly less nerve-wracking.

At a Friendsgiving in Denver

So those are my tips! I hope you learned something. Though a lot of them may seem obvious, I think they can still be a reminder. I had a lot of trouble making friends freshman year of college (when everyone is supposed to be making their friends for life), and these are the things I wish I’d known.

Other ideas for meeting people:

  • Join a supper club
  • Volunteer
  • Take a class (improv, acting, French lessons, anything!)
  • Join a coed softball team
  • Join an organization (Rotary Club, Junior League, etc.)
  • Check your social media channels to see if someone from your past lives in your new city
  • Check your university’s alumni databases.
  • Go to your local bookstore and see if they have a book club.
  • Get a dog. Kidding, but so many of my friends with dogs have met friends at the dog park.
  • Join a professional association (ladiesgetpaid.com, Toastmakers, etc.)
  • Strike up conversations with strangers – don’t be shy!

Things that haven’t worked for me:

  • Joining a gym or workout class (do people ever actually talk to each other at the gym?)
  • Dating apps like Tinder or Hinge
  • Friendship apps like Bumble BFF (it’s had to create a relationship with absolutely no context or mutual friends, IMHO)

I hope you found these tips useful! What are some of your tips for making friends in a new city?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

6 thoughts on “How to Make Friends When You Move to a New City”

  1. Really loved/appreciated this post! It’s hard as an adult! Wish I had taken your advice and emailed you when you lived in Boulder/Denver!

  2. Yes to these! I am contemplating a move to a new city next year, and the idea of starting over somewhere new at 36/37 is kind of daunting. I keep reminding myself: it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it will happen when it’s meant to happen.

  3. Ahh I needed this post! I find it so easy to make friends on the road or when I’m moving somewhere temporarily (I think it’s exactly what you said about “convenience friends”), but now that I’ve moved to Edinburgh permanently, I’m finding it really difficult to find anyone. I think it’s harder being at that age where a lot of people have kids or different responsibilities. This post is really helpful though! And I totally agree with #12 – I really struggled the last time I moved properly, but now I’ve got a solid friendship group that came from one single person! Here’s hoping that happens again.

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