Making friends in a new city can be difficult if you already live with social anxiety. How do you connect with people when you don’t know anyone? How do you make it clear that you’re friendly and open to meeting new people? How do you start conversations and keep them going once they’ve begun?
In the following blog post, I will outline all of the ways that you can make new friends. As you consider these options, I can hear you saying “but even if I go to those places, I still won’t know how to make friends!”
If you struggle with shyness or social anxiety, that’s going to make it harder to make friends. I’d suggest keeping these two mantras in your mind: “I’m genuinely interested in getting to know other people,” and “People like me until proven otherwise.”
If you struggle to strike up a conversation with strangers, I’d suggest choosing one of the suggestions below that naturally gets people talking like a book club, language class, or sports team.
A natural way to build a friendship is to exchange contact information (often exchanging social media handles is less intrusive than phone numbers, at least at first). Be proactive if you meet someone you like, and ask for their contact info. Then, suggest getting together outside of the structured activity for coffee or to do something else.
Yes, you might feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, but nothing good happens without a bit of discomfort. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be rejected, and that simply reaching out and trying to make friends is your goal.
And if someone asks you to do something in those early weeks in a new city, say “yes” even if you aren’t sure! It’s important to be open, especially when you are just starting out somewhere new. Be willing to take some risks, even if you make some mistakes along the way.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that it took adults on average 94 hours to turn acquaintances into casual friends, and 164 hours to turn casual friends into friends. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a BFF in the first two weeks of moving somewhere.
1. Make Connections Through Your Workplace
With the rise of online and virtual work, it’s easy to forget you can make friends with your coworkers. If there is a coworker you get along with or someone you find interesting, asking them to go for a coffee or drinks after work is an easy way to get started. Keep an eye open for people who seem like they are looking for friendship or who might be feeling like an outsider themselves.
2. Get to Know Your New Neighbors
If you’re new to the city, it can feel intimidating to meet your new neighbors. The best way is just to introduce yourself when moving in and get involved with what’s going on in the neighborhood.
If there are block parties or other community events being planned where you live, these are sometimes the easiest ways to make friends. While first impressions and gut feelings are often very telling, try not to make too many snap judgments. You might be surprised who could turn out to be a good friend down the line.
3. Attend Concerts, Festivals, and Local Landmarks
Attend public events such as concerts, festivals, or lectures to meet people with similar interests. For example, if you enjoy history, there are probably lectures on that topic that you can attend. Similarly, if you enjoy art exhibitions or museums, make a point of doing those things even if they feel somewhat “touristy.”
If you have moved to a major city, consider checking out City Pass. It’s a low-cost way to see the major attractions in a new city. My husband and I used the City Pass when we visited Chicago and it gave us entry to the Shedd Aquarium, Hancock Observatory, Art Institute, and other notable attractions.
4. Sign up for a Class
Taking a local class is a no-fail way to get to know more people in a new city. This can be anything from ceramics, cooking classes, or learning a new language. If you’ve moved to a foreign country, learning the local language through a class is a helpful way to meet people. Not only will you make friends, but it will also help with your goal of learning the new language.
5. Join a Gym or Yoga Studio
Attending a local gym or yoga studio is another excellent way to meet people. Make sure that you keep an open mind and avoid judging others.
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Signing up for a class is a good way to start conversations with others. You can also meet people by working out next to someone who seems like they’re having trouble and offer some help or tips, or ask them for help if you need it (be willing to do the same in return).
6. Join a Club, Organization, or Sports League Related to Your Interests
Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing and find out if there are any local groups that share your interests.
Rose from the travel blog Where Goes Rose notes that discussing books at book clubs gets at people’s values, which helps to vet friendships. She notes that when she joined a book club after moving to Mexico City, only about a third of the time was spent actually talking about books.
If you enjoy kayaking, join a group that organizes weekly trips and go with them. By choosing something you already love to do, it will be easier to make friends. If there is nothing that interests you in your new city, then find out what other people are passionate about and join their group!
Below is a list of some common activities that will have local clubs or organizations:
- book clubs
- running, walking, or hiking groups
- automobile clubs
- knitting, sewing or crochet groups
- community service groups
- gardening groups
- antiques and collectibles groups
- outdoor recreation groups (e.g., kayaking, fishing, sailing)
- paranormal groups (e.g., haunted house tours)
- parenting groups
- sports teams or leagues (football, volleyball, soccer, etc.)
7. Sign Up to Be a Volunteer in Your New Community
Do you have an interest that could be turned into a volunteer opportunity? For example, if you love to bake and cook delicious food then join the local Meals on Wheels program or gather with your new neighbors for their monthly community dinner. Volunteering is an awesome way of meeting people in a new city!
8. Visit the Local Watering Hole
It may sound cliché, but the local bar or pub is a good fall-back place to meet people. How about the first day you arrive in your new city, you stop at this watering hole and strike up conversations with some of the other patrons? This way, you can find out if there are any upcoming events that could be of interest.
If you aren’t into drinking, there are other options, too. How about a coffee shop? This is a simple way to meet people and learn more about the city at the same time.
9. Shop Local Stores that Match Your Interests
Shop at local businesses that align with your interests and you will meet people with whom you have something in common.
For example, if you’re a music fan, consider shopping at a local independent record store instead of ordering off Amazon. If you are a wine drinker, consider shopping at a local wine store instead of a grocery chain.
You never know who will be working at these stores and who might be able to connect you with other people in your area.
10. Explore Your Neighborhood on Foot or on a Bike
Exploring your new neighborhood on foot or on a bicycle is a smart way to meet people. The best thing about exploring your new neighborhood is that you will likely be doing it more than once and can get to know the area slowly over time, instead of trying to do everything in one day and burning yourself out.
If you have a dog, take him or her with you on your walks so that he can get to know the area, too. Dogs can be helpful as ice breakers when you are trying to meet new people.
11. Connect with a Faith Community
If you belong to a particular religious faith, try to connect with people in your religious community. It is easier for some people who are new to a city or neighborhood to find connections within their faith communities rather than trying to meet random people through other means.
If you don’t belong to a particular religion but still get along well with different types of spiritual individuals, try attending local community events at a spiritual institution. You may be able to find people who share similar interests and values as you do in this way, which can lead to friendships down the road.
12. Connect with Professional Organizations
If you belong to a particular profession or interest group that has events and gatherings for its members, try looking into getting involved in these types of organizations. By doing so, you will be able to meet people who are into the same type of work or hobby that you are.
If this isn’t possible, because your time is limited due to other commitments, try looking for local organizations on Facebook and see if they have pages where members can post comments about what’s going on in their lives outside of professional activities.
13. Connect with Friends of Friends
Before you move to a new city, let your existing friend network know about your move. If you have friends in the new city, ask them if they know anyone who might be a good fit as a friend. If the answer is yes, then begin to reach out and connect with those people.
All it takes is meeting one new friend in a new city. That friend can introduce you to their friend group. So start small, make one friend, and then try to meet their friends. All of a sudden, you have an easy strategy for how to make friends in a new city.
14. Use Meetup or Facebook Groups
If there are no pre-existing connections available for your social circle, consider using sites like Meetup or Facebook groups based on specific interests. Meeting new people in a group setting can be less intimidating than meeting someone one-on-one.
If you’re just joining a Facebook group, write an introduction post that lets others know a little bit about you and that you’d like to make new friends.
”Hey! I’ve just moved here and I’m looking to meet other like-minded people! I’m 35, originally from Canada, and work online as a writer. Let me know if you’d like to go for coffee or have a drink sometime!”
15. Build an Online Presence
Build a social media presence by following others, sharing content, and commenting on posts that interest you. Instagram can be part of this strategy because of location tags and hashtags that help you find local people with similar interests.
While it can feel weird to meet people in this manner because it is not organic, you might as well embrace technology in ways that can help you meet other people.
16. Don’t Be Afraid to Do Solo Activities
Don’t be scared to go places alone.
Read in a park.
Go to dinner by yourself.
Look around do some people-watching.
Smile at people and say hello.
Keep yourself open, and stop looking at your phone when in line to get coffee. Yes, it will feel scary at the beginning. Getting out of your comfort zone always does. But, you might be surprised at who will approach you and start a conversation.
If you want some more inspiration, I recommend the following Ted Talk by Maria Scileppi. In her talk, Maria describes how she made 365 new friends in a year after moving to a new city.
She did it by challenging herself to make one new friend per day. Her strategy was simple: talk to strangers with the goal of asking the question, “Why are you here?”
Along the way, she met people from all walks of life and made connections that she never dreamed were possible. Most importantly, she lost any fear of striking up a conversation and developed better listening skills through documenting the people she met along the way.
Overall, be patient. Knowing how to make friends in a new city probably won’t come naturally at first. Don’t lose yourself. Stay true to who you are. Be willing to try new things, but don’t compromise or be somebody that you’re not just to make a friend.
Related Posts about Making Friends
- 29 Questions to Ask to Make a Friend
- I Have No Friends (What to Do)
- 3 Benefits of Having Social Media Friends
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How to Make Friends in a New City
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