How to Make Friends in a New City: A Guide for the Perplexed

A new city, full of possibilities.

“Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them.” —Francesco Guicciardini

It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday night. You trudge through the door feeling defeated. You just put in a monster week at the new startup you’re working for and you’re feeling absolutely exhausted.
After a cold beer and a hot shower, you slip into a pair of gym shorts, hike your feet up on your coffee table and turn on Netflix. You peruse through endless TV shows and movies for about 30 minutes or so before realizing you don’t feel like watching anything.

Bored, you begin to scroll through your social feeds, only to find a bunch of your old friends in your old city doing fun Friday night things. A wave of sadness comes over you as you think to yourself… “I sure am glad that I took this new job, but wow do I miss my friends.”

Does this story sound painfully familiar? Are you… Lonely in a new city? We’re really sorry you’re feeling lonely. Seriously. And, while we can’t reach out and hug you through this screen, we can do the next best thing—write an article that will help make all the nasty loneliness go away.

Making Friends in a New City

While loneliness is painful (sometimes crushingly so), the good news (in a weird way) is that there are a lot of other people (probably in a 5-mile radius of you) feeling awfully lonely too.

It’s weird. We live in an age where everyone is connected. In seconds, you can hop on Skype with someone in the middle of Indonesia (as long as they have a decent wifi connection) and have a face-to-face conversation. And, between Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat… you can see what your friends are doing at all hours of the day.

So, why, in such a connected world, do people feel more lonely than they have ever felt before? The answer is pretty simple… while our smartphones and social media accounts are wonderful when it comes to staying connected, they are not the best when it comes to building deep and genuine friendships (sometimes they can even make us lonelier).

The individual who has 10-15 close friends is less lonely than the individual who has 100,000 followers they don’t know. So, the question is… How can I build these deep genuine friendships?

Where can I make friends?

First things first, you need to know where to look. In this section, we will give you places both in-person and online you can check-out to find friends.

Below, we have listed out several places to look when making friends in a new city. These are going to take getting out of your house and putting yourself out there. If you are a little shy, skip ahead to the next sections, How to make friends online.

How to Make Friends in a New City (In Person)

  • Find a mastermind. This is a group of professionals working together to help each other reach their professional and personal goals. If you can track down a mastermind group filled with great people, it can do wonders for both your professional and social life. Oftentimes, these groups are filled with people who have been in a city for a while, so they can introduce you to other individuals as well.
  • Join a book club. A book club is a book lover’s paradise. If you are a reader and like discussing what you read over a cup of coffee, why not join a bi-weekly book club? Not only will you be well-read after a few months of attending, but you will become a better conversationalist. And, if you are lucky, you’ll meet a good friend along the way.
  • Volunteer with a NonProfit. Working a couple hours a week at a non-profit is a great way to meet genuine and kind-hearted people. We aren’t rocket scientists here at Bellhops, but we think you have a better chance of meeting a lifelong friend at a nonprofit than say… your Twitter feed.
  • Take your pup to a dog park. If there is but one truth in this world, it is this — everybody loves dogs. Sometimes, meeting new people can be awkward. What do you talk about? How do you start up the conversation? Well, when you have a dog, it immediately gives you something to talk about, as well as an area of common ground.
  • Say hello to your neighbors. Step outside your house and knock on a few of your neighbor’s doors. Just say, “What’s up? I’m new to the neighborhood and just wanted to introduce myself.” After a few minutes of conversation, you will quickly be able to tell what they are like and whether the two of you mesh. Moving in next to cool neighbors is a lot like the lottery–– sometimes you hit the jackpot, other times you aren’t as lucky. But, there is only one way to find. You have to say hello.

How to Make Friends in a New City (Online)

Okay, no worries. You’ve been reading this list and, while you like the ideas, if you’re honest with yourself, you just know that you’re not the type to put yourself out there like that. At least not quite yet. Maybe you have a little bit of social anxiety or maybe you’ve just always been a little shy.

Well, guess what? There are hundreds of thousands of super-cool people just like you who are also a little shy. So, instead, they go online to break the ice digitally, before meeting up for a cup of coffee… Here are some great places to start your friend search online.

  • LinkedIn. You’ve probably heard of it. If you haven’t, it’s a professional social network. When you are in the process of making friends in a new city, why not kill two birds with one stone? On LinkedIn, you can build your professional network, while also searching for some cool friends along the way. If you’re new to a city, buy a month-long Premium membership and start reaching out to individuals in your new city. Just send them a message saying something like:
    “Hi there, I’m new to the area and I’m looking to get better connected. I was wondering if you would be open to grabbing coffee? I’m really impressed with what you are doing at [fill in the blank] and would love to learn how you’ve built such an awesome [career or business] here.” You would be surprised at how open and accommodating people can be if you simply ask for help. But you’ve got to ask!
  • Meet My Dog. Imagine a social media account for a dog. Well, that’s basically what Meet My Dog is — a location-based social app that allows you to meet other dog owners in your area. In our previous section, we mentioned taking your pup to dog parks to meet new people, and how it is an instantaneous icebreaker. Meet My Dog is the same idea, but just sparked virtually. Many times, cool dogs have cool owners. So, while your dog is meeting new doggie friends, you can be meeting cool doggie owners.

Questions to ask a new friend

Ask more questions.

So far, we’ve talked quite a bit about places you can look when making friends in a new city, but we haven’t discussed what may be the most important element–– how do we know if you’re a good fit?
If you’re looking for the right answer, the best way to get there is by asking the right questions. Not to mention first-time meetups with new people can come with a lot of awkward silence. It may not be a bad idea to have a few questions to pull out if the conversation reaches a lull.

  1. What do you do for work? And, how did you get into it? For a lot of people, work is an easy and natural thing to talk about considering we do it for 40+ hours a week. Ask them what they do and this can turn into an entire conversation in itself.
  2. Do you see yourself doing this for a while? Just because someone is working a job right now it doesn’t mean that it’s what they want to do. This is a nice follow-up question to #1. Everyone has goals and dreams. They may not always share them, but they definitely have them. Take the time to figure out where they are heading, you might learn something about yourself along the way.
  3. If you could eat dinner with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would you choose and why? This question is a great way to indirectly learn a lot about a person and it can segue into a lot of interesting topics. Give it a shot.
  4. If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, skill, or ability, what would you choose?
  5. Do you have any siblings? How many? Where did you grow up? These are just a few questions you can ask when interested in learning more about where a person came from—you might find some common ground.
  6. What music do you listen to? Sometimes people will have trouble answering this question. And it makes sense—a lot of us listen to a lot of music! If your new friend is having trouble listing some bands they like, follow up with “Well, what have you been listening to lately?” Often, this is a much easier question to answer and it can still lead to some great conversations.
  7. What’s a book or movie that has had a significant impact on you? Again, some people may feel put on the spot by this question. If your new friend is having trouble, try asking him/her “What’s a book or movie that you’ve read/seen recently that you really liked?” That should get the ball rolling quite nicely.
  8. How do you spend your time outside of work? Considering you will be spending time with this person outside of work, you might want to know what they like to do. If they enjoy taxidermy (stuffing dead animals) and you enjoy volunteering at the animal shelter, you two may have difficulty finding things in common.

Keep in mind that when you meet a new friend for the first time, sometimes you’ll click right away and sometimes you won’t. Don’t write someone off immediately if your first meeting feels a little awkward. Maybe they aren’t the best with strangers. Maybe you aren’t the best with strangers (whoops). Making friends and warming up to people can take time. Sometimes you have to interact with someone several times before both of you feel comfortable fully “being yourself.” And that’s okay. Aren’t some of your favorite songs the ones that you didn’t like the first time you heard them?

Making Friends In a New City Can Be Hard, And That’s Okay

When you think about it, friendships are a very odd thing. One day you randomly run into someone at a coffee shop, a record store or a work event and think to yourself… “I like this person.” And then you start doing fun things together, and, before you know it, what was once a complete stranger is now a companion and confidant.

Don’t overcomplicate the process. If you realize it’s just about finding a cool genuine person you can mesh with, suddenly it becomes far less stressful. You realize that, in part, this is a numbers game—if you put yourself in front of enough friendly faces, you will eventually find a face you want to see more of.

Though, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. We aren’t saying it’s easy, especially today. We live in a world where people are more comfortable texting or tweeting than actually meeting up and talking with someone.

But, while it can be difficult, we would never recommend shying away from an opportunity to make a new friend. Even just making one new friend in your new city can make all the difference in the world. In the words of Thomas Fuller, “Friendships multiply life’s joys and divide life’s sorrows.” So get on out there. It’s worth it.

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