How to Make Friends in a New City, According to Experts
Moving often means leaving friends and family behind. And when you decide to change your zip code without knowing anyone in your new neighborhood, it can feel extra isolating and tiring lonely. Learning how to make friends in a new city can go a long way toward not only filling up your social calendar, but also generally being happy.
But the idea of forging new bonds is easier said than done for many. It can be scary to get out there trying to make connections because we know it’s a risk and we’re afraid of rejection, says Erica Turner, LPC, relationship therapist and founder of Your relationship reset. “Human beings are meant to bond, connect and feel part of a group – being accepted and liked by the group ensured our ancestors our chance of survival… so part of us fears rejection because it triggers a primal fear, to be expelled.”
We turned to the experts on how to make friends specifically in a new place make new friends as an adultand why making friends everywhere is so important.
How to make friends in a new city
Recognize the importance of strong social bonds and make seeking new connections a priority, says Carl Marci, MD, physician, neuroscientist, and author of Rewired: Protect your brain in the digital age. “Remember that we are designed to connect and that friendships make us happier and healthier in the long run – this should be a powerful motivator to take some of the anxiety out of meeting new people.”
Go where there are social people.
This could mean taking a class in person, going to an exercise group, or volunteering at a local nonprofit, suggests Dr. Marci before. “Choose something you’re interested in and that increases the chances of meeting someone with similar interests.”
Make sure you listen.
Once you’ve connected with someone, be curious about them and listen to their stories, says Dr. Marci. “Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so make it a point to follow up and try to keep the connection alive.” You can do this by saying a simple “thank you” or “it was a pleasure hanging out with you.” , let’s do it again” and see what happens, suggests Dr. Marci before.
Avoid distractions and dive too deep too quickly.
“Don’t get distracted by your smartphone and don’t focus too much on yourself or be too negative too soon,” says Dr. Marci. “There will be time to share deep feelings and hardships, but it’s important to build a relationship and bond before jumping into big issues too soon.” Strong social bonds take time and effort to build and maintain, so it’s important to be patient. Over time, if it’s a genuine friendship, you’ll both be less reluctant to share more about your life, adds Dr. Added Marci.
And remember: don’t see difficulties in making friends as a failure — see it as an opportunity to learn. “Failures are opportunities to teach us something important about ourselves and what we expect from a friend,” says Dr. Marci.
If you still feel like you need clear options on where to find your new BFFs, our experts have listed some easy-to-follow ways you can connect and make new friends. Here is a non-exhaustive list of ideas that can help you find your new best friend.
- Join a fitness community that offers classes and pick a time each week to go, suggests Turner. “The goal is to see the same people in every class and build organic connections.”
- Go to meetup.com and explore different meetups in your city with people who have similar interests as you. This page has curated activities based on your interest says Rachel Sussman, LCSWNYC-based relationship expert and therapist.
- Join your city’s sports club (e.g. kickball league or pickle League), Turner suggests.
- Turner suggests volunteering in an area that aligns with your values (e.g. Boys & Girls Club or Humane Society) and meeting other people with similar passions.
- Get on Bumble BFF and meet other people in your area who are also looking for new connections, Turner suggests.
- If you have kids, find other parents at school, the playground, or kids’ activities, Sussman suggests.
- If you’ve moved into an apartment building, see if your building hosts social gatherings, Sussman suggests. “The building I live in in NYC has an annual Christmas party, a summer BBQ, and we have a rooftop where renters/neighbors go for wine in the summer.”
- Sussman also suggests joining a book club or enrolling in a cooking class to make new friends.
Why is it important to make friends where you live?
Friendship is an important type of strong social bond that we use as a form of support in good times and bad, notes Dr. Marci. “The important thing is that friendships are good for our health and protect us from loneliness over time,” he says.
Loneliness has very real health effects, says Dr. Marci. “Loneliness triggers a kind of stress response in the brain and body. Stress is a signal to the brain that something is wrong, and is designed to put us into action to correct an imbalance. Over time, if the social imbalance is not corrected [and your loneliness doesn’t dissipate]the prolonged stress has health effects on our cardiovascular system and brain.”
People with good friends and strong social ties tend to be happier and enjoy higher levels of well-being. The Harvard study on adult developmentthe longest-running study of its kind in the US, clearly shows that at the end of life, our relationships and how happy we are in them have a profound impact on our health and happiness.
The bottom line is that making and maintaining friendships that add value to your life is important to your mental and physical health. So, get out there and socialize!
madeleine, prevention‘s Associate Editor, has experience in health writing through her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD and her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience – helping to strategize for success preventionthe social media platforms of .