Monday, September 15, 2014

Moving and Making New Friends

When I talk to my friends who have moved to do awesome things around the world, there is one theme that transcends different culture, environments, and industries... everyone feels like they have a hard time finding new good friends. It's something I call the "reverse empty nester syndrome". When people finally grow up and leave the security of home and school, they find themselves excited about their future but very lonely in a strange new world.

In school, making friends is relatively easy. You sit down next to somebody in class, introduce yourself, and you immediately have a ton in common (the class, the school, mutual friends, etc). For seventeen years (give or take for various degrees) you essentially make friends professionally. But as soon as you move the tassel to the left side of your cap, making friends is suddenly a complex game. What's worse is that when you still Skype, SnapChat, Gchat, Facebook message, tweet, iMessage, text, and call your old friends, you often can barely find time to make new ones.

Cue you eating delivery pizza and drinking wine in an apartment filled with unpacked boxes watching reruns of TV shows on Netflix. And then telling your friends who are hundreds of miles away about it on Skype, SnapChat, Gchat, Facebook, and Twitter. Sound familiar?

While a night in can be great and old friends are "gold" (according to Girl Scout campfire songs), making new friends is an important part of starting your new life somewhere. Starting fresh can be difficult, but it is also a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. Life isn't about wallowing in sadness, so take ownership of your move and try a few of the following ways to meet new friends.

Sit With People in the Lunchroom

If you have a lunchroom at work, take it upon yourself to find an empty seat and introduce yourself to some new people. Sitting at a new table can be oddly scary, but it is a great way to get to actually talk to people at work. You will definitely not make new friends by sitting alone at your desk, so what have you got to lose?

Go to a Meetup

Meetup is a great way to find people nearby who are looking to do things with new friends. If you are worried about safety, go to ones organized in public locations. In bigger cities, you can find people who have specific similar interests. In smaller towns... you can find people!

Try Volunteering

Try doing something good for your new community, and meeting nice people at the same time! If you don't have a charity with which you have a particularly strong connection, check out VolunteerMatch to find new opportunities.

Those were supposed to be hairnets, but they came out looking more like colonial garb.  Again, I never said I was an artist. 

Find a Cultural/Religious Organization

If you identify with a specific culture or religion, try to find a branch nearby. These can be easy ready built communities.

Take a Class

Make new friends while you broaden your horizons and learn a new skill. I'm partial to taking art, exercise or language classes since they are so different from my profession. These are offered at colleges, community centers, gyms, art galleries, etc. Poke around and see what fits you best!

Join a Professional Organization

Build a strong network and meet new people in your area be joining and becoming involved with a professional organization. If you somehow made it through college without being inducted into any professional societies, SWE, ASME, IEEE, ASCE, AIChE, MRS, or whatever other organization that is related to your field are all great options.

However you decide to meet people, make sure to take the initiative to invite your new friends to hang out. Don't forget, making new friends is a process. Keep trying new things and you'll find yourself feeling at home in no time.



PS. What other suggestions do you have for how adults can make new friends after a big move?


  1. Weirdly I recommend online dating (assuming you're single, of course). Online dating is a strange, unique social ritual where the whole point is to get to know random people you wouldn't otherwise know. And if you hit it off with someone from the area, you can integrate yourself into their friend group (see, e.g. Robin on HIMYM).

    1. Great suggestion! I haven't tried that, but I have a lot of friends who exclusively use online dating to make friends in new cities.

  2. I love the idea of making friends when volunteering. Even if you don't end up 'clicking' with anyone, you will have put yourself out there and helped a good cause.

    1. Yep! It's a good way to feel like your time wasn't wasted either way.


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