I just moved to New York from Melbourne, Australia, where I’d lived all my life. Living in a new city for the first time is really exciting, but I miss my friends and family back home. Movies, meals, walks, and new discoveries are not as fun when I don’t have anyone to share them with. And living in a big, overcrowded city, it’s really easy to get lost in the shuffle. Somehow being alone in the middle of a crowd feels even lonelier than physical isolation.
So now I’m on a quest to make new friends! I am starting from scratch, actively seeking and reaching out to people who seem interesting. I have never had to do anything like this before—in Melbourne, I just naturally got to know people through school or work, and some of those people became my friends. There was no planning and scheming, and no pursuit. Now that I’m out of school and freelancing from home, I have to go out of my way (i.e., actually leave the house) to meet people, and then explicitly ask them to hang out, risking rejection and embarrassment. I can be really shy and a bit awkward, so I was wary about approaching people like that.
But when I thought about it some more, I realized that even in my hometown, I’d gone through lots of little transitions over the years—between primary and secondary school, entering college, starting a new job, even just going to parties where I didn’t know everyone—and I’d been able to make friends with at least one person in each new environment. So even if I wasn’t the bubbliest social butterfly in the world, I obviously wasn’t completely devoid of friendship skillz. Now I just had to figure out what those were.
I’ve been in New York for a month now, and my friendship quest has forced me to find and hone whatever skills I possess and to test out some friend-making strategies. You don’t have to born with this innate knowledge—anyone can learn how to make friends, no matter how old you are or how inhospitable your surroundings. It’s not even that hard, I promise. Here’s what’s worked for me so far.
1. Start with people you already know.
This is a good first/baby step, because you’re not really making new friends, but rather reaching out to people you know, but not super-well: acquaintances, people you’ve lost touch with, Facebook friends, that kind of thing. I was lucky in that when I moved to New York, I had a cousin who already lived here. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years, but I contacted him over email shortly before I arrived. As soon as I’d settled in, I invited him out for brunch. It was great! We filled each other in on our lives and laughed about how alike our moms (who are sisters) are. He also told me where to get the best food in my new neighborhood. Over a handful of friend dates we went from cousins-at-a-distance to actual buds, and now we meet up every couple of weeks for a meal or a movie. He was my first New York friend. Making just one friend in a town makes all the difference, and the good news is it doesn’t take too much to achieve this.
2. Next step: friends once removed.
Another thing that’s great about people you already know is they’ll have a ready-made set of friends for you to meet! One of my old university friends, Al, has lived in New York for a while, and he knows a bunch of great people. He invited me to a party at his house and introduced me to a couple who had also just settled in the city. When I texted them to catch up last week, they invited me and my boyfriend over for dinner. They were so nice, and we found we had a lot in common—we’d lived in some of the same places, and one of them is a big reader like me—and I definitely want to hang out with them again. I couldn’t believe how easy and straightforward it was to meet new people. It turns out that all you have to do is ask!
But what if you don’t know anyone in your new city? Well, do you know people elsewhere? They might be able to help you out. Rack your brain for every time anyone has ever mentioned that they know someone in your new town. You can literally just say, “I haven’t met anyone I really click with here; if you know anyone you think I would get along with, can you introduce us?” Charlie from orchestra is originally from Cleveland? Ask him. Your brother’s girlfriend used to work in London? Hit her up. Don’t be worried that you’re hassling them; if they’re your friends, they’ll want you to be happy wherever you are! You and your friends’ friends already have one thing in common (your friends), and chances are there’ll be other stuff too.
Another thing that helped me was a blanket announcement/request. If you tell people that you’re moving—in person, by email, or on Facebook, and add, “If you know anyone fun in [wherever] I should hang out with, let me know!” people will start sending you names and phone numbers. Humans are so naturally social! So make sure you mention your move to people. If you want to be more specific, you could say, “I’d love someone to go to see Fiona Apple with next month!” and your peeps will be able to let you know who their other music-lovin’ friends are. After I did this, the names started pouring in, and I now have a huge list of New Yorkers to meet—and I hardly had to lift a finger.
Now, contacting the people on this list presents another challenge, because of the aforementioned shyness. If you have trouble making friends, I’m guessing you might suffer from the same affliction? Well, email was made for us, my friend. Writing an email to a stranger is a lot less intimidating than calling or texting, and it puts less pressure on them. Here’s an example—an actual email that I wrote when I moved here:
I hope you’re well!
Our mutual friend Ian—who is the best—kindly put us in touch. As he mentioned, I’ve just arrived in NYC and would love to meet you and hear about what you do. As I’m new in town, I would love for you to suggest somewhere fun or delicious where I can buy you a coffee (or other treat)!
This email does a few different things: establishes contact, reminds the potential friend who you are and whom you have in common, invites them to suggest when and where might be convenient for them to meet, and subtly acknowledges that they are doing you a nice favor by taking the time and the risk to meet up with a stranger. Also, it’s short! The people you’ll be contacting probabliy already have busy lives, and it’s considerate to be brief, I think.
Dan responded to that email, and we have since had a couple of fairytale coffee dates where we literally talked about Rookie, so it’s worked out pretty well so far. I’m meeting some more people this week, too! Cross your fingers for me.