Live Through This

Let’s Be Friends

How to find your people in a new city (or anywhere).

Collage by Sonja. Line drawing by Brooke Nechvatel, scissors from an online catalog, and kids on beanbags from "a cruddy craft book from the 1970s."

Collage by Sonja, using: line drawing by Brooke Nechvatel, scissors from an online catalog, and kids on beanbags from “a cruddy craft book from the 1970s.”

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 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 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:

Dear Dan,

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)!

Bestest,
Estelle

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 probably 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.

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28 Comments

  • maxrey November 20th, 2013 4:00 PM

    This is really relevant to my life right now, so thanks for writing this and sharing your experiences! <3

  • astrid November 20th, 2013 4:30 PM

    I find it’s a common theme among young adults who move to different cities. it was much easier when we were younger. thank you for sharing! it’s pretty tough but we’ll get there :)

  • Mollylou November 20th, 2013 4:44 PM

    I know, I know! I have to get out of my house and do scary things once in a while! I really need to make new friends, considering mine are all in college (and I’m not) and who knows where we’ll all be a year from now. I’m lonely just hanging out with my family all the time, but I’ve been too scared/shy/lazy/full of excuses to go places alone and meet strangers. And yet, I know it will pay off.

  • Ella W November 20th, 2013 4:45 PM

    I am quite a shy person, but for some reason the idea of making new friends really excites me! I like the fact that it’s a chance to have a clean sheet and just be you rather than the person your friends expect you to be.
    I started a new orchestra a few months ago and literally knew nobody, but all it took was a ‘Hi, I’m Ella, I’m new and don’t know anybody so do you mind if I hang out with you’ and I made a really nice group of friends! It’s easy if you try…

    Ella x

  • Jeedz November 20th, 2013 5:42 PM

    Thanks so much for this article. I’m a freshman at college and it has been really lonely and isolating for me. I feel like I forgot how to make friends because it was soo easy in high school. Being so far away is a major factor too. I’ll have to follow these tips.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • vintagebarbie November 20th, 2013 6:00 PM

    I’m extremely shy and this really helps!
    http://howfittingblog.blogspot.com

  • globed peony November 20th, 2013 6:53 PM

    Thank you – there are wonderful reminders here about making friends even for those of us who haven’t just moved to a new place.
    I moved to a big city five years ago but I am shy and still struggle to make friends. This article has spurred me on to take action and try harder!
    Good luck to you in NYC, Estelle. X

  • Maryse89 November 20th, 2013 7:50 PM

    :( this is too relevant to me. i’ve never been great at making friends, but in college it wasn’t such a problem because living on a hall with 40 other girls basically did the work for me. then i graduated, and spent a year in a new city for grad school and didn’t make one new friend (for many reasons, all too depressing when listed in any detail)

    weirdly enough I spent this past semester in another new city in a different COUNTRY, and it’s been so easy to make friends…

    but unfortunately in January, I’m moving back to Washington, DC (the first city), so yeah, for real, if any one lives in the area and wants to be friends, let’s do it!!!!

    (i’m dead serious, any dc rookies, i’ll buy you a coffee at busboys and poets :) )

  • spudzine November 20th, 2013 9:00 PM

    This is the guide I’ve been waiting for. Seriously though, I’ve moved around a lot, and it can be hard sometimes to find people who share similar interests as yourself, especially if you obscure interests. But branching out with the help of a few like-minded people can definitely help! I’ll be sure to keep this advice in mind when I need to move again, LOL. Thanks Rookie!

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • saltwaterveins November 20th, 2013 9:32 PM

    Awesome :) I really love this!
    What happened to #4? lol

    • Tavi November 21st, 2013 2:53 AM

      Whoops, good catch! Thanks!

  • polaroidvisions November 20th, 2013 10:47 PM

    i’m moving soon and i hope i will make use of this. <3

  • elliecp November 21st, 2013 2:40 AM

    this is really cool. going to need it when I start college! <3

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • SuppyB November 21st, 2013 7:48 AM

    I really needed this now :’) For really shy and awkward people like me, this has been really informative and an absolute godsend!

  • MinaM8 November 21st, 2013 10:55 AM

    Omg i am changing schools next week, this is so helpful. And i’m probably gonna need this when i go to college too c:

  • lexilikes November 21st, 2013 12:19 PM

    These are some really good tips, even when you aren’t going anywhere specifically new! I’m trying to meet new people anyway; this really helped! <3

    http://www.lexilikes.com

  • Sophii November 21st, 2013 3:12 PM

    This is so useful! I’m really shy and will be moving away from my school and town in a couple of years so I’ll save this link to refer to again then xoxo

    http://prettypassionsfinefashions.blogspot.co.uk

  • itsireepie November 21st, 2013 4:00 PM

    Thanks for writing this! Even though I’ve lived in the same town for seven years, I find it really hard to talk to new people, especially because I’m in high school and because I had a parting of ways with some friends since last year. I’m really uncomfortable when I go on trips with my church so I don’t speak much unlike my brother. And I hate latching onto my friends in order to be introduced to others because I feel like I’m bothering them.

  • ohnoitsdevo November 22nd, 2013 12:32 AM

    Are there readers of Rookie out there that are a little bit older? I’m 27 and absolutely adore this website– I don’t know if that makes me weird, but whatever. Anyway, this article is fully relevant to me even as someone well out of college, as I am about to move to LA and don’t know anyone there. I think it’s even harder later on in life because you don’t have school and many of my peers are settled down with a partner/kids/careers. Keep up the great work, Rookie, and if there are any “senior” readers like me in the Los Angeles area, well maybe we can get coffee sometime!

    • gnomz November 25th, 2013 5:34 AM

      Hey ohno! I’m way older than you at 37 and still love rookie. I think it is because so many experiences are universal at any age, and it is just nice to read positive intelligent articles. I wish it had been around when I was a teenager. Sorry though I’m from Australia so no catch ups. Good luck

  • juliettevalentine November 22nd, 2013 12:56 AM

    Aw I loved this. I just moved to NYC too from Canada! Can we please be friends!! (◕‿◕✿)

  • Tara A. November 22nd, 2013 7:19 AM

    These tips are really helpful! I shall keep these in mind for whenever I feel like meeting new people.

    http://unlockingpandorasbox.blogspot.com

  • mollyjane November 22nd, 2013 7:38 AM

    yeah hi moved to paris from seattle a few months ago and i was in this same position. ive been lucky enough to make a really solid group of friends right away here, but every now and then i still branch out to girls i see at school, or at work. and the thing with not having friendship chemistry is totally true!! sometimes its worth a second coffee date, but quite often its really easy to tell if you just have to pick up the pieces and move on!!

  • daydream November 22nd, 2013 7:52 AM

    This is so great!
    I moved to Japan a year ago, but I still have trouble finding new friends. I think I’ll try some of these tips :)

  • silvermist November 22nd, 2013 4:49 PM

    Also, blogging. Although this is not exactly the best suggestion if you are moving to a new city and need someone to watch a movie with you or generally hang out with you “in real life”, you can meet many interesting and like-minded people through blogging. I’ve been friends with some girls who commented on my blog when I was like 14 and then I actually met one of my best friends from uni through her (my friend’s friend was going to the same university as me so I asked for her email address and then we arranged to meet on our first day there).
    Volunteering is great too. And Church too if you are religious and find some cool church in your area.

  • chloexcv November 23rd, 2013 2:10 PM

    This guide is v. useful for me . Only it’s a little harder for me to make friends because I can’t speak German all that well yet .

    LOOKING FOR ROOKIES WHO LIVE IN HAMBURG, GERMANY

    :)))

  • Sea goddess November 23rd, 2013 10:37 PM

    This is the BEST article I’ve read in making connections…completely true