Live Through This

Let’s Be Friends

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

3. Find your tribe.

If you don’t know anyone at all in your new school/city/whatever, you’ll have to push up your sleeves and do a bit of work. I love books and literature, so I’ve been looking up New York book events. I’m planning to go to a few of them and just say hi to people who look friendly. This might sound a bit scary, but all you have to do is say hello (and maybe smile)! You don’t have to make friends straightaway. It’s all about getting used to the vibe and the faces around you. Eventually, you might see the same faces again and again. Then, try to get beyond hi—these could be the people you eventually ask to come to see a comedy show with you, or to grab a bite to eat after a reading.

I haven’t done that last part yet, but I plan to. It will require me to swallow my shyness and just go for it. Maybe if someone’s holding a book I’ve read, I’ll ask them what they thought about it. If I overhear a person chatting in a non-American accent, I’ll ask them if they’re from out of town like I am. People flying solo might be the most approachable, because they could be in the same situation as me. Groups might have their own thing going on, but still, if you overhear a conversation about a topic that really interests you—someone’s having trouble with their sewing machine, or abstaining from watching The Mindy Project when they have buckets of studying to do—why not try politely jumping in?

I realize that the strike-out-on-your-own path might not be for everyone. That’s why clubs and social events are so great. There are heaps of sports teams you can join, for example, and lots of themed meetups that are arranged online. (Here are two I just looked up: Harry Potter meetup! Makeup meetup!) And then there are less-formal groups you can be part of. A new friend has just asked me to join a baking club. I don’t even have an oven, but I’m joining as a guest eater. I mean, I love to put carbs in my face. That qualifies me for friendship with bakers, RIGHT?

If you can’t find an event, team, club, guild, or league that appeals to you, why not start one of your own? Create a Facebook event for a talent show you want to run, or let it be known that your Buffy Binge-Watch Brigade is open to new members. When I’m in charge of something, I feel more confident, and I find it’s easier to talk about something I’m doing rather than about myself per se. And when you create an experience with a bunch of other people? That’s some intense, satisfying bonding right there.

4. Hello: the basics.

Then there are the connections you can make just by being in the world. When you move to a new city or start at a new school or a new job, you’re thrust into a whole new social milieu. It can be tricky to stay cool in such circumstances, because every situation is so different. You won’t know anything about pre-existing social allegiances or rules, and the risk of doing something you’ll feel embarrassed about is higher than if you know where you stand.

But you know what? At a minimum, all you really need to do is say hello, introduce yourself, and ask your companion’s name. Smiling helps! After that, if conversation doesn’t seem to be flowing, just ask a simple question or two. “How long have you worked here?” or “Who’s that band on your T-shirt?” will work fine. It doesn’t have to be rocket science—you’re just two people being friendly. If they don’t reciprocate, it’s probably not your fault: People can be closed up for personal reasons, or they might have had a bad day. Even really awesome people sometimes have terrible friendship chemistry together. But don’t give up on being interested in others. Someone who will be curious back is right around the corner.


I know (from experience!) that making new friends can be exhausting. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and be vulnerable and approach strangers, and it takes energy to work up that courage. It is tiring to have to repeat your story over and over again for everyone you meet, too. Some people I know get really energized by a room full of new people, but I’m both introverted and quickly bored by talking about myself, and this combination makes that kind of situation especially unpleasant for me. I like to give myself a break when I start feeling tired and grumpy, but I also like to remind myself that I love many things about meeting new people! I love asking them about their lives, hearing their stories, finding out secrets about my new town that only people who live here could know, and seeing the kindness in people’s eyes when they’re listening.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, too. I’m not saying this to frighten you, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone home kicking myself after saying something really stupid to a new person! (Just ask me about the time I asked my friend’s very sweet dad about when she was conceived and crown me Queen of TMI.) Still, this kind of oopsy is rarely fatal—my friend’s dad sure remembered me after that, and he actually thought I was funny, not just a horrifically inappropriate person. And let’s be honest: If I wasn’t myself when I met people for the first time, I’d be sure to start talking about sexing or pooping eventually, so I now consider this kind of talk a bit of a friendship hors d’oeuvre, or a sample of what’s to come. Even if you’re afraid of making social “mistakes,” you might find you’re more equipped than you thought you were to tread outside your comfort zone just a little, every now and then. I try really hard to do this, and it’s been worth it so far. I never regret it when I initiate conversation with the first question or joke.

So yeah, it’s hard sometimes, but making friends is totally worth all the effort, IMO. I know I could live my life safely alone in my apartment, ordering delivery and never having to leave or speak to anyone. But new friends do stuff like crack jokes with you and support you and teach you new things, and that’s all stuff I’m willing to work for. If that means I have to open my tender, fragile little heart to strangers, then so be it! Some people might peek in and find nothing of interest there, and that’s OK. But a couple of people might open theirs back up to me, and I’ll be so grateful and excited. This is how it works for everybody, yourself included! Say yes to friends, friend. ♦


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  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Chloe 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 .



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

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