Six months ago, my husband and I made the decision to move from San Diego to Denver for a great new work opportunity. The move was an exciting step in our life together, but nonetheless I’ve found adjusting to life in a new city to be challenging. Over the past few months, I’ve found that establishing a solid social network is the most important aspect to making my new surroundings feel like home.
The Importance of a Social Network
For many, moving to a new city separates us from all semblance of family. But a solid social network can become like a surrogate family–that you get to choose!
Building a local social network means you’ll also have better access to the city scoop. Friends can help clue you in to health care providers, personal services, community events and little known facts.
Brittany Ringel, a second year attorney from Texas, moved to Houston two years ago without knowing a soul and can attest to the importance of a personal recommendation: “Find one girlfriend or co-worker whose recommendations you trust,” says Brittany. “My first visit to the hair salon was an epic fail. I ended up with highlights that made me look like a skunk just one week before my firm photos.”
Social networks not only help you learn more about your surroundings, but can also benefit your health. A recent BYU study found that social connection can help increase a person’s survival rate by 50 percent. If that’s not a reason to make some friends, I don’t know what is!
So, here are a few good guidelines for establishing a social home base in your new city, gathered from young professionals who’ve been there:
1. Keep Up with Your Routine
Are you an avid runner? Love your weekly dance class? Look into finding an outlet for your go-to hobbies in your new area. Maintaining your routine from your hometown is great way to let off steam with an activity you enjoy and also immediately connects you with like-minded people. Meetup.com is a great resource to find people in your area with shared interests.
2. Stick Around
While it’s tempting in the first few months in your new city, it’s really important to resist the inclination to travel back home at every opportunity. Daily Muse editor Adrian Granzella Larssen moved across the country twice within three years. At first, she found herself making any excuse to fly home to her comfort zone in Los Angeles.
“It’s definitely easier to avoid those first few lonely weekends by going back home,” says Adrian. “But by not being physically present in your new city, you miss out on opportunities to get connected, explore your new home, and build relationships.”
Attempting to live your old life stunts the ability to adjust to anew city and only makes the process more difficult.
3. Never Say No
Relax. This section isn’t about promiscuity, although I’m sure that’s probably a pretty quick way to meet new people. As you meet people, adopting a policy of ‘Why not?’ ensures you the greatest opportunity to get to know them and learn about your new city.
“I made it a policy to never say no,” say Adrian. “Anytime a new co-worker or acquaintance suggested an activity or invited me somewhere, I did it–even if it was someone I didn’t know well or something that I wouldn’t typically do. Being open to every experience definitely helped me get closer to people, and it filled up my weekends when I was missing my friends from home.”
4. Go It Alone
Another temptation when new to a city is to cling to the one person you know. Be they boyfriend, roommate, or other, it’s easy to drag them to every social opportunity like a security blanket. It’s difficult to make the effort to and endure a potentially awkward first conversation with a new person when a previously established friend is immediately at your disposal.
While I’m not suggesting you cut all ties with familiar faces, there are certainly benefits to braving it solo on occasion. Going out alone forces you to make conversation and meet new people. It also gives you the opportunity to notice people you otherwise wouldn’t with a closer friend around. I promise you, this is intimidating. But the very best part about going out alone is that over time, you’ll inevitably improve your independence and confidence. Of course it may not always be necessary, but once you’ve developed it, the ability to go out alone is priceless.
5. Say Something
While some may believe in the powers of ESP, I would argue it’s just about impossible to make a new friend without saying a word. By now you’ve gone to the trouble to stay in town to try a new activity and even gone all by yourself. Now you’re expected to make conversation. But how?
Finding a way to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger doesn’t come naturally for most people, myself included. Two of my favorite tips are to pay attention to things you have in common and follow up. Be sure to gather contact information and don’t wait around for the phone to ring. Take some initiative and reach out!
6. Be Unconventional
People often think of bars and coffee houses, but you can meet new friends in a variety of other locations as well. Brittany Ringel clued me in to two great unconventional places:
Whole Foods or Farmers’ Markets. “People who shop at these places tend to care about their health and the environment,” says Brittany. “I’ve been approached by guys every time I wear my college gear. It’s an easy way to start up a conversation while waiting in line.”
Lululemon athletica. “If you have a lululemon in your town, stop by there. The staff is always friendly and every location I’ve visited has a board with all types of workout classes and activities in the city. Plus they usually host free yoga on the weekends in the store. The one in Houston hosts a 5K on Sundays that starts at their store and finishes with mimosas.”
Not a bad way to meet people, if you ask me!
More Friend-Building Opportunities
Still not sure where to start? Below is a list of a few more “Friend-Building Opportunities” to get you on your way:
- Fitness Classes
- Alumni Network
- Volunteer Groups
- Local Media
- Local Hubs
- Online Resources: Groupon, Living Social Deals, Daily Candy, and Tidbits