How to Make Friends When You Move to a New City

Claire Nicholas

By Claire Nicholas

Jul 09, 2024

According to the American Psychological Association, “having social connections is one of the most reliable predictors of a long, healthy, and satisfying life.” But when you move to a new town, it’s not always easy to feel like you have a thriving social life right away. So, how do you meet people in a new and unfamiliar place? We spoke to a few young adult renters to learn more about how to make friends in a new city. 

Go Out in Public

Whether you have one friend, five, or no one at all in your new city, growing your new social circle requires getting out of the house. Take it from 25-year-old renter Virginia Van Zandt, who moved from Boston to New York City’s Lower East Side in 2023. One tip she has is to make the most of new friends by meeting their friends, too — make a point to go out, introduce yourself to new people, and follow up on those new connections. “You have to be really diligent about it and be your own social secretary,” she says.  

If you go to a bar, a block party, or the dog park, for example, be sure to take down contact information of anyone you hit it off with so you can make plans with them or invite them (and open the invite to their friends) the next time you have plans to go to a concert or a party.  

Meeting friends of friends like this allows you to develop a new group of people to hang out with without starting from scratch. “One connection leads to another,” says Van Zandt.  

Leverage Mutual Friendships and Mutual Interests

Van Zandt tells us that one of the reasons she’s been successful finding new friendships in New York City is because she had a few pre-existing connections. “I’ve leveraged mutual friends to gain access to new groups,” she says. Even if you don’t know a single soul in your new city but have a mutual friend who lives nearby, those connections can be catalysts for your new community. Ask your existing friends (and family) if they know anyone living in your new city or neighborhood, and then ask them to introduce you. You don’t need to be best friends with someone to invite them to a hangout.

And, often, something that’s just as good as a mutual friend is a shared interest. Think of your hobbies as friends that can introduce you to people they know. If you’re into working out, for example, you might consider joining the gym and striking up a conversation with people you see there since you know you already have a common interest.

Or, like 26-year-old Philadelphia renter Polina Lipskaya, you could approach someone in public who’s reading a book you like and strike up a conversation about your similar interest. “I was waiting for my coffee order and I saw this person looking through a baking cookbook I use and love,” she says. “We ended up chatting for a while and exchanging numbers to bake together.” 

Join Social Networking Groups and Other Clubs

If you have no friends or mutual friends in your new city — or if going out and striking up conversation with a stranger is way outside your comfort zone — there are resources on Facebook and other forms of social media that are made for your exact situation. Take, for example, the app Bumble BFF or the organization GirlFriends Boston, a regional social group where all members have one thing in common: They’re in search of new connections. The local group is a community-building network that organizes social events like meals, workouts, neighborhood walks and meet-ups, and crafts, all for the purpose of initiating new social connections between women in the area. 

“By hosting in-person events and gathering our community while doing fun activities, we foster a comfortable environment for women in Boston to find different people to whom they could relate,” says GirlFriends Boston owner and CEO Ana Baptista. 

Especially if you’re moving to a bustling town or densely populated area (it doesn’t have to be a big city), groups like GirlFriends Boston can help you build friendships from scratch. You’ll likely encounter other people who have just moved to the area and are in search of social kindling. “We take [away] the pressure of asking people if they are looking for new friends,” says Baptista. “By being there, we all share that in common, which makes it easier for everyone to connect.” 

Baptista has seen GirlFriends Boston introduce close friends since the group’s beginnings in 2018, a testament to the effectiveness of social networking groups. “We have seen GirlFriends [members] travel to different countries with one another, help each other with moving, and be in each other lives for important events such as baby showers and weddings,” she says.  

In addition to joining Facebook groups (especially for those who aren’t on social media), you can also meet friends and likeminded people at intramural sports leagues, running clubs, book clubs, and other social organizations in your city. Look for flyers in your town center, search key words like “[your city] running clubs”* on social media and search engines and keep an ear out at work for your colleagues for their recommendations.  

Above all, making friends requires taking risks and putting yourself out there. But, as Lipskaya discovered, it’s important to be optimistic and trust your instincts. “Chances are the person on the other side is also very eager to make new friends since it’s hard for everyone to connect with new people,” she says.  

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