HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS IN A NEW CITY
One of the most daunting pieces of moving to a new place is making new friends. As someone who has moved to both new cities and countries in the last few years, this is a struggle that I know all too well. Combined with the inevitable stress of moving, at times it can all seem like too much.
Before moving to Sweden, my boyfriend and I lived in the Bay Area for a few years. While I enjoyed my job and living in California, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. I’d never had to work very hard to make friends before. Most of my friends were people I had known since childhood, or had met in my dorm or classes in University. I guess I figured that friends would just sort of find me when I moved, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. My half hearted attempts to meet people didn’t help to fulfil the types of relationships I needed at the time. So when we moved to Sweden, I made a promise to myself that things would be different. This time I would be intentional with how I went about making friends, and focus my time and energy on meeting the right people and cultivating the relationships that I felt I was missing. It took time, persistence, and a little bit of bravery, but after 2 years I can say that I am so happy with the friendships I have cultivated in my life, and am so happy I took the time to do so.
So how the heck does one go about finding friends in a new place? Making friends takes time and effort, but when you focus your energy and take the right steps, I promise friends will come!
Keep scrolling to learn more about my 5 tips for making friends in a new city!
1. Focus on yourself, and the right people will come
This is the single most important piece of advice I can give when it comes to making friends, abroad or at home. I believe that we have friends for every season of life. Some are with us for a short time, and some are here for longer. But no matter what season you’re in, one of the best things I can say is to focus on yourself and what makes you happy first before looking to others for that fulfilment.
Someone once told me that life is like a marathon. Sometimes we go through seasons where it feels as if we’re so busy being where we think we’re supposed to be, that we can lose ourselves. If at the beginning of the marathon you try to base your speed on the people around you, eventually you’re going to burn out. If you stay back to walk with those who are walking, you may never reach your full potential. But if you run at the pace that’s best for you, even if you’re alone for a while, eventually mid race you’ll be surrounded by people who are going your speed.
Those are your people.
If you’re in a season of life where you’re feeling lonely or looking for new friends, use this as an opportunity to work on yourself as an individual instead of seeking out relationships to fulfil that gap. Work on getting you know yourself and what makes you feel fulfilled, and eventually you’ll be surrounded by people who are looking for the same things.
2. Join a group or class
When thinking about the friends I’ve made since moving to Sweden, I’ve realised that 99.9% of my friendships originated in some sort of class or group. Not only is joining a class a great way to get involved and get to know your new city, it’s one of the best places to meet new friends!
If you’re moving to a new country, language classes are a great place to meet potential friends. I had so much fun in my Swedish class getting to know people from all over the world. We were all new to the country, so it was easy to bond over that commonality!
Facebook groups for expats can be a great place to meet people as well. Groups like the American Women’s Club, Expats in Sweden/your country, Americans in Malmö/your city, etc. are all groups that have a presence on Facebook and many times have regular meetings IRL! While it’s amazing to have friends that are native to the country you’re living in, it’s also nice to be able to connect with other expats and share experiences, tips, and sometimes just commiserate together!
In the age of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, MeetUp, and countless other sites, it’s easier than ever to find groups and classes near you. When moving to a new city, I always make it a priority to seek out one or two groups right away, and my boyfriend does the same! We love having sports or clubs on the side, and it’s a great way to meet people, especially in a new place. A few groups/activities I have joined in the past or actively participate in are: Swedish class, expat clubs, church groups, volunteering, mentor programs, university classes, cycling groups, yoga class, etc. Pick something you’re experienced with or interested in, stick with it, and see where it takes you!
3. Utilise your network
In jobs and life, having a solid network of people around you can lead to countless opportunities. So if you’re new in the city, reach out! Know someone who used to live in Stockholm? Ask them if they have anyone in mind that they could connect you with! Your boyfriend’s co-workers’s girlfriend is also into yoga? Ask for an introduction!
4. Make the first move
If you’re an introvert like me, going up to a person or group of people you don’t know can feel SO daunting. This is the number one reason why networking or any other kind of “get to know you” event is very low on my list of ways I like to spend my time. Unfortunately for me, people can’t always just sense that I want to be their friend. Sometimes the stars align, and someone else will initiate the first conversation. But more often than not, I’m the one taking control of the situation and making the first move. And you know what? My success rate is pretty high. I don’t always become besties with everyone I ask to hang out, but I think that’s pretty unrealistic anyway. Even if things don’t work out and we weren’t meant to be the next David and Stevie, at least I put myself out there and was able to take something from the experience.
Let me tell you a story: a few years ago I was studying abroad. It was the first week of university, and I had been invited to a dinner for international students. Before the dinner I kept going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to go – I didn’t know anyone, there wasn’t assigned seating, I hadn’t been to this part of campus before, etc… basically I had every excuse in the book because it was a whole evening of unknown. I finally decided to get over myself and go to the dinner – I didn’t have any friends, and I was alone in a new country, what was there to lose? On my way to the event, I spotted a group of three girls ahead who were dressed up and looked like they were heading to the same place. I approached them, asked if they were going to the dinner, ended up sitting at the same table, and 5 years later we’re still friends!
Over the years I’ve gotten SO much better at making the first move. This is definitely something that gets easier with practice, and the more times I do it, the more confident I feel. If there’s someone I meet in a class and think we have friend potential, I’m usually the first to ask to meet up for coffee. In my experience, the reward outweighs the cost of putting myself out there and feeling a little awkward for a few moments. So if in doubt, just make the first move- what have you got to lose?
5. Let people know you're looking for friends
This last tip is to be real with the people in your life, and let them know that you’re looking for friends! It can feel a little weird at first, but the more people that know you’re on the hunt, the more likely you’ll get connected with some great people. In my experience, people are more than happy to help connect you with others they think you’ll like or share interests with. Just be honest and get the word out there!
So that’s it! My 5 tips for making friends in a new city or country. Is there anything I missed? For those of you who live abroad, what is your advice on finding friends?
Let me know below!