Although I have traveled to many corners of the world, I have never been adventurous about where I called home. I was born and raised an hour north of New York City, and with the exception of three and a half years in Boston for college and studying abroad in London, I have spent the majority of my life in the Empire State. The Big Apple was never this intimidating, intangible city; for me, it was the perfect melting pot of my high school besties, college connections, and grown-up friends.
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What was scary was the thought of leaving everything – and everyone – I knew, which I finally did in 2019 when my long-term boyfriend (now fiancé) accepted a job in San Francisco. Being a full-time freelancer, I didn’t have colleagues to befriend or a Rolodex full of long-term connections. Three years (and a pandemic) later, I feel so grateful to have an inner circle of people who feel like family.
If you’ve also moved to a new city and want to make new friends, I’m sharing the best lessons I’ve learned as I built my own community. (Trust me, it’s not as scary as you’d think!)
Tip 1: Embrace your new normal
Repeat after me: Your inner circle in your new city is not going to look like your old one. Since New York is full of friends from different seasons, my social calendar was filled with mostly one-on-one dinners with my girlfriends. As much as I love my partner’s friends in New York, my girls were mine people. San Francisco is filled with a lot of my partner’s friends from grad school, and for the first few months in the Bay I assumed I’d have to go out and find individual one-on-one girlfriends. (It is after all always been so.)
But then it hit me: Why am I trying to copy what I had in New York? My east coast friends are still some of my best. So why not lean into the change and hang out with groups? Today, our social calendar consists of going on double dates with our favorite friends and hosting a handful of friends at our house for dinner parties—and I couldn’t be happier. (Since I’m always texting, exchanging memes, or making plans with them, I now feel like my partner’s school friends are just as much my friends.)
It’s a small shift in perspective, but once I removed any pressure to recreate my East Coast life, I was able to make real, lasting friendships. If you’re also looking to make new friends, drop the idea of what you think of your circle should look alike and be open to new connections. As the saying goes, make new friends but keep the old ones…
Whether it’s your cousin’s dorm roommate or your ex-coworker’s bestie, you might know someone (or someone who knows someone) in your new neck of the woods. So why not ask a friend on a blind date? Or, if you don’t know a single soul, consider reaching out to someone you admire on social media. One of my favorite connections I made in San Francisco came from my friend at my coworking place sliding into my DMs because it seemed like we had a lot in common. If you’re (understandably) a little nervous about taking the first step, try this template:
If you want to meet a lot of people at once, try joining a Facebook group or Meetup. Putting yourself out there can be nerve wracking, but you won’t make friends by sitting around doing nothing!
Speaking of making the first move, it’s important to initiate plans with potential friends. It can be a little intimidating to invite someone over for dinner or a Pilates class, but it’s important to make any budding connection a two-way street. That always it feels good to be invited somewhere, so make it clear that you want to spend more time together!
Soon after my fiance and I moved to San Francisco, we started hosting occasional dinner parties for the people we knew in the Bay Area and wanted to get to know better. (Since then, our dinners have become a staple in our schedule.) On a smaller scale, I’ve asked new friends for afternoon outings and even hosted a meeting of my old true crime book club.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to host a multi-course dinner party or have an affinity for true crime to take the first step. Grab a coffee with a friend of a friend? Invite them to happy hour. Signed up for a kickball league? Organize a picnic after training. It is the small initiatives that show that you are ready to have an equal friendship.
Tip 4: Find common ground
As far as I’m concerned, it is always easier to form a friendship with someone you have something in common with. So why not look for these similarities? When I first moved to San Francisco, I downloaded Bumble BFF and really gravitated to those who liked the same podcasts, music, and TV shows as me. But as I spent more time in San Francisco, I learned that friendship doesn’t mean having identical hobbies.
One of my favorite pre-pandemic places to make friends was at my former coworking space. My pseudo-office was filled with women who didn’t have exactly the same hobbies as me, but who possessed what I was looking for in a new context: warmth, openness and ambition. I love talking about the writing process with other freelance journalists or swapping business tips and pop culture gossip with another freelance friend.
Whether you’re looking for someone to watch “The Bachelor” with or pining for someone who recently moved to your new town, find some similarities and use them to break the ice.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your new circle of friends. While not every person you meet is destined to become your lifelong bestie, give people a chance. Try to move away from small talk and have deeper conversations; a little bit of vulnerability goes a long way in creating a solid friendship foundation.
But if you don’t feel the platonic spark after a few hookups, don’t be discouraged. Remember that you are amazing and you will find your people. It may take some time – and trial and error – but it will happen so worth the wait.