10 Ways to Make Friends in a New City

Moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone is harder than trying to look cool after you’ve just tripped over in a public place.

Depending on your circumstances, you might be starting from scratch with nowhere to live, no job, no bank account, and (if you have just spent 6 months backpacking like I had) no money. Every step of the move has big challenges.

Once you have a roof over your head and a source of income (go you good thing!) you will celebrate with all your mates! Or you would, if you had any friends. When seeking friends there is no ‘walk into a recruitment agency and walk out with an appointment for a friend’. There is no easy way.

Being without your support networks can be the most difficult part to moving to a new city. I experienced this when I first moved to Glasgow a few years ago (why I ended up there is a whole other story). So here are my tips on how to make friends in a new city:

1. Arrive in your new city on Halloween. Seriously, it’s a great idea! As I have previously mentioned, dressing up is good fun. There’s nothing like wearing a crazy wig to give you the courage to talk to people you don’t know. And even if you make a fool of yourself they won’t recognise you… so what’s the worst that could happen?

I knew none of these people before this moment.

2. Meet some friendly Oompa Loompas (see above point). I had made a new “hostel friend”* my first night in Glasgow, but we lost each other during the night. When we met up at breakfast the next day she recalled the last she saw of me I had been swept up in a group of Oompa loompas. I didn’t know anyone’s name at the end of it (they all looked the same), but I had a great time. Be warned though, that orange paint may never come out of your clothes.

3. When you’re looking for somewhere to live you can also use this as a tool to make friends. Even if you are viewing a room you don’t like perhaps the people are cool and you can stay in touch. Once I was shown a room by the girl moving out. I didn’t take it, but I took the girls number and we met up. I won’t lie, there was a brief moment where I thought I may have accidently invited a lady out for a date, but it was cool in the end.

4. Slut yourself out to any random friend introductions. When people discover you’ve moved somewhere they’ll often say “oh I have a friend that lives there, I could give you their email?” Accept. One friend can introduce you to many friends so just suck up your fear of the awkward introduction and do it! Also you get to go on a sort of “blind date” for a friend which is fun. Don’t get confused that it is a real date though, things could get really awkward if you mistakenly go in for the ‘lean’ at the end of the night. (Unrelated to previous point.)

5. Cling onto anyone you meet. Get their number and try to meet up as soon as you can. Don’t play it cool and think they’ll contact you. You aren’t cool. At least not in this city. You have no friends remember? You have to make an effort even if you have just worked 12 hours at a seedy bar, are covered in beer and just broke up a fight about a football code you don’t understand. You must be diligent in your friendship quest.

Making friends with 'Nessie'

Making friends with 'Nessie'

6. Join a local sporting team if that’s your thing. However, be mindful that “friendly” is a term used loosely when connected with sporting teams. A “friendly” competition could mean twice weekly intensive combat-style training sessions and games all day Sunday. They may not be so “friendly” if you are the one continually dropping the ball. As someone who finds walking and drinking at the same time difficult, joining a “friendly” touch football team in Glasgow was not the wisest move. Join with caution.

7. Learn the language quickly. Yes, I know Scotland is technically an English speaking country, but it took me some time to get the hang of the Glaswegian accent. Nodding and smiling only gets you so far, especially if you have to then present said drink you nodded about.

8. Milk your foreign accent/looks/ignorance as long as possible. At home you’re boring, but in a new city you are potentially interesting just for being foreign. Milk this for all it’s worth as you may never get that feeling again. I was openly laughed at when I was baffled at someone ordering an “Irn Bru”** at my first (extremely short-lived) job as a waitress. Luckily they were Neighbours fans, so they spent the rest of the night quizzing me on Paul Robinsons latest antics.

9. Accept that you can’t keep up with everything back home. If you try doing this you may miss your own moments. Like when you found out the EXACT ingredients of haggis or when you saw some highland coos for the first time.  There’ll be time for catch ups later. Right now live every moment.

First time I ever saw snow falling! Nearly wet my pants.

10. They won’t be like your friends at home, but that is the whole point. Embrace it! Learn as much as you can about the culture. Ask questions and enjoy making mistakes. For example, I now know if you order a ‘hamburger’ from a chippy*** in Glasgow it is literally just a deep fried hamburger patty. No bun. No lettuce. Nothing. Embrace the differences! Then when you do eventually make it home you will have lots of interesting tales to tell.

Did I miss anything? How did you/would you make friends in a new city?

*”Hostel friends” can last anytime between a breakfast together and a lifetime. I still keep up with Lauren, she even has a blog and I bet she thinks of me anytime she sees an Oompa Loompa.

**For any of those that don’t know what Irn Bru is, it’s the biggest selling soft drink in Scotland. It’s orange and tastes like creaming soda. It is awesome! I miss it.

***A chippy is a kind of ‘fish and chip’ fast-food shop, but so much more. Think of anything imaginable and you can get it deep-fried and covered with cheese here. Dead brilliant!

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40 thoughts on “10 Ways to Make Friends in a New City

  1. Good post! It can be really hard to make friends in a new city, especially a foreign one where they speak another language. I’ve been in Barcelona for about nine months now, but it still feels like my friend group hasn’t settled yet.

  2. I can relate to a lot of this, as I went and lived in Ireland for a while after college (Irish accents can be tricky too lol), but I was lucky enough to have a friend with me. I think I would have been quite lost on my own but I probably would have ended up meeting more people were I not always hanging out with my friend. So I guess there are pros and cons either way, on your own or with a friend. 🙂

    • Yes, I have also lived in London with a bunch of uni mates and it was a little easier in some ways. But I definitely made more of my own thing when I did it alone. And agree about the Irish accents 😉

  3. This post is perfect thanks or the tips! I’m moving to a brand new city soon, so I jumped at the chance to read these thoughts! I learned point 9 the hard way when I was living in France for a short time- you can easily waste time by not living in the moment and embracing life and culture where you currently are. Love all these!

  4. Awesome post! I myself, am moving out to a new city in few months. I’ll make it sure to use these tips. On other irrelevant note, this blog-you is just the opposite of blog-me. You are giving tips for making friends while my blog-post http://wp.me/p1Ml92-1r is just the opposite (how to avoid ppl) .

    For tip-6) no need to actually join a sporting team, you just have to hate/love the same team/person in a sport, as the ppl around you do.

    • Good luck with the move! I hope it is fun 🙂
      Yes you make a good point about the sporting thing, the problem was there were two massive football (soccer) teams in Glasgow that everyone supported and they were like mortal enemies so choosing one would mean half my friends would disown me. I’ve rarely seen sport so fiercely dividing (and I’m Australian, so that’s saying something!!!). I opted to stay on the fence in this case 😉
      Cheers!

  5. great post 😀

    Can relate to this. one time when I went on a party bus, turned out another party bus goer from a different bus thought I was party material and invited me to future parties since then. Great way to make friends- be open !

  6. OMG – this is SO timely! I am moving to Ottawa (from London) in a month or so, and I am excited and apprehensive in equal measure! I am going to use my cut glass British accent for all its worth (tip 8). I moved to Canberra in 2003 and I had a blast! I went to every single party I was invited to and early on, I threw a MASSIVE party myself, inviting loads of people that I did not know – GOOD TIMES! I am STILL none the wiser on the rules and regulations on Aussie Rules though…

    • It sounds like you don’t need advice as you already know what you are doing!!! Good luck with the move 🙂 And don’t worry, I’m Australian and still don’t undestand half the rules 😉
      Cheers!

  7. Reblogged this on beanboston and commented:
    Someone asked me how to make friends in a new city. I thought about blogging it on BeanBoston but then this hilarious timely came out on The Naked Envelope. This writer makes a good read and makes me laugh everytime!

  8. I love this post! It reminds me of my time readjusting to new cities. Despite all the weird uncertainty of it all, I always have great fun moving and starting over. I mean, it’s awesome being the new girl and there seem to be so many untold stories to live which gives me a renewed enthusiasm to fearlessly go in search of new people/experiences. 🙂 Thanks for this post, it brought up a certain nostolgia and made me laugh at some points.

    Have a great day,
    Currie

  9. Pingback: Meeting Strangers: Cool | tipsology

  10. Hi i just moved to Mexico about 6 months ago and speak the language but I still have not met any new friends. My husband moved back to Mexico for a job offer. I don’t work and I think that is one of the main reasons I do not met anyone. I have some friends here but they all have children and are alwayz busy. We don’t have children yet and when I met people they are all older with children and don’t have much free time. I am not shy I say hi to as many people as I met but sometimes I feel they don’t talk back because I am not from here and they can tell. I am not sure what to do. I am kind of feeling depressed with my life here. I miss everything from back home. How long does it take to adjust and met true friends? I join exercise classes too see what happens but not many people stay after. I am like a stay at home mom with no kids and nothing to do. Help!

    • Hi Nicole, it sounds like you’re having a tough time and I know how you feel to some extent. It’s really difficult and sounds like you’re doing all the right things by taking all the opportunity you can. All I can say is hang in there and you will eventually meet people you click with. Maybe you could ask your friends that you do know if they could introduce you to anyone they know who is in a similar life stage to you? Or to invite you to social things they have? They may not be aware you don’t know many people so I’m sure if you reached out to them you’d get a positive response. From my experience, if you’re open to people and ask to be included in things you get a good response. Another idea is to try a website like http://www.meetup.com/ where people come together with common interests. I’m not sure if this works in Mexico, but if it doesn’t there is probably an equivalent. Also you could try and join things your’re interested in like a book club (sometimes local bookshops organise them or the library), or volunteer some time with a charity? Adjustment can take any amount of time, for me I was lucky and made a few good freinds after a few weeks. But another friend took him about a year to feel truly settled and make friends. the key is not to give up!! Good luck and let me know how you go. -Miranda

  11. hello guys, i really love all these ideas. I am planning to move to quebec city in fews months, and it is very exciting. I do speak french very well,, so hopefuly i will be able to make new friends. Any advice about quebec city??

  12. Well done nicole,
    I’m moving out to san francisco at the end of the year
    got some chuckles from the hostel oompa loompas
    I was in mexican hostel and made friends with some masked wrestlers
    or so i thought, they never took their mask off which was a bit off but all the more entertaining when their names are roughly translated to the skull squisher, the goon and lumpy

    Check my blog out and give me some of your thoughts, the schizo pieces are have are a bit interesting

    http://vagabondingtruth.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/f-o-l-i-intro-to-a-schizo-2/
    http://vagabondingtruth.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/convos-with-a-schizo-part-2/

  13. Thank you for the Post.
    Really i was worried coz, I am moving to France for my higher studies. So i dont know how am i going to make friends there? new city, new people. But i’m still worried..:(

  14. I’m actually moving to Glasgow in September and I happened to stumble upon this article on Google, thank you! Good to know somebody else was in my exact position! 🙂

  15. I had to leave a comment on this, i have just moved to Sydney from Edinburgh 5 weeks ago. I had 2 friends and 3 cousins in Sydney before a got here, i still have 2 friends and 3 cousins. Given that i have just googled “how to make friends in sydney” clearly, i’m feeling a little lonely and friendless. I just haven’t a clue how to go about meeting people! About to move into a shared house and starting a job this week, hopefully this will make things a little easier!
    This advice is both hilarious and very useful!! Thanks!

  16. Oh man, I’ve just moved to Edinburgh from Australia after 8 months backpacking and I don’t think I’ve ever related to anything more ever. Going to follow your advice!

  17. Pingback: New City, New Friends - Axon Capital Realty

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