How to Make Friends in a New City (Outside of Bars and Clubs)

Written by Davis Nguyen

Moving to a new city is tough. Each time I move, a dozen questions are in my head: Did I pack everything? What if I don’t like my neighbors? How will I make friends?

As a kid, my family relocated seven times, but adjusting was easy. I could always count on meeting new people at school. As I grew older, moving became harder. I lost my established network of friends and I hated having to start over.

In college, I continued to move around as I studied abroad and picked up internships and odd jobs. The more I moved, the more I had to uproot myself, but each time I found it easier to meet new people and make new friends no matter if I was in a big city like Los Angeles, California or a small town like Morrow, Georgia.

My first day in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico

After college, everyone moves in one way or another; even those moving back home are relocating to a new social environment. We have a plan for our stuff, but we should also have a plan for ourselves.

With the six strategies I share, there is something for everyone no matter if you prefer to party or want to spend the evening discussing your favorite books. With these strategies, you will be able to meet new people, come to call some of them friends, and stop worrying about the fate of your social life when you move.

How to Meet People

1. Re-connect with friends and acquaintances

Each time I move I go through my existing list of friends to see if I know anyone who is also in the area. It gives me an excuse to reconnect with friends even if we hadn’t spoken since first semester of college. Reconnecting with friends and acquaintances will help you meet their friends and have someone to go to events with if you’re both new to town.

2. Get to know your neighbors/co-workers

You’ll be spending a lot of time either at home or at work. Reaching out to your neighbors and co-workers who know the area better and telling them your interests will help them help you meet other people you might be interested in knowing.

3. Contact alumni

I like to check if any alumni from my college live in the area. Like your neighbors and co-workers, alumni have been in the area longer and can help you meet people and be a friend and resource in themselves.

4. Join an established activity

In college it was easy to meet people through classes and extracurricular activities. You can still meet people after college by joining classes and continuing or starting a hobby.

For example, I enjoy public speaking and the largest organization for public speaking is Toastmasters which has chapters all around the world. When I am in a new city, I reach out to the local club to drop in on a meeting. The same process can be taken for almost any hobby, sport, goals, or religious group.

5. Find your favorite local places and become a regular

Last summer I joined a local gym. After the first week, I could tell who the regulars were. I started striking up conversations with them and even hired one as a personal trainer.

This same concept works for any local café or hangout spot. After you go a few times, you’ll be able to identify the people who go regularly and they’ll be able to identify you as a regular as well.

When I find other regulars, I like to introduce myself. People are friendly than you think. All it take to introduce yourself is to walk up to them and say, “Hi, my name is Davis. I am new to town, but love this café and I noticed you come here a lot too so I wanted to introduce myself.”

At best, you just introduced yourself to your future husband/wife. At worst, you met someone you’ll never talk to again.

6. Use the internet to your advantage

The internet is such a powerful tool especially for connecting with people.

My friend Scott (creator of Live Your Legend) made it his mission to bring together people who want to pursuit a career they love and live in the same area, but not know each other. In 2014, he created the Live Your Legend local meet-up event: monthly meet-ups hosted by locals for locals all over the world. While the location is different, the mission is the same: bringing together people who want to do work they are passionate about.

The cool thing is Scott isn’t the only person who is putting together events like these. There are people all over the world putting together small local groups for everything from wine tasting to playing Dungeons and Dragons.  You can find these awesome groups on sites like Meetup and even Craigslist. If you don’t see a group you like, you can also create your own.

To get you started meeting your future friends, you might also check out Jenny's Meet Market brainstorming template. With time and effort, no matter where you are moving to, you have the ability to shape the social life you want.

I’ll be in Manhattan this summer if anyone is up for a Life After College meet up. ;)

We’d love to hear from you in the comments:

What are your favorite ways to meet people in a new city?

Davis Nguyen

About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.