On Making Friends in a New City

Earlier this week, I received an email from a reader who, like me, works from home and is about to relocate to a new city–something I did over 5 years ago. I was never great at making friends and didn’t put much into maintaining relationships, but that’s changed a lot the past few years. I’ve learned a lot about myself, friendships, meeting people, and creating meaningful relationships, and wanted to share a little bit about my journey.

My mom always used to tell me that the man of my dreams wasn’t going to magically appear in my living room which was obviously said pre-tinder and instagram because these days you can secure a date and make a new friend while wearing sweatpants on your couch on a Tuesday evening. But in all seriousness, you have to put yourself out there (and eventually leave the house) if you’re looking to improve your social life.

When I moved to Chicago back in 2010, I worked for myself from home as a freelance graphic designer where my only method of communicating with clients was email. I lived with a tiny, adorable, non-English speaking roommate (here’s looking at you, Buddy), so I literally could have gone days without seeing or speaking to anyone.

First, know that every effort you make won’t always result in a friendship, and that person you think might be friendship material might not actually get there. There will be people who aren’t interested in making new friends, flaky friends, the ones you like but only see every so often, the ones you hit it off with right away that eventually fade, and when you’re lucky, the really, really good ones that stick around.

The Everygirl definitely made it easier to connect with people and make new friends. But let’s remember that I moved here in 2010, a year and a half before launching The Everygirl. And I didn’t know anyone. Here’s what I did, and what advice I have for any of you looking to make new friends as an adult.

Connect with your co-workers or clients
I didn’t have co-workers and most of my design clients aren’t based in Chicago, but my former client turned friend Gina hired me to design her blog. I asked her a few questions about paleo and we ended up emailing back and forth. I suggested that we grab lunch and we’ve basically spoken every single day since.

But I don’t have co-workers
Try frequenting a coffee shop or co-working space and getting to know people there. I’m not suggesting that you go up to strangers at a coffee shop and ask them to grab brunch, but if you find a great co-working space, could be worth checking it out a few days a week. You’ll probably end up talking to someone and might make a new friend.

Social Media
Meg and I followed each other on Instagram for a while, decided to meet up, and now we’re friends. Look for people you might want to connect with on your favorite social media platform because it’s 2015 and blog/Instagram friends are a very real thing.

Put yourself out there and just say yes
Take this scenario. Your mom tells you she knows a guy through work who plans on inviting you to a BBQ at a friend’s house in your new city. You are a. mortified but b. go anyway because you need to meet new people and c. make a great new friend that night.

True story.

I never in a million years would have said yes to this pre-move but didn’t really have anything to lose. It could have been a terrible experience, but how many bad dates have we all survived? If I can make it through a terrible first date, surely I can make it through a BBQ.

Ask friends of friends if they know anyone they can connect you with, attend a cultural event, or try something (anything) new. Just get out there and have an open mind.

Reach out and then follow up
Back in Santa Barbara, I saw a new girl walking around my ex’s apartment complex, pulled over, and said hi. Found out she had just moved in and suggested that we get together soon. She’s been one of my closest friends for 10 years. We haven’t lived in the same city for over half of our friendship but have managed to get closer as the years go by. We talk every single week, she’s visited 3x, and I see her every time I’m back in LA.

I emailed the one Chicago blogger I “knew” and asked her for dinner recommendations. She invited me to dinner which I obviously said yes to because I was friendless and didn’t have plans. Then she invited me to a party and just like that, I made another new friend by, wait for it…asking if she’d like to get together the following weekend.

Just remember to be breezy. Mentioning a hangout is one thing, but this is a bit much.

I became friends with neighbors, and if/when I met someone who seemed nice, I’d suggest lunch or coffee. It’s not always easy, but gets easier with time. Make it a point to suggest plans with someone new/interesting that you meet through someone.

Take a class/join a club/volunteer
My friend Gina talked me into CrossFit which was such a great way to meet new people. I left CF a year ago but have stayed in touch with a few friends that I made there. So sign up for that guitar lesson, French class, photography class, or running club. Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Trying something new is a great ways to make new friends with common interests.

Social Media
My friend Katie and I somehow became friends on Facebook (we had a lot of mutual friends). I had reached out to ask if she’d be able to shoot something for The Everygirl, and we ended up chatting (via FB messenger) which naturally led to brunch plans. She’s been one of my closest friends for two years.

My friend Emilia was Gina’s 2nd shooter at her wedding, and we connected when Gina invited us both over for dinner. Jenn shot for us for years before we became friends. Darlene was our intern. Jason is a friend of a friend that I met at a co-working space. I’ve made my point, right? You really never know when and where you’ll make a new friend.

Not every relationship will work out–you’re not going to hit it off and invest in BFF necklaces with everyone you meet. My point in sharing these stories is that you really never know when/where you’ll meet someone, and the best thing you can do, if you’re looking to expand your social circle, is put yourself out there, suggest plans, and stay in touch.

Have any questions for me? Leave them in the comments below!
What advice do you have when it comes to making new friends?

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  • Such a great post and reminder to get out there and connect with people whether you’re new to the city or not. I’m fairly new at the working from home thing and it can be very isolating. Making regular lunch dates or chatting with strangers at the coffee shop makes such a difference in my energy level–parts of working on your own are amazing but I now realize how much I crave human interaction!

  • This is really good to read:) I’ve moved a few times early in my younger days. It was so not fun, small towns are not easy places to meet friends. Now that I’m older, I really should try to make some new friends. I am pretty routine oriented and since meeting the guy that is now my husband…….we stay in more often on wknds, etc. We want to meet a couple or two to socialize with too!
    I’m inspired……..thank you:)

  • Danielle, I’ve been reading your blog for maybe 7 years? Maybe longer!? I have enjoyed reading from afar, and watching your life transform in Chicago over time! I never dreamed in a million years I’d have to move (not the same situation as yours) BUT –I Might be moving for the first time in my life! At 33, I know this is going to be difficult – not because the adventure won’t be Fun – but moving with ZERO Friends – that will be the Scary part!!! So thank you for this this post — it was the Perfect timing…even though I’ve been reading for SO Long, I feel like I know you, and all your friends – but the details on how you met all the fantastic friends, I hope to use a few of those tricks this summer! Many thanks!

    1. Hi Heather! Where do you live now and where are you moving? Maybe there are people I can connect you with in your new city?! Email me! It’ll be such an exciting adventure. Highly recommend blogging/journaling along the way. So happy I have those posts to look back on.

  • Hi Danielle! Your advice is always so inspiring! I know you have been keeping your private life more private, but I’d be curious about your advice on dating (especially because it seems you found yourself a great guy!).