I Moved Across The Country After Spending My Whole Life in New York — Here’s How to Make Friends in a New City

published Sep 19, 2022
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Two woman standing by the water facing city skyline
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Though I’ve traveled to many corners of the world, I’ve 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’ve spent the majority of my life in the Empire State. The Big Apple was never this scary, intangible city; for me, it was the perfect melting pot of my high school besties, college connections, and adult friends.

What was scary was the thought of leaving everything — and everyone — I knew behind, which I eventually did in 2019 when my long-term boyfriend (now-fiancé) accepted a job in San Francisco. Since I’m a full-time freelancer, I didn’t have coworkers that I could befriend or a Rolodex filled with 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 are looking to make new friends, I’m shared the best lessons I’ve learned when building 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 the same as your old one. Since New York is filled with friends from various seasons of life, 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 my people. San Francisco is packed with a lot of my partner’s friends from graduate 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. (After all, it’s always been that way.)

But, then it hit me: Why am I trying to replicate what I had in New York? My East Coast friends are still some of my besties. So, why not lean into the change and hang out with groups? Nowadays, our social calendar consists of going on double dates with our favorite couple friends and hosting a handful of friends at our home 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 grad school friends are just as much my friends.)

It’s a small shift in perspective, but once I removed any pressure of recreating my East Coast life, I was able to foster true, lasting friendships. If you are also looking to make new friends, throw out the idea of what you think your circle should look like and be open-minded to new connections. As the saying goes, make new friends but keep the old…

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Tip 2: Use Your Network

Whether it’s your cousin’s college roommate or your former coworker’s bestie, you might know someone (or someone who knows someone) in your new neck of the woods. So, why not ask for a friend 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 stemmed from my friend at my coworking space sliding into my DMs because it seemed like we had a lot in common. If you’re (understandably) a little nervous to make the first move, try this template:

Hi [NAME]! Hope all is well. I recently moved to [CITY OR TOWN] and love following you on [SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM]. I see we have a lot in common — I also love [HOBBY/MOVIE … WHATEVER YOU WANT!] and wanted to see if you’d like to grab a coffee with me. No pressure, but always looking to make new friends.

If you’re looking 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’re not going to make friends by sitting and doing nothing!

Tip 3: Initiate Plans

Speaking of making the first move, it’s important to initiate plans with potential friends. It can be a bit intimidating to invite someone over for dinner or to a pilates class, but it’s important to turn any budding connection into a two-way street. It always feels good to get invited somewhere, so make it clear that you want to spend more time together!

Shortly after my fiancé and I moved to San Francisco, we started to host 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 regular fixture in our schedule.) On a smaller scale, I’ve asked new friends for afternoon walks and even hosted a meeting for my old true crime book club.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to throw a multi-course dinner party or have an affinity for true crime to make the first move. Grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend of a friend? Invite them to happy hour. Joined a kickball league? Organize a post-practice picnic. It’s those small initiatives that show you’re ready to have an equal friendship.

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Tip 4: Find Common Ground

As far as I’m concerned, it’s always easier to forge a friendship with a person you have something in common with. So, why not look for those similarities? When I first moved to San Francisco, I downloaded Bumble BFF and really gravitated toward those who liked the same podcasts, music, and TV shows as me. But, as I spent more time in San Francisco, I learned that a 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 the exact same hobbies as me, but possessed what I was looking for in a new connection: Warmth, openness, and ambition. I love to talk about the writing process with fellow freelance journalists or swap business tips and pop culture gossip with another self-employed friend.

Whether you’re looking for someone to watch “The Bachelor” with or longing for someone who recently moved to your new town, find some similarities and use them to break the ice.

Tip 5: Be Patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your new social circle. While not every person you meet is destined to become your lifelong bestie, give people a chance. Try to step away from small talk and have deeper conversations; a little bit of vulnerability goes a long way to create a solid friendship foundation.

But, if you’re not feeling the platonic spark after a few hangs, don’t get discouraged. Remember that you are awesome and you will find your people. It may take some time — and trial and error — but it’ll be so worth the wait.