When I moved from my home town of Manchester to Oxford in 2015, I was ready to take on the world. A few weeks later, I found myself sitting alone in my flat, feeling desperate, homesick, and deflated.
This just wasn’t me. I had so many close friends back home and had never felt lonely in my life! I was sociable, outgoing, always being invited to parties, and never had any problems finding people to hang out with. Now, sitting here all alone, I had nobody to talk to and nowhere to go.
How could this be happening?
You may have gone through a similar experience of moving to a new town or city for work, only to find yourself friendless in a place where everyone is a stranger. Having to make new friends may have seemed like an impossibility. All of a sudden, you have to handle a new job, new colleagues, a new home, and a new town.
That’s a lot for anyone to deal with and can be a very stressful time. As you try to get accustomed to your new circumstances, it’s natural to feel a little homesick and you will probably miss your family and friends a lot. After you have managed to settle in and find your bearings, the reality soon sets in that you have no friends in your new town.
The truth is that as you were growing up, you will have formed friendships organically. You may have old school chums, friends from your neighbourhood, colleagues who also became your friends and even your extended family members.
You probably never had to ‘try’ to make friends because you were always surrounded by people with whom you had forged friendships almost unconsciously over time. Now, you have no idea how to go about making new friends and feel anxious, isolated, and despondent.
That’s how I felt at first until I realized that I should be enjoying this new phase of my life instead of wallowing in self-pity. I eventually made a mindset shift and changed my perspective on the situation I found myself in. This was a fresh start for me and I wanted to make the most of it, so I set about making a list of strategies that would enable me to get out more and meet new people.
Once I began implementing my master plan, it became a lot easier to get to know others and it wasn’t long before I had met a handful of people who I now call good friends.
As a friend quote says, “Each new friendship can make you a new person because it opens up new doors inside of you.”
I’m still connected to my old buddies back home, but I’ve also got a great support network here now and the experience really helped me to get out of my comfort zone.
You can apply the same strategies if you find yourself in a strange city, and get to meet more people than you probably ever would have back home.
I mention the comfort zone because, under normal circumstances, you don’t need to make any effort to find new friends. As a result, you probably haven’t developed any social skills that will help you to talk to strangers or develop new relationships from scratch.
When that is the case, it can feel weird or awkward to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know. If you want to enjoy life and feel more fulfilled, you have to put your fears and hesitations to one side. It may sound scary at first, but if you don’t give yourself a chance, you’ll never know how easy it is.
It’s very common for most people to feel uncomfortable about going out anywhere alone. We tend to crave company for any activity we do and can feel very conspicuous if we have to go somewhere solo. This can be especially true for women, who may also feel vulnerable and fear they are sending out the wrong message.
You probably never had to go anywhere alone, such as a restaurant or theater, as you always had your friends to accompany you. Now, the thought of even walking through your new town alone may make you feel anxious, never mind asking for a table for one at a restaurant.
You could even suffer from physical signs of anxiety such as hot or cold sweats, shortness of breath, palpitations, or worse. This is perfectly normal and there is nothing at all wrong with you. Many people suffer from social anxiety and once you realize that it’s a reaction to your fears, you will be able to deal with it more effectively.
Here’s the thing: while you are worried about what other people may think about seeing you alone, the likelihood is that they haven’t even noticed. If it is obvious that you are alone, they may even admire you for your confidence.
Worrying about what other people think doesn’t stop you from excelling in other areas of your life, so why allow it to do so now? In today’s society, it’s totally acceptable for people to go to a restaurant or cinema alone and even if you are invited to a party, you don’t need a chaperone.
It takes time to overcome feelings of social anxiety, but it all begins with how you view yourself. The chances are, other people are far too busy focusing on their own lives to make any judgments about yours. Once you realize that, you can enjoy your time alone stress-free. Be bold and enjoy exploring your new world without worrying about what impression you may be making on others. In reality, you are probably not standing out half as much as you think!
In the book “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie said, “Your smile is a messenger of your goodwill. Your smile brightens the lives of all who see it.” Just remember to smile when you want to start a conversation!
Best ways to make friends in a new city
Now, let’s take a look at some bulletproof ways to get to know new people. They might start off as complete strangers but could end up becoming your next best friend.
1. Check your contacts
Before you move to your new location, ask around to see if any of your existing friends or family members know anyone in the town you are moving to. Even if it’s an acquaintance who lives there, get their details and be sure to contact them when you arrive.
It could be a relatively distant contact with someone you know from your social media accounts. Simply call or text them and explain you are new to the area. Ask if they can meet up with you over a coffee to give you any tips. That doesn’t sound too painful, does it?
2. Get to know the city
It’s a great idea to spend some time getting to know your new town or city. You will probably find tons of information on any local website or at the local tourist information office.
Find out more about the history, which neighbourhoods sound cool, where the public parks are, or what bars/cafes/restaurants are popular with your age group. Walk around to get a feel for the place, explore, and enjoy discovering something new.
3. Find out what’s going on
No matter how small your new town or community is, there will always be something going on. It could be a local fair or festival, a music performance, a sporting event, or a convention of some kind. Check the local press and follow blogs relating to your new home.
Schedule anything that interests you in your calendar and make the effort to attend. You will find plenty of people to mingle with while having fun at the same time.
4. Take your time
As a newbie in town, you can’t expect people to be lining up to get to know you. They may even see you as an outsider at first, and this applies especially in the workplace. Your new colleagues may be too busy to ask you about your background.
They are also likely to already have an established network of friends and don’t feel the need to incorporate you in that. It’s usually nothing personal – humans generally like to stay with the pack and may be instinctively suspicious of someone they deem as an ‘outsider’. Give others the time to get to know you better if you want to see results.
5. Accept invitations gladly
If your colleagues do ask you out for an after-office drink or a get-together, you may be tempted to turn them down as you feel too shy.
This is your opportunity to get to know them better in a more relaxed setting so do take them up on their offer.
It may be the case that they are genuinely keen to learn more about you and you will feel at ease a lot quicker than you imagined. Ask your colleagues if you can connect with them on their social media accounts and start liking their posts. They will love you for that!
6. Be a conversation starter
To begin with, you have to learn the art of small talk and ways to start a conversation with someone you don’t know or know very little.
In the workplace, you may find this a lot easier to do, as you all have something in common. Being the new guy means that you are expected to ask questions, and most people will be very responsive to you.
Apart from talking about work, you can also steer the conversation to more personal things by asking questions like, “What do you all do on the weekends? What’s the best place to go clothes shopping around here?” Keep the conversation light and show you are keen to learn more.
7. Use digital tools
You’ll find a lot of apps that have been designed to help people navigate a town or city, offering plenty of info about places of interest, festivals, exhibitions, tours, and so on.
Search on TripAdvisor and check out what other users recommend, depending on your interests, and make a note of anything useful. Join platforms that feature get-togethers such as MeetUp.com. The last time I checked it out, I found acting courses, meditation workshops, and kayaking weekends going on in my town.
Today, I took another look and found a free Philosophy Seminar, a Sailing Weekend, and a Happy Hour for Entrepreneurs coming up over the next few days. You can also use dating apps if you are looking for a romantic partner but don’t forget to make your personal safety the main priority.
8. Meet a local
It’s very popular nowadays to pay for a small personal tour with a local guide. You can book an activity online with platforms such as Lonely Planet or Withlocals and choose from a tour that catches your eye or create a tailor-made day to suit your preferences.
This is a fantastic way to get out, meet someone new, and enjoy a tour of the city. You may be keen to learn about the local cuisine or the architecture of the town, and the cost is relatively small for this kind of activity.
The more you make the effort to get out and about, the more you increase your chances of meeting new people. Staying at home may feel like a safer option but it can very quickly lead to feelings of isolation.
This is not good for your emotional wellbeing and although you may enjoy your own company, you also need friends. Once you take that first step, you will realize it’s not as difficult as you first thought and your life will be so much richer for it.
You have already taken a giant leap by moving to a different town or city. After overcoming your initial anxiety, you will discover a wonderful new life awaiting you!
- Making new friends is a social skill we need to practice more.
- Social anxiety affects many people but can be overcome.
- Change your mindset about going out alone.
- Get to know the city and learn where people similar to you hang out.
- Connect with your colleagues to make new friends.
- Make use of digital platforms and guided tours by locals.