Moving to a new city without a job can be an incredibly isolating experience. This is the second time I have done it; the last time was a move to London with a few weeks free before I started my Masters. Now that we’ve been living here a few weeks, I’m learning that it doesn’t get any easier with age, particularly when family and friends are in a different time zone.
As an adult, it can be pretty scary to meet new people, but be brave! There are loads of ways to get yourself out there.
#1 Go to where the people are
It is surprisingly hard to make new friends in bars, cafes or hidden in your living room. I have found that going to scheduled events is the best way to meet people that I actually want to see again. Daytime classes, workshops and gym classes are also great for meeting other folks that don’t work full time.
Join a gym. Gyms with scheduled classes like Crossfit and yoga are great for seeing the same people regularly. Bonus points if you can sign up for a group onboarding session and learn new skills with a group.
Join a club. Do you have a hobby or want to take up a new one? There are clubs for everything and many offer introductory classes.
Free stuff. Set up an alert for free events, I check out Eventbrite each week for free talks and workshops that have been added. These have the dual purpose that I get to meet people and either learn or experience something new at the same time.
Just say yes. Moving to a new city is tiring, but one of the best things is the chance to experience new things. Try to say yes to as many invites as you can, particularly if it’s an event with friends of friends. We naturally expand our social circles through people we know, so this can feel a lot less daunting than chatting to total strangers.
Volunteer. If your visa status allows it, volunteering is a great way to meet like minded people without the pressure of friend dating. It also keeps you busy and gives back to society – triple win! Volunteermatch is a great place to start.
Take a class. There are loads of free (or cheap) classes in the city. From photography to dance to coding. Find something you enjoy and learn a new skill!
Remember, if you meet people doing things that you enjoy, you’ll have something in common from the start!
#2 Talk to them
This seems daft, yet at every event I go to, I see people sitting alone on their phones, glancing up nervously. If you want to connect with people, you need to talk to them. Their responses to a neutral starter question like “are you here for X event?”, then polite conversation like “how did you hear about it?” can get you a long way towards knowing if you’re going to get along.
Remember, no pressure – this is just like the playground. We don’t all get along with every person we meet. Enjoy the process of meeting people and learning about them.
#3 Swap contact details
Be brave, ask for their number. Most people are really happy to expand their social circle and the San Franciscans I have met are no different. Even though I am not working right now, I still find it really helpful to have business cards printed up with my contact details on them. They just have my name, phone number and email address. It’s much easier to hand them over than faffing about awkwardly trying to spell (or remember!) someone’s name as you put it into your phone.
Remember, if you don’t ask for their details, chances are that you will never see them again. If you do, you have a choice!
#4 Arrange to meet (and keep the arrangement)
Go for it. If you meet someone you get click with, set a date to catch up again. That will ensure you don’t both walk out of the room and forget to keep in touch. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend ages debating chickening out and staying home. Don’t! A potentially awkward hour or so is totally worth it for a new friend or opportunity!
Remember, be sensible when meeting strangers, choose somewhere public and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Nice strangers are still strangers!
Relax. Building a network is hard work. Not every activity has to be a friend finding mission, although sometimes you’ll meet people where you least expect it; we recently made friends hanging out at a spa…
Happy friend finding!