How to make friends in a new city and why it is so hard

Making new friends as an adult feels like dating.  And dating is hard.

To define adult, I’m not talking about people from 18-24 years old.  They’re still babies entering the adult world.  I’m talking about 25 years old and up.  One who would choose sleep over getting trashed every weekend.  One who would prefer a nice meal over an overpriced watered-down cranberry vodka.  At least that’s when I developed a (good enough) sense of self and have some personal responsibilities.

Why is it hard to make new friends?  

  • Think about your daily routine when you lived in your hometown- how many new friends are you welcoming into your life as an adult?  How often do you do something new, get out of your comfort zone and meet new people?  I bet it’s not that often.  These are the people you’re going to meet.
  • You’re not in school (haha I do work at a school though) so there isn’t a regularly scheduled time to form a bond over similar experience.
  • Your coworkers have their own lives, commitments and friends outside of work.  Some people prefer to have work and personal lives separate no matter how friendly they are.  And plus, you would want friends outside work too.
  • Males who have significant others cannot afford to develop new friendships with you.  (I have made a few acquaintances in this category.)  Males who do not have significant others aren’t interested investing in a strictly platonic friendship with you.  That cuts out more than half the population in Silicon Valley.
  • If you are male, it is likely you’ll get friendzoned by both taken and single girls.  For some reason, I don’t think you’re going to be okay with that, unless you really are.  Girls are likely to get the wrong signal even if you’re asking them to hang out.
  • Making friends is not a priority for most adults, they’re at a point in life when they’re trying to pursue their career, find a significant other, start a family, start a business, etc.
  • You also like to stay in more now.  Haha!  (I really love my home!)
  • Attending so many Meetups gets exhausting, you meet a lot of new people, but rarely do you become more than acquaintances with them.  (I’ve attended many, in New York, as well as in SF)
  • Having your own significant other makes it even harder.
  • Being an introvert makes it even harder too.
  • You’re trying to save money for bigger life goals and having a social life will always be a dent in your wallet.


So for an adult person coming into a new city trying to establish a routine life, making new friends can be a struggle.  It would help to have a few acquaintances to reach out to.

You begin to think something must be innately wrong with you when months past by and you have yet to form a band of girlfriends.  These thoughts will prevent you from taking initiatives, so the sooner you stop thinking you’re flawed, the better.    The friendships you’ve created in your hometown took years to build, you cannot expect to build the same level of closeness within a few months.  Yet, that is what you expect of yourself.  It would be an insult to your best friends from home to be replaced that easily!

Be okay with your lack of a social life.  You begin to feel like a bundle of neediness and desperation, which sounds bad, but it is very normal.  It is normal to take months to feel settled in a routine.  It is normal to not have a band of girlfriends, ever.  Quality over quantity.  Remember, you don’t want to welcome just anyone into your life no matter how desperately you want friends.

So how do you make new friends? 

  • Mourn your old life and let go of all the “used-to-be’s”.  Don’t have any expectations of having what you used to have in your old life, it’ll never be the same.
  • Like dating, it is unlikely you’ll meet “the one” at an event that’s solely for meeting singles.  It’s unlikely you’ll meet your new BFF at a meetup that’s held for the sake of meeting new people.
  • Be genuine, don’t impress and don’t settle.   For example, don’t pretend you like clubbing when you’re already over it.  If you’re building friendships based on a party life, they might not be there when you want to turn it down.
  • When you do meet a prospective friend, ask her if she’s interested in going to a meetup event with you.  Find a meetup or event that’s activity focused more so than “meeting new people” -based.  I find it a little awkward to have dinner dates as a first “friend date”.
  • Do not lead the opposite sex on for friendship.
  • Remember, like dating, nobody likes wishy washy, indecisive guys.  If you’re going to text, “hey let’s hang out again soon”– it’s never going to happen unless you come up with a concrete plan to meet and do something.  Your prospective friend may be opened to new friends, but you’re the one who needs to initiate.
  • Really discover what it is you like to do and do it.
  • Find a new hobby.  (For me it was yoga.)  That is how you find like-minded people who are also there.
  • Don’t be afraid to start conversations, compliment and introduce yourself to strangers. (try this at bookstores, cafes, nail salons)
  • Instead of being so focused on “making friends”, try to simply enjoy the company of that person who is giving you a chance.  Get to know someone for their character and values.
  • Go somewhere regularly, like the gym, running a regular route, volunteer, sign up for adult classes.

Like dating, when you meet the right person, becoming friends can be the most effortless thing in the world.  It’s like magic when you guys click and just get each other.  It’ll make you think– why did I ever worry about not having any friends?

Thoughts?  Advice?

5 thoughts on “How to make friends in a new city and why it is so hard

  1. What a fantastic post. Some very interesting and valid points. I absolutely agree on the point about not trying too hard. It will happen when you least expect it to and often, in the most wonderful of ways. I am happy to initiate conversations and I find that in social situations such as in the gym or climbing, there are many opportunities to do so.

    Great writing.

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