10 Affordable Ways to Make Friends In a New City

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

You took the plunge and left one city behind and moved to a new place. That means all kinds of new experiences and adventures.

It also means making new friends, which can be difficult as an adult. It’s likely you moved to take advantage of a lower cost of living, so having some cheap ways to make new friends is also helpful.

So how do you meet adult friends when you move to a new place? Experts say it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive to make friends as an adult.

Here’s a look at the challenges and the best ways to overcome them.

Why Is It Harder to Make Friends as We Get Older?

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As we get older, priorities change and we have more responsibilities which makes casual interactions less likely. We’re more intentional about who we spend our time with, and don’t meet a lot of people at one time like we did when we were in school. Work-from-home situations where we meet and see even fewer people in person add more challenges.

And then there are expectations.

A lot of us are still holding on to that fantasy of the TV show “Friends” and are hoping to connect with a bunch of like-minded people at a coffee shop. That’s not realistic, said Danielle Bayard Jackson, a certified friendship coach and founder of Friend Forward, a digital community that helps people make and maintain true friendships.

Breaking into established friend groups is difficult and takes time.

“I think there is a fear of rejection that is central to so many things. Friend-making is all about finding people who like you for who you are, and by its nature, it can be a little nerve-wracking because it is a voluntary relationship,” Jackson said.

Research shows it takes somewhere between 40 and 60 hours to form a casual friendship in the first six weeks of meeting, but those people don’t always transition to becoming better friends.

Around half of the time, people become friends after spending about 80 to 100 hours together.

Good friendships take much longer.

Those averages come from Jeffrey Hall, who authored a 2018 study about making friends that was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. But time is not a guarantee for making real friends, Hall wrote.

“Many people have tons of acquaintances or people whose names they recall, but they don’t actually know how to go from being an acquaintance to a friend,” said Kat Vellos, author of “We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships.”

Do These Things to Make New Friends Before You Move

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So, we all need different kinds of friends in our lives. The work to make new ones needs to begin before you move. The friendship pros have some advice that could lead to at least one new friendship in your new city.

Tell Everyone You Know That You Are Moving

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You don’t know everyone your current friends know. Your best friend’s cousin just might live where you’re moving. Tap into the network of mutual friends.

Connect with the friends of your friends and leverage your existing network to help you build possible connections before you even arrive in the new place. Cast a wide net, and don’t just rely on your current close friends to help you make new connections.

“There’s a lot of evidence that shows that most of our opportunities in life often come through introductions via our loose ties, not just the people that are closest to us,” Vellos said.

Asking your friends and family if they know anyone or anything about your new town can help ease your transition.

Renew Connections

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Back to the reason, season, lifetime thing. We might have lost touch with someone from our college dorm or previous job, but that doesn’t mean they need to be out of your life permanently.

Don’t be afraid to renew connections with people you might have lost touch with. They might live where you’re moving.

Research Your New Location

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Before you move, start learning and paying attention to where you’re going to live. Follow local news pages. Subscribe to local social media pages. Try to get up-to-date about what is happening where you’re moving and what people like to do there. Learn important details about your new home.

Jackson suggested thinking about the places that you often frequent in your current city and asking folks there if they know of any similar facilities where you’re moving.

Prepare Yourself for Adventure

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Moving to a new place is a chance to begin a new adventure. Keep yourself open to trying new things and know you are not alone in your quest for friends.

“People who already live in the town may be wishing for fresh energy and friendships and meeting people,” Vellos said. “They might feel kind of stagnant and stale, and you might offer them a real gift and a fresh energy by being new.”

How to Make Friends When You Arrive

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Once you get to your new home and settle in, the following ideas can help you start to form lasting friendships.

Say Yes to the Movie Invitation

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Open yourself up to trying something different. If someone invites you to do something, think twice about saying no.

“Be willing to try something new and to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit,” Vellos suggested.

The first time out with someone or doing something might not set off fireworks, so go back a couple more times before giving up.

“One of the reasons why millions of adults in America are frustrated by how hard it is to make friends is because they expect it to just happen spontaneously,” Vellos said. “It doesn’t just happen automatically in friendships. You do have to try.”

Talk to People at the Farmers Market

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This tip is simple. Be nice. Make eye contact. Chat up the ride-share driver. Talk to the person buying produce next to you at the farmers market. Make conversation with the barista at your new favorite coffee place or people in the checkout line.

Just like you are trying to meet new friends, the people you are meeting are trying to decide if they want to expand their friend group to include you.

“Most of the time in friendship dating, it takes some patience. It takes some curiosity. It takes perseverance,” Vellos said. “It takes being willing to show up again and again to get to know this person and to let them get to know you.”

If someone says it was nice to meet you, and you would like to pursue the friendship, ask for contact information and follow up, possibly suggesting another meeting.

Vellos said not to let too much time pass before you either see each other, have a phone call, video chat, or something to stay connected.

Ask About Your Co-Workers’ Kids

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Your new co-workers are a group you already have something in common with. Try to get to know them. Of course, this isn’t as easy if you are working remotely. If you are spending your day in Zoom meetings, find out if other co-workers are in your city.

If you are working in an office, attend socials, lunches, happy hours, and any other activities, even if they are virtual. Join groups at work for projects.

Take an interest in the lives of co-workers that you want to make friends with, and that means asking what they do when they’re not at work or talking about their children. Asking for recommendations about doctors, restaurants, and even schools is a good way to get to know them, too.

Join Some Facebook Groups

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Changing your location on your social media is a step toward making friends in your new area. Use that search bar to your advantage.

  • Facebook: Apps like Facebook have groups you can join for people with similar interests. In the groups area, type in the name of your city and words like “newbies,” “expats,” “things to do in,” etc.
  • Instagram: Follow people in your new place and engage with their content. You can learn about cool things to do as well as find people with similar interests.
  • Dating or friendship apps: Some sites with a main focus on dating have separate areas for people who are looking for friendships and not romantic relationships.
  • Meetup: The point of Meetup is to get people with similar interests together with the goal of meeting people. Sounds perfect, right?

“I like (social groups) because there’s a baseline and it’s understood that if you’re in one of those groups, you are there to make friends. I feel it decreases any sense of fear or rejection,” Jackson said.

She advised contacting the group leader before an event and letting them know you’ll be attending as a first timer. They might even introduce you to the group.

Try Out for a City Softball Team

Playing a little recreational softball with friends, siblings and parents can be a fun and enjoyable way to spend a summer afternoon or early evening.
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Groups exist around a common theme or idea that you can join and can help you make a new friend fast.

You might already be part of a group that has a chapter in your new city. Check to see if your college or university has an alumni group or your sorority or fraternity.

Maybe a community service organization or volunteer work you were a part of in your former city has a group in your new one.

Some other ideas:

  • Sports: Playing on a sports team or in a sports league is also a great way to meet people and get some exercise at the same time. Community centers are a good place to look for like-minded people. A dance class can also be a fun way to make friends as an adult.
  • Faith-based groups: Faith organizations like a local church are also good places to meet people, and they have a reputation of being welcoming to newcomers. Many of them have outreach coordinators or someone in a similar position.
  • Go shopping: Local shops can be sources of information. Yarn stores know about knitting groups. Bookstores know of book clubs. Running-gear stores know about running clubs. You get the idea.
  • Play dates: If you have kids, setting up a play date with someone from their new school can help you make adult social connections.

Sign Up for a Music Class

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Since your social calendar probably isn’t full when you move to a new place, it could be the perfect time to learn something new. You don’t have to fully enroll in a degree program but consider taking a class on a topic you are interested in. Check out the local library for information on free computer classes or on other topics.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to master a second language or study art or photography. Take a guitar or piano class. Plant some things in a community garden. You’ll meet people with a similar interest in expanding their horizons and maybe form meaningful friendships.

Take a City Bus Tour

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Get involved in your new place. Visit libraries, museums, zoos, and parks. Strike up a conversation with someone who is admiring the same painting you are. Take a bus tour of your new city. Or just ride the city bus.

Attend sporting or cultural events. Cheering for a team can be a bonding experience.

Hold Office Hours at a Cafe

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Jackson said developing a routine of some sort can help you make friends, especially for people working remotely.

She suggested making a commitment to working outside of your home for a set time each week, maybe at a coffee shop, a local library, or a coworking space.

“It gives you a chance to become a regular somewhere and also helps to breed familiarity. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with a person you see regularly.”

Familiar faces are potential friends.

Hang Out at the Dog Park

Happy Hipster Woman with her Dog and Bike in the City.
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If you have a pet or have thought of getting one, this could be a good time. Dog parks and dog walking are a great way to meet people, and Fido might also find some new furry friends.

Pet sitters and pet stores know where pet people tend to go.

Host Your Own Housewarming Party

Friends hang decorative holiday lights for an outdoor party
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Need a way to meet your neighbors and see if your co-workers are people you want to hang out with? Have a housewarming party for yourself.

After you meet your new neighbors, continue to say hello to them and offer them assistance if you have skills.

Vellos said a friend of hers hosts monthly dinners where everyone is encouraged to bring a dish to share as well as a new acquaintance. That way, there is always a different group of people to mix and mingle with.

Decide What Kinds of Friendships You Want

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Not all friendships are the same, and both Vellos and Jackson said we all want and need different kinds of friends. Friendships are for a reason, season, or lifetime.

There are people we want to do things with, let’s call them casual friends. They’re similar to convenience friends who you do things with just because they’re in your location.

Then there are the confidants. These are the people you form a deeper bond with and turn to when you need them. With time, those types of friends can turn into really good friends.

Jackson said she has different people in her life who help define her sense of self. Her mom friends help and support that part of her life, her church friends are in another part, as are her single and entrepreneur friends. Each has a purpose and might not extend outside of its context.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about friendship — it can be whatever you want. I also think that speaks to our need for multiple friends,” she said. “We’re different versions of ourselves with different people.”

Vellos said friendship circles cycle about every seven years.

“This (person) doesn’t have to be your one friend for the rest of your life. It could be your friend for a year, and then you’ll make some new friends. People are constantly moving in and out of rings of closeness. You can have many different types of friendships so you don’t have to put high-stakes pressure on it.”

Work at Making Friends

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It takes time to make new friends, and not everyone you meet is going to end up being a bestie.

“Rejection is redirection, and they’re just redirecting you to people who actually are open to new friends and to meeting new people,” Vellos said.

Give yourself time to settle in and meet friends. A little effort will make them more than fair weather friends.

“It usually takes about a year before people say that they felt at home in their new city,” Vellos said, adding that in addition to making true friends, you’re also trying to find new favorite restaurants and shops, a fun local bar, and settle into things at work.

It only takes a few people to form new relationships that could even become good friends or lifelong friends.

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