How To Make Friends in a New City

By Joel Balsam | | People

We may be living in a time with more humans than ever, but that doesn’t mean we feel close to other people. According to a 2021 Harvard study, more than 3 out of 10 Americans are lonely, including 61% of young adults—and loneliness can be amplified by moving somewhere new. Without your network, family or friends, sadness can envelop you. But knowing how to meet people in a new city can make all the difference.

Why is making friends so hard?

There’s no question that it’s harder as an adult to meet people than it was as a kid. Without going to the same class every day or dedicating so many hours to just playing, it can be tough to build connections.

But according to Julia Bekker, a New York City matchmaker and dating coach, it’s not as hard to meet new people as one might think. “You just have to get out of your own way and put yourself out there,” she said.

How to meet people in a new city

You’ve moved to a new city and you don’t know anyone. You can’t just hit up your friends who are already at the bar or see what your basketball buddies are up to. So, what do you do?

Here are some ideas.

Meetup

Ever heard of Meetup.com? Check it out. It’s a site where people create groups for every kind of thing and, well, meet up.

There are usually plenty of groups for singles, but also for language exchanges, dog lovers and Harry Potter nerds. You name it, there’s likely a group for it. The worst that can happen is you don’t like the group and you don’t go again.

Facebook groups

Chances are you’re not the only one in your adopted city looking to meet new people. So fire up Facebook and search for groups that might interest you. For instance, type “new in [insert city]” and see what happens. Your neighborhood may also have a group.

If you’re abroad, look for Facebook groups geared to expats or “digital nomads,” which are a great way to meet people in a new city and often host events.

Find volunteer opportunities

“Volunteering and joining organizations is a great way to meet new people and put yourself in an environment with others who are compatible with you, your interests and your values,” Bekker said.

Not only will you meet new people through volunteering, you’ll also be making a difference in your community.

Become a regular at local shops

Trying all the cool spots in your city can be tempting, but if you frequent the same stores, bars or restaurants, you’re more likely to become friendly with the staff or regulars. Knowing a bartender, shop owner or fellow patron can not only be a fast track to sweet deals, it can also develop into friendships and great recommendations for places to explore in your new city.

Join sports leagues

This is a tried, tested and true way of making friends as an adult. Since you’re seeing the same faces over and over, you’ll likely become friendly with your teammates sooner or later.

Playing sports is also a great way to stay fit. Don’t worry if you’re not a great athlete. Most cities have leagues for players of all skill levels. You can also often find leagues for activities like kickball, bocce ball and shuffleboard that don’t require much athletic skill at all.

Local subreddits

Reddit can be an awful place in the worst of times, but other days it can be a gateway to a wonderful community. Check if your city or neighborhood has a subreddit. At the very least, it’s a good way to learn more about your city.

Dating apps

Single? Log on to Tinder or Hinge or whichever dating app you like and start swiping. Bekker said that a change of location can be a great fresh start to dating if you weren’t able to find somebody where you were before.

Not looking to date or hook up? No worries! “Dating apps are a great way to meet new people, even if you just become friends,” Bekker said. Pro tip: Some dating apps have settings like “looking for friends only” so be sure to give that a click.

Friends of friends

You might not know anyone in your new city, but have you thought to ask if your friends or family do? Knowing a local when you’re in a new place is absolutely key. Not only can they recommend cool spots for you to check out, they can also introduce you to their friends and then, bam, you’ve met new people!

Group exercise classes

If you’re used to hitting the gym solo, group classes can be a fun change of pace. Not only will the classes ensure you actually work out, but seeing people again and again can build familiarity and lead to new friendships or even dates.

Dog parks

“Get a dog if you don’t already have one,” said Bekker. “It’s a great way to meet people whether at a dog park or just walking down the street.”

Dogs are also excellent wingmen if you’re looking to date, Bekker added, as they often lead to you being approached by others. “It’s an easy way to open conversation.”

Hang out with coworkers

Coworkers are the adult equivalent of classmates (no offense to mature students), so be sure to tap into that resource if you’re trying to figure out how to meet people in a new city.

Ask your colleagues things like, “What are you up to this weekend?” Or, “Want to check out that new exhibit sometime?” If you do, it can take your office relationship up a notch and into the outside world.

Join a religious organization

Faith groups remain a great place to meet people in a new city. They usually host potlucks, discussion groups and even excursions with a group. These can lead to friendships or dates down the road.

Visit farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets tend to bring out the whole community and are often a very social place to meet new people. Along with asking the farmers about how they raised their chickens or grew that asparagus, ask them about how they like your adopted city. Tell them you’re new and smile at others around you. Who knows, it could be a gateway to a healthy friendship.

Pick up a new hobby

If sports or religion aren’t your things, try something new. Chances are, there’s a group for whatever hobby you’re interested in trying at your local community center or online. Biking groups are always great for meeting people, or maybe there’s a photography meetup where you can share tips and tricks. It really is never too late to learn something new.

Expand your comfort zone

These days, it can feel awkward to talk to strangers, but there’s nothing weird about it at all. “Go out and be social—start conversations with strangers,” Bekker said. “Ask them what they’re drinking, comment on something they’re wearing. Think of a conversation starter and roll with it.”

Meet your neighbors

“Howdy neighbor” might not be in anyone’s vocabulary these days, but knowing the people who live around you is a great way to meet new people. So go up and chat with your neighbor working in their garden. Or better yet, offer to help. Strong communal bonds start with friendly neighbors.

Travel on foot, by bike or on public transit

Cars are convenient, but they can be very lonely places. Fortunately, there are other, more social options. Walking around will put you in close proximity to people and could lead to conversations. The same goes for biking, and definitely public transit when you’re sitting next to someone.

Go to places alone

It can be scary to go out alone, but Bekker said it’s one of the best ways to meet people in a new city. “Go to restaurants and sit at the bar by yourself,” she said. “Going places alone is a great way to meet people. You are more likely to meet someone new by yourself than with friends because it’s easier to become engaged and [be] approached. Someone will be less intimidated to talk to you when you are alone.”

Don’t avoid touristy activities

You might think that museums and local attractions are bad places to meet new people, but you couldn’t be more wrong. These places have a lot of people around, and while some might be there on vacation, others are locals just enjoying the culture. Visiting these places is also a great conversation starter when chatting with a stranger: “Isn’t it wild how busy the [insert touristy activity] is getting?”

Get involved in local politics

Who knows a lot of people in your adopted city? Politicians—and politics is literally built on making relationships with people. So find out how to help out with a politician or cause and get it done. You could end up meeting people in the group or while out canvassing.

Conclusion

Sure, meeting new people when you’re an adult has its challenges. Sometimes it can feel like everyone already has a group of friends, but in reality, Bekker is right: meeting people in a new city isn’t as hard as you think.

You never know–the people who you think are all set with friends might be looking to branch out or pull someone else in. And if they’re dating, maybe they’ll soon be looking for someone new? Better yet, a new city means literally thousands of new prospects for you to meet.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.