“I moved to a new city 11 years ago and I think I’ve made like five close friends,” said Rob, an art director who lives in Pennsylvania. He said he keeps busy taking care of his kids and coaching their sports teams in his free time and doesn’t find himself in situations where he’s meeting a ton of new people.
Jené, an author and TV host, had a similar experience moving from a city to a small town in New York: “It has taken me a couple of years to start getting to know people,” she said. “I’m a super friendly person but even with that, it’s not easy!”
There’s no doubt that friendships and positive relationships make life richer and more enjoyable. Science even backs it up. For example, one study found that having social interactions—even just with acquaintances—helps boost well-being. Another found that people with strong social relationships were more likely to live longer than those who didn’t.
So, even though growing your social circle may be difficult, it’s not surprising to find yourself on a mission to meet new people and create quality friendships that will last. These ideas can help you make it happen.
Why meeting new people feels so hard
According to one recent study, conducted by OnePoll in partnership with Evite, the average American said they hadn’t made a new friend in the last five years. The most common reasons?
- Introvertedness/shyness (42%).
- Not wanting to go to bars (33%).
- Feeling that friend groups have already formed (33%).
- Lack of time due to family commitments (29%).
- Lack of hobbies that offer the opportunity to meet people (28%).
Jen, a consultant who moved from New Jersey to Alaska, said making friends was particularly challenging because she works from home and doesn’t have kids, so there weren’t coworkers to chat with or children’s activities to attend and meet other adults.
Creating opportunities to spend time with others may be one of the biggest keys to how to meet new people and turn them into friends. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that it takes about 50 hours of time with someone to move from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to become an actual friend and more than 200 hours before being regarded as a close friend.
How to meet new people
How do you meet new people who’ll hopefully turn into future friends? Whether you’ve moved to a new city or some place less populated, or you just want to expand your friend pool where you already live, here are some tips that could really help.
How to meet people in a new city
City life can be surprisingly lonely. But luckily, most cities have many activities, events and organizations for people with many interests and preferences.
- Get involved. Whether you like it or not, friends don’t always just fall into our laps, but there’s something about working toward a common goal that can create instant bonds. Volunteer for a charity organization, join the PTA or join a neighborhood watch committee. You’ll meet new people straightaway.
- Take a class. When Joselin moved to a new city, she took a writing class. She met a few nice people and then when the class was over, she asked them if they wanted to create their own writing group. “Several of my closest friends were a direct result of taking that one 10-week class,” she said. In a city, you’ll likely be able to find a class in almost anything that interests you and where you might find like-minded people—photography, a foreign language, yoga, cooking and so much more.
- Get fit. Join a gym, the YMCA, a local sports league or a boot camp class. Physical activity and team sports not only will help you stay in shape but they’re full of other people to chat with.
- Reach out to neighbors. Sharing walls and hallways has a way of bringing people together. Kim, a stay-at-home mom who recently moved from the suburbs to a city—both in Pennsylvania—said she can practically reach out her window and touch her neighbors. All it took was offering a few sweet treats and striking up conversations, and she became friends with her neighbors quickly.
- Get invited. If you do know a few people in your new city, even if they’re just acquaintances, tell them you’re new to the social scene and would be interested in attending parties, dinners or other group activities. They might invite you along and introduce you to other people they know. Often, an introduction is the easiest icebreaker.
Ways to meet new people outside a city
Moving to a suburban town or the country can present its own challenges. After all, you’re likely more isolated from neighbors, people may drive more (as opposed to walking or using transit) and get less face time with others. Plus, there may simply be fewer people to meet in general. You can try all the same strategies as city people, but if that isn’t working or you don’t have many nearby resources, you may have to get creative.
- Start your own group. Don’t have a book club, community theater or hiking group in your area? Start one. You can post on local social media groups or community bulletin boards, looking for people who share your interests and together you can grow the group.
- Be honest. It’s okay to go out and say you’re looking for friends, so people understand you’re not just making small talk. “When you really don’t know anyone, it can help just to tell people, ‘I’m new and would love to hang out with new people,’” said Jen.
- Make specific plans. Jen added that people tend to say things like “we should get together” but not follow up. If that does come up in conversation, suggest a specific time and place. For example, “How about coffee on Friday?”
- Give it time. Jené said when she moved to her small town, other people seemed to already have established friend groups. They didn’t seem open to meeting new people. But eventually, they warmed up to her. Keep being friendly and continue striking up conversations when you can. Sometimes people just need time to realize you’re open to becoming their friend so they can open up too.
How to meet new people online
No matter where you are, you can meet new people online—and either connect in person or stay cyber-only friends.
- Meetup.com. Meetup.com is a website and app with a wide variety of groups that meet up in person. Search its vast number of listings and calendar of events to find something that appeals to you and easily join in group activities and meetings.
- Local social media groups. Facebook and Nextdoor are popular social networking sites for neighbors. Not only are you likely to find pages for your town or city, but you may also find special interest groups that are local too. For example, parents who live in your area, or fans of your favorite local sports team.
- Special interest social media groups. Love a specific band? Have a collection? A favorite hobby? There’s likely a Facebook group (or 10) about that topic, and you’ll be able to meet other enthusiasts online. You probably know people who’ve made great friends through interactions in social media groups and then took their friendships offline and into the real world.
- Apps. There are a few apps that aim to connect people to potential friends, including Bumble BFF, Friender and Peanut (for moms). It doesn’t hurt to log on knowing that others on the app are actively looking to meet people too.
There’s an inherent degree of uncertainty when it comes to meeting strangers from the internet in real life, so take some basic precautions, like meeting in a public place and notifying others of your whereabouts. Using a people search service may also help give you a better idea of whether or not they are who they claim to be beforehand.
Pleased to meet you
In the end, it’s going to take some effort to put yourself out there and meet new people—it definitely isn’t easy. But if you know where to look, keep trying and give it time, you’re bound to expand your friend pool and you might even be surprised at how your social life changes and grows.
Take it from Rob, who’s still working on it but has made friends through his wife, who grew up in the area, and is starting to get to know his fellow soccer coaches. “We had a holiday party at my last soccer club and it worked well to get to know the other coaches better,” he said.