When I moved to Mexico in 2020, I experienced how tough it was to make friends in a new city and during a global pandemic. It could be because people are trying not to get sick and die, or simply because after a year of self-isolating, it becomes tough to force yourself back out and make plans with other humans. For the first time in a long while, I didn’t have any friends, and as a “class A” extrovert, I struggled.
A couple of my friends also moved to new cities in 2020 and 2021, and I saw how they struggled to make new friends. Whatever your reason is for moving, studies, returning home, losing employment, gaining employment, etc. Now that you’re in a new city, you need to make new friends.
I’ve put together seven simple but effective ways you can make friends in a new city. You can apply these friend-making tips even with pandemic lockdown restrictions and when things open back up in your city.
Join Groups: online and in-person
Due to the interwebs gifting us with the power to conjure people with similar profiles or in similar situations, we are now more connected than ever. As it may be difficult to join an in-person group straight off the bat during a global pandemic, maybe start joining online groups first. Meetups & Facebook groups are rather helpful. From there, you should be able to find strands of smaller people who share an interest. It is also important to be a little flexible and explore new and different interests. Perhaps you are a tango fanatic, and tango classes have been canceled, but sports or activities where close contact isn’t necessary may still be happening.
I started playing volleyball with a group of people who posted about their plans on Facebook. I’d never really considered playing volleyball before, but I had so much fun, and I made a lovely group of people when we went for lunch after the game. They’ve become an important part of my social life here in Mexico. So be bold and try a new activity. It may not be what you’ve always been trying to do but making friends through activities is fun.
Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re looking for friends
When I first moved, I posted on Instagram that I was looking for friends. I asked for people to introduce me or connect me with their contacts in Mexico City. People are always keen to help, and you’d probably be surprised how many connections your friends might be able to provide. I managed to meet some lovely people who showed me around and gave me a base to speak to when I felt a little lost. Don’t be nervous about sharing that you are looking for new contacts. I always think what you don’t ask for, you don’t get.
Going out alone is no shame
Provided you’re keeping safe and not putting yourself in dangerous situations, going out alone can be great. Now the trick with this rule is to be open to new experiences and not be too afraid of speaking to people. When I say going out, I don’t necessarily mean bars and clubs, but even parks or supermarkets. I met one of my best friends because she started speaking to me in a convenience shop. She made the first move, and I am forever grateful to have her in my life. So be brave and initiate a conversation. Compliment their style, ask about their dog, or talk about the book they’re reading. The first sentence is the scariest, and then it becomes easier. Worst comes to worst; they don’t want to speak, mumble at you, or run away. Who cares? You’ll probably never see them again, and it’s their loss because you’re super cool.
Try Networking Events
Networking or evening events have started up since restrictions have eased up. I’m not going to lie, it can be scary at first. When you step into an event and don’t know anyone, and your arms feel heavy and overly long, and you want to run away, it’s tough. Just give it a teeny tiny bit of time, start speaking to people, and soon things will go super smoothly! People go to these events specifically to meet people, so just remember to be confident and yourself.
Put Your Phone Away
Looking down at your phone has allowed us not to feel alone. Your friends from across the globe may as well be right next to you. But let’s be honest, it’s not the same experience. You can’t grab a drink or go to the museum with a friend living thousands of miles away. It’s time to make friends in your new location, so put your phone down and look around. When we bury ourselves in technology, it becomes too easy to ignore the world around us. When I first moved to Mexico, I would randomly burst into tears just really missing my friends, and texting them brought a sense of comfort, but I realized I couldn’t just rely on them. I try not to check my phone too much when I am out and about, which has helped. People are more open when they aren’t on their phones and much more approachable.
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Don’t be afraid of small talk
My sociable friend, the one from the convenience store, once told me, “small talk is like platonic flirting. It may not go anywhere, but you won’t know until you try.”
It may be such a pain to just talk about the same thing again and again, “where are you from? What brought you here? What do you do? …” but that’s when you realize which people you click with, and those who you have no interest in. It’s also a great way to gauge how many questions people ask you about yourself, which I believe is vital when building friendships. Who wants to build a friendship with someone who doesn’t care about anything else than their stories.
Imagine you’re on Holiday
I’m not sure how, but when I’m on holiday or traveling alone, I always manage to meet loads of new people. It must be a vibe you carry around, or it could just be that you’re staying in places where other tourists might be. Either way, people always have more necessity or interest to form friendships and are more open to randomly hanging out with strangers when traveling alone. Though this may not help form long-lasting friendships, meeting people while going out in pairs or more is sometimes easier. So, find some quick friends, and ask them to help you meet people who live in your city.
Final Thoughts on Making New Friends
I hope these friend-making tips help. To those who are out there looking for friends and sometimes feel a little lost, please remember that you’re not alone. You got this! It might be daunting at first, but the more you step out of your comfort zone, the easier it gets and the more fun you’ll have.