15 Tactics to Make Friends in a New City
Updated: Feb 27
The first time I started over in a new city I had no idea what I was doing and it sucked. It's still difficult, but now that I have experience, it's a lot easier.
Starting over in a new city is very difficult for anyone, especially if it's your first time doing it. I remember going to college and only knowing only one person in Charleston, SC. I was homesick to my stomach from Day 1. It sucked.
Growing up the same town for 18 years, I was accustomed to everyone knowing who I was and what I was about. I had a lot of the same friends since elementary and middle school. The only time I remember needing to meet people from scratch was at one of my uncle's sports camps, but even that was tainted since my uncle was running it.
I had no clue what I was doing in college. I was too prideful to tell people I didn't have plans that weekend. In high school, I always had plans! I didn't need to be the guy begging to be invited somewhere, I thought. Turns out, this is a terrible attitude, and that along with other limited beliefs held me back from truly enjoying the first
Because of my poor attitude and stubbornness to put myself out there, this homesick feeling took 3 semesters (1.5 years) to finally go away. Once that feeling subsided, I decided I never want to feel that badly again.
Starting over in a new city from scratch is always hard, but much easier if you are intentional
Even though I have more confidence now, it can still be a bit of a grind at first to get traction and feel like you belong. By starting over alone in a new city, you're getting our of your comfortable zone.
Although it's hard, it's not one tenth as hard if you go into the experience intentionally. I've been in Bali for 6 days and I feel like I know more people than I did all freshman year of college.
15 Tactics I Use to Make Friends in a New City
As I was preparing to travel abroad alone for the first time to Asia, I started to think about how I plan to meet people without a "wingman". How do I take everything I learned over many years building a life in a brand new city and put it on steroids for my two month stint?
Although many of these tactics may seem like common sense, they weren't common sense to me at 18. I wish someone had told me these when I was starting over in a new city for the first time. It would have saved a lot of being homesick and wasted time not living in the moment.
1. Join a gym with a strong community and workout classes. Don't be cheap. (Example: Crossfit)
The best gyms are usually the most expensive, because they go out of their way to foster a community vibe. Crossfit gyms are where I personally like joining, but really any gym with group classes or active activity where there is a community aspect will do.
2. Smile first and only put off good vibes
People want to be around happy people. Smile first, and don't bring any negativity. Have a good word to say about everyone and everything.
3. Be upfront and honest that you're new in town and don't be prideful
No one is going to judge you for saying "I just got here and know no one." However if you don't play that card within a few weeks of moving somewhere, it does become a little weird.
4. Target "connectors"
Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 3 types of people. Connectors are the people who no one everyone. They have a special ability to bring people together. These are the highest levered people you can meet in a new situation. They will introduce you to everyone they know, and probably other connectors too. Identify these people and make friends with them.
5. Join a club or any other community you can find that you are genuinely interested in
Aside from working out, what are other communities can you find? For example, joining a cowering community is typically a great way to meet people organically. Even just seeing familiar faces helps make you feel comfortable and part of community.
Don't be the person who joins 100 clubs they aren't interested in just to meet people. That's lame, and just forcing it.
6. Don't be dumb. Reputation is everything and very fragile in a new setting
Don't do something stupid and ruin your reputation at the start. This includes getting too drunk, hitting on someone's girlfriend/boyfriend by accident, or just generally being an idiot. Your reputation is everything and it's much harder to rebuild your reputation after a bad first impression.
7. Use the Law of Attraction
Who are the ideal people you are trying to meet? Visualize the ideal person and think about where they would be hanging out.
8. Introduce yourself first. Don't wait for the other person to say something first. Chances are they might also be waiting for the other person to say something first. In fact some people say, the most important person in any room is always the one who is actively introducing themselves.
It's as simple as putting your hand out to shake someone's hand and saying "Hey, I'm XYZ..." with a big disarming smile. Maybe you quickly follow that with a compliment or an observation to keep the conversation going. In a college environment or transient city asking "Where are you from?" is a totally normal question.
9. Express your niche interests in your clothing, accessories, and stickers and notice other people's.
Although I personally refuse to pollute the elegant simplicity of my Macbook with brand stickers, things like that can be an easy conversation starter for someone to come up to you and start talking. Any clothing or accessory that someone might comment on is also another way to attract new interactions.
10. Act interested, not interesting.
The classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People is the #1 resource that helped improve my ability to start a network from scratch. It explains that people are much more likely to find someone likable who is interested in them versus someone who is interesting themselves.
This means asking lots of questions and not dominating the conversation by talking about yourself. The other cool thing about having this mindset is that after the conversation the other person will realize they don't know nearly as much about you as you now know about them. This creates a bit of mystery and urge to get to know you better.
11. Demonstrate social proof on social media Let's face it, Social media is important. Hate it or love it, it's the digitalized way for people to see if someone is worth continuing to hang out with after meeting them. I personally don't trust people who aren't on social media. What are they hiding? Why aren't they comfortable having a digital identity? Having a social media account that passes the sniff test of sociopath is important. It's also important to express genuine interests and passions in your social media.
12. Try to Connect on social media on the first interaction if it's natural
It's not weird to ask for someone's Instagram, WhatsApp, or whatever the popular app of the day is after a 10 minute or longer conversation. It's a good way to keep in touch from a distance, remember people's names and not force a second interaction in the moment.
13. Don't force it
Trying too hard and being desperate isn't cool. Don't get in people's faces. Just let natural organic connections happen over time. If someone is busy and doesn't look open to an interaction, don't bother them.
14. Don't cling on to people.
Try to meet as many people as possible. Once you make a few friends, don't stop meeting new people. You want to have as many options and possibilities. If you cling on to people, you get a limited mindset and get really sad if someone moves away or isn't available.
Once you stop being in the mood of always meeting people, you get out of practice and lose confidence in your ability to put yourself out there.
15. Remember people's names
This one is hard for me for some reason. I try to come up with a heuristic to remember people's name. For example "Short Sally or Tall Timmy". If I've forgotten at the end of the conversation I'll just simply say, "Sorry tell me your name once more." I also try to write down names of people I might meet again.
It's something that takes practice and I'm still working on. It's worth getting good at, because if you can remember someone's name the next time you talk to them it's like instant rapport.