We have moved nine times in our 14 years of marriage. Some moves have taken us across the country and other moves have taken us to the city next door. Surprisingly, every move is hard in its own way. Making close friends quickly and easily only happened 1 out of 9 times.
After so many moves, I realized that the faster I make friends, the better I like our new spot. The longer I wait, the more I regret not becoming closer to people sooner. That being said, making friends is a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding. So, if you are new to an area (or not so new) and feeling lonely, dive in!
1. Start before you get there
If you have decided to move, tell everyone you know. You will be shocked at how many connections you already have to your new city. Use that “friend of a friend” or “sister’s husband’s cousin” to really acquaint yourself to your new area from afar. If people are willing, grab their email address and phone number and use them to find answers to your questions. Let them know when you will be arriving and meet up with them. It’s fantastic to feel like you have any connection to an unfamiliar city.
2. Play the new card
This might sound funny, but people are SO willing to help people out who are new to their area. Any time we move, I ask random people every where about everything regarding our new city: dentists and doctors, fun things to do with your family, local restaurants, etc. Take advantage of being new and create easy friendships through these types of conversations.
3. Get a phone number
I know, you probably thought you were past the whole, “Can I get your number” stage, but when you move it is like dating all over again. If you meet a mom you click with in the classroom, neighborhood or at a park, get her number and ask if she and her child would like to meet up some time, and then call her!
4. Start meet ups
After you have gotten a number or two, text your new friends when you decide to do something fun. You can give them notice for a big outing like the zoo, or you can shoot a quick text to let them know you are heading to a favorite park, lunch spot, or going on a walk and see if they want to join you. This method is so easy and pressure-free for everyone; they can come and mingle without feeling obligated to stay too long, plus it allows you to bow out when you need to go too. I have found that people are usually very happy for an invite to be social. This works with older kids and entire families on a weekend … we like to bring take out to a park or pool and let the kids and adults play and chat. I also love that it limits my investment in the get-together since the invite is casual and to a place I was already planning on going. If no one can come, it’s fine; if someone joins us, it’s a bonus.
5. Find a group
In order to make friends, you have to put yourself out there. I have always found great friends through my church and my neighbors. If you are not a church going person or don’t have many neighbors in your stage of life, join a mom’s group, a gym, the PTA, take a class or volunteer. Try to make yourself a part of something as quickly as possible and don’t limit your friendships by age or stage of life … some of my favorite relationships have been with women significantly older or a bit younger than I am.
6. Start or join a club
I love to read, so one of the first things I find in a new area is a book club. If one doesn’t exist, I start one. The great thing about starting something you love is that it doesn’t feel like work and it’s OK if only a few people are interested. If books are not your thing, how about a crafting or cooking group, a card or running club?
7. Don’t complain about your new city
There is no better way to alienate new friends than to talk about how horrible their town is. Go ahead and share some of the differences between your new and old city or some of the funny quirks you’ve found, but no one wants to hear that their neighborhood is a million steps down from where you came from. See the good, and if it is hard, let your new friends help you find it.
8. Don’t glorify your old spot
People are generally interested in what life is like in other parts of the country and world, but talking about your old stomping grounds like they are celestial gets old. Share the good and the bad about where you came from, but don’t make your neighbors feel like you wish you were still there. Show them you are happy to start fresh.
9. Open up
I know it can be tough when you are new, but closeness comes so much more quickly when you are willing to be open (of course, within reason). No one I’ve met is interested in being friends with someone who is perfect or emotionless. Honestly, share things that are hard for you and be willing to be open about the things you love and enjoy. In return, ask your new friends questions and take the opportunity to get to know them too. When you are new, it can be easy to forget to reciprocate that kindness and interest in others.
10. Say yes
Moving is busy, but take a break for a little fun. I have found that in the beginning, people are especially nice and welcoming, so take advantage of that and say yes as often as possible when you get an invitation to connect with new friends and neighbors.
11. Give service
Look for ways you can help in your neighborhood or with your new friends. Offer to watch kids during a doctor’s appointment, drive some extra boys to soccer practice, or bring in dinner after a baby. Going out of your way to be kind really helps people feel more comfortable in making a connection with you.
12. Accept service
I know this sounds a bit strange, but some of our closest relationships have blossomed because we allowed others to help us out. Multiple times we have had men offer to help us unload our items from the moving truck and women offer to keep an eye on our little boys while we unpack. Their generosity was incredibly meaningful and we felt close to them instantly. That being said, don’t be a drain on others’ time or resources; take help when you really need it, but don’t cross the line of taking advantage of kindness.
13. Feed people
If you really want to get to know someone, offer them food. It is rare that an invitation to our home for dinner or dessert gets passed up, and it is our favorite way to really get to know a family. I usually cook and keep it simple with paper plates and utensils, or you can always just order pizza. If that seems like more than you can handle, invite people over for dessert (ice cream sundae bars are easy and everyone loves them). Breaking bread together offers entire families a chance to chat and get to know one another on a more personal level. We often have a game to play (indoors or outside) after the talking and eating just in case things are a little slow. We have found that this is the most effective way to meet new friends.
14. Deliver dessert
Have you ever lived somewhere for years and never met your neighbors? I am ashamed to say that we have, and it is so embarrassing. This problem can be remedied by taking cookies to your neighbors soon after you move in, if they don’t come over first. It allows you to skip all those awkward encounters years later when you realize you’ve lived next to each other for 5 years and don’t even know each other’s first names. It can also be the beginning of a great friendship. It’s so easy to deliver dessert and say, “Hey, we just moved in on the corner and wanted to meet our neighbors.” Breaks down barriers right away.
15. Start a tradition
I saved my favorite tip for the end. Decide, as a family, if there is a tradition you would like to start in your new area that happens yearly and people look forward to. For example, our family, regardless of our location, has decided to do a Marshmallow Snowball Fight during December. We invite all our friends and neighbors and have the best time. We have taken part in Valentine cookie decorating nights, 4th of July BBQs with potluck fireworks, outdoor summer movie nights with popcorn and candy; a Halloweenie roast with hot dogs, s’mores and homemade root beer, neighborhood Easter egg hunts, caroling parties, water fights, Superbowl parties, etc. There are lots of fun things you can do, but make it something you love and look forward to. It is an especially great way to meet people when you are new to an area.