5 years ago, I stepped off a plane and into a new city and a new life. It was a fairly impulsive decision, the kind we usually make when we feel we need a change of scenery or to step out of our comfort zone and try something different. For many this would mean getting a new hair cut or trying a new restaurant, but if you’re anything like me – this meant a new city, a new language and inevitably, new friends. My city of choice was Paris. Like many visitors to the city of love, I instantly adored Paris and everything about the unique French culture; so I stayed and I did my very best to fit in.
But moving to a new city where you can’t speak the language and don’t know a single soul is difficult, and one of the hardest parts is trying to make friends and build up your support network. Because as I found, and I’m sure many in my shoes would agree, having some friends who you can talk to about how hard it really is to uproot your life and live miles away from family and friends, makes the move to a new city a whole lot easier.
It’s not easy starting from scratch and even harder to build friendships with total strangers. I’ve moved a couple more times since Paris and I’ve discovered a few handy tips on how to meet people and make friends in a new city.
SIGN UP TO COURSES OR TEAMS
Signing up to courses or events that you are interested in is a great way to meet like-minded people who you can bond with over your mutual interest. Courses where you are learning a new skill are great for making friends and is an easy way to start up conversations with people because you both have a common topic to talk about. Cooking and dance classes are great because you will inevitably have to pair up with someone and this will break down barriers quickly. If you are keen on sports, join a local team and always say ‘yes’ to any invitations to socialise afterwards.
GO WHERE THE LOCALS GO
Don’t be afraid to go out for a meal or a drink alone. Try to steer clear of tourist zones and head to areas which are frequented by locals. This might mean venturing a little out of the centre of town, but you will also be discovering a new neighbourhood and hopefully stumbling across some real hidden gems. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are a great place to socialise and make conversations as people are usually already in a social mood and starting a conversation can be a little easier in this environment. It can be as simple as asking someone what they would recommend ordering on the menu or, my personal go-to, was asking if they could help me translate something into my native language.
USE APPS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Before moving to a new city, do some research through your social media outlets and see if you know anyone who has already made the move, and reach out to them (even if it’s an old school friend.) When you tell your family and friends about your move, ask if they know anyone in your new city that they could get you in contact with as well. These contacts are great as they would have been in the same boat that you are in and can offer some great advice and support. Apps are one of the easiest ways to meet new people and there are so many you can use depending on your interests as well. Joining an expat social media group is a brilliant way to meet people who have also moved from abroad and can help you through those the initial overwhelming feelings and homesickness.
STAY WITH LOCALS
Whether you plan to stay short term or move permanently, one of the greatest ways to meet locals and make friends is to move in with them. Even it’s for the first few days or weeks, finding a room in a share-house or sub-letting from a local can be a great starting place to make friends. With so many resources available online, it is easy to do your research and find accommodation which matches your preferences, even communicating with the housemates/landlords before moving over to avoid any mishaps. This way, when you arrive at your new city, you will not only have a place to stay but also some instant friends to help you get settled and feel less alone.
Once you are settled and found yourself a job, make a real effort to get to know your colleagues. Introduce yourself to your co-workers and tell them that you have just moved into the city and are keen to hear any tips or recommendations they might have. Attend work events and team workshops until you feel confident enough to ask if your workmates might like to go for lunch or hang out after work together. They might not all become your best friends, but even having one good friend at work who you can chat to, will make such a difference.
Volunteering your time at a local charity, shelter, library or garden is a great way to give back and meet incredible people. It’s also a great way to learn more about the local culture and customs as well as giving you a real sense of community. Choose a cause that you are really passionate about and interested in so that it is easy to bond over your commonalities.
SHINE BRIGHT AND BE YOURSELF
Lastly, just be yourself and fill your new life with all the things that make you happy. Moving to a new city also means that you have the freedom of anonymity and independence. So, you really don’t have anything holding you back from trying new things and becoming the truest, most amazing version of yourself. Sometimes, it’s in the moments when you take yourself out of your comfort zone and feel confident, positive and courageous, that you attract those kindred-spirits.