February 28, 2011 by jessperriam
“Oh Jess, you are so brave. Moving to another country on your own to a city where you don’t know anyone must be so (*hold on the so for desired effect*) daunting.”
If I hear that one more time I’ll… well I’m not sure what I’ll do but I’m certain it will involve getting them to surrender their phone number so I can call them all snot-faced and sad at ill-timed moments when I’m not feeling so brave.
But for the most part, I am happy and functioning fine and it’s great to be here. I have things to do, people to hang out with. All that within six weeks.
I read blogs of expat (or repat, or moving somewhere new) struggles and I get it when they say it’s hard to find friends and fit in – especially if it’s your first time living away from your hometown. I’ve been there, done that and it’s hard for the first six months (there’s the first unofficial tip).
So here are some tips on how to make friends in a new place on your own.
1. Google is your friend
Do you like writing? Do you live in a new place? (Let’s call it Manchester for ease of analogy) Do you want to meet other people writing in Manchester? Yes? Fabulous!
Here’s the really easy part:
Go to Google. Type in “writing groups in Manchester”. Look at the results, find a group that sounds nice, and head along to it. No excuses. The worst case scenario is that you go once and hate it, at least you know the group and those people aren’t for you.
You can do it for book clubs in Brisbane, sailing in Sydney, and maybe even cooking classes in Kansas City (*if you’ve googled cooking classes in Kansas City, you have come to the wrong place, but I do cook a mean pasta bake*). Try it, take the opportunity to become involved in something you didn’t have the time to do in your previous location. It is your most likely scenario of finding like-minded people.
2. Talk to people
I know this sounds really obvious, but talk to people, be friendly. Ask the barista how their day was – be genuinely interested in their answer. Explain that you’re new in town and what you’re all about. They don’t know you’re new and in need of friendship unless you tell them. People are normally chuffed or bemused when you tell them you’ve moved to their patch.
3. Invite or invite yourself
Are your friends from your chosen group that you just happened to google hanging out at the pub afterwards? Go. Invite yourself along for the ride. Grab a pint and make random drunken conversation. And if you’re not the drinking type, nurse your lemon lime and bitters and observe your new found friends making right fools of themselves. This is called building the friendship, getting to know people.
Or if there a no plans for post-group hangout, make one up. Suggest a visit to a cafe or pub or other similar venue.
4. Ask for suggestions
People love talking up their city. So explain to your friends that you’re really craving I don’t know… Chinese food and you’d love them to suggest their favourite Chinese restaurant. More often than not if they like a place they’ll offer to take you there, thus you are given time to get to know them (and their friends if they take some along) better.
5. Shared history? In jokes? Forget it! (for now)
There comes a time when you have to accept that you’re not going to have immediate rapport and bonhomie with people you’ve just met. The simple reason is you’ve not known each long enough to have a catalogue of “the time when Johnny was so drunk he crawled over a speed bump” stories.
I understand that some times you just want to tell someone, “Remember when that happened?”. Or to be able to say one word to make someone erupt into a fit of giggles. That’s one of the hallmarks of a close friendship. But that’s what you have phone calls and Skype for now, to relieve those moments complete with jerky videos and time zone confusion.
Don’t bore your new friends with stories from where you’ve come from. People will want to throttle you if you preface everything you say with “Back home…”
You’ll get that shared history back with the benefit of time. Trust me.
I’m not sure who decided to use the verb make when it comes to friendship. But it’s true. You need to make friendships. You need to put time and thought into it. You can’t just go to the supermarket and buy it and tick it off your shopping list. Go out there and connect with people.
Do you have any tips for meeting people when you move to a new place? Suggestions welcome in the comments box below.