7 Ways to Make New Friends in New Places

7 Ways to Make New Friends in New Places

PC: @toniechristine

I recently moved to Arizona. While I had lived in Utah my whole life, I still thought of myself as an independent and outgoing person. But moving away from family, friends, and everyone I knew has been a real eye-opener for me. Suddenly, I couldn't just call my sister and meet up with her, or go drop by my mom's house. I soon realized that my family had been my go-to friends, and that I'm not necessarily accustomed to having close friends that aren't related to me.

Although you might not be moving out of state for a completely new experience, young mothers usually tend to move fairly often in the early years. My hope is that I can share some knowledge I've gained recently in order to provide you with tools to have a good experience no matter where you are.

1. Don't Wallow in Your Loneliness

Moving is hard, but moving to a place where you don't know a soul is even more difficult. It's important that you aren't too hard on yourself, and you keep your expectations low for the first few weeks. Yes, it would be nice to have a neighbor knock on your door and introduce themselves while bringing a goody, but that doesn't always happen. The truth is, you can't wait for others to make the first move.

As a Utah native, I've come to expect friendly faces and outgoing people wherever I go. Although Arizona is not that different, I think my social upbringing has made me a little too expectant of the people around me. The truth is, if you want to make friends in a new place, you need to make the effort of talking to people, even when it's exhausting and you feel overwhelmed.

Yes, I met that person last week and introduced myself, but guess what? They may have forgotten my name, and still don't know much about me, so I might need to initiate contact this time round again. Whether you've just moved in, or have been in the neighborhood for a month, plenty of people still have no idea who you are, and would love to be your friend. But that's hard for them to do when you allow yourself to blend into the crowd.

2. Put Yourself Out There

I'm no expert on making new friends. To be honest, I feel like I haven't really made that many new friends since getting married; making couple friends is hard (but that's a whole other blog post!), and moving once a year since getting married has only complicated the issue. But here are some things that have helped me:

3. Introduce yourself often.

This helps people know who you are, which makes them more likely to converse with you. It also sends the message that you're friendly and someone that's worth getting acquainted with. This also puts others at ease if they forgot your name, which happens all the time.

4. Find and ask about local attractions.

Particularly if you're in a new place, you need help finding the best grocery stores, libraries, pharmacies, parks, and play areas. This might also lead to a playgroup invitation.

5. If there aren't any playgroups, make your own.

With my recent move, I discovered there were no playgroups to speak of. So I made my own. I found out which mothers had young kids like me, and invited them to do different things each week. It's taken a couple months, but now we have a regular playgroup going! This alone has really helped me to get to know people in the area.

6. Be open to all types of friendships.

Your new BFF doesn't necessarily have to be a young mom, too. If you admire someone at church or enjoy talking with a middle-aged woman at the grocery store, pursue that relationship! I personally have made several great friends that don't even have children, and they've become like second mothers to me. Keep the door open for anything that comes your way--sometimes the best friendships come from unlikely places!

7. Get involved in your community. 

This doesn't have to be complicated. Volunteer at a local church or community center. Ask about local events and activities. Whatever's going on, attend, and ask about opportunities to help in the future! This will keep you busy and prevent lonely days with no one to talk to. I went out on a limb and have started volunteering on Saturday mornings teaching English to second language learners. I've never done it before, but it has been great for getting me out of my comfort zone and exploring new places.

I know on paper these steps make sense, but executing them can be a whole other story. It takes courage to talk to people you don't know, particularly when you're new to the area, too. Humility is an interesting thing, but I feel like I've had lots of time to practice it since my move.

More than anything, please remember: these things take time. In reading my journal from the first few weeks after the move, I sound so depressed and lonely! But I promise you it will be alright. Even if it takes a couple weeks or months, you'll get there. Over time, people and places will become recognizable, and you'll feel more and more like you belong.

Rome wasn't built in a day, so it only makes sense that building your confidence and comfort in a new place takes time, too. And new friendships will come, but you have to meet them halfway. After all, friendship is a two-way street. You've got this!

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