Making friends in a new city
This is a subject that I've been wanting to write about for some time now. It's a problem I've faced a LOT; since leaving university I've moved to 6 new cities in four countries (okay, one of those countries was Scotland so it's not like it was on the other side of the world, but still!). The first five times I moved I was in my early 20s and I was moving to a brand new place on my own, where I knew no-one and really had to start from scratch. My most recent move, to Paris, was with my husband (who I met during move #5), so it was an easier transition, but there was also the problem of a language barrier so I'll address that here too. This post doesn't lend itself particularly well to photos, so I've just included a few pictures I've taken this summer to jazz it up a bit. Like this close up of my sweet pea plant:
The main aim of this post is to address the fact that trying to make new friends as an adult is WEIRD. How do grown ups meet each other and become friends? I feel like online dating etc. has made meeting a potential partner much more streamlined, but what about forging genuine friendships? Here's what I've done...
- Join a knitting circle!
- It doesn't matter if you don't knit, you can learn! Don't like knitting? Join a book group! A knitting circle or a book group doesn't exist in the place you've moved to? Start your own!
- When I moved back to my university town for a job after graduating, all my friends had moved to London to join high-paid grad schemes. The knitting circle I used to go to was mid-afternoon so I couldn't go now I had a full-time job, so I took to the internet (Gumtree, I believe?) to find a new one. There wasn't anything on offer in this pre-sewing bee, pre-craft revolution era, but I did happen across another like-minded knitter called Jo. She also lived in my town and worked full-time, so we started our own knitting group on Friday nights in our local wine bar. Wild! It seems to be the done thing now, but I assure you we felt like we were pioneers at the time. Before long we had a merry little band of knitters and their plus-ones!
- As an aside, it's through these jolly crafters that I eventually came to run the Instagram account for a local fabric printing company. At the time, Instagram hadn't been invented yet and small-batch custom fabric printing was still in its infancy, but this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned: be super open to meeting everyone! Friends of friends of friends may be into exactly the same thing as you, and you never know what sort of awesome opportunities will come your way.
- Get yourself some roommates!
- When I moved to Edinburgh I had a car full of stuff and temporary accommodation for a week. In hindsight this was a fairly bold plan, but I was 23 and clearly a maniac, so it all worked out just fine. I saw so many house/flat-shares in the city centre that week, but none of them really seemed right. Eventually I went to see a house in Morningside (which at the time seemed like it was in the suburbs) just to make my mum happy. She knew it was the 'posh area' and said I should at least go and look at it after seeing photos online. It had off-street parking and was in my price range, so I took a room there on that basis. I'm so glad I did! I had 2 housemates I got on insanely well with. I often worked in remote parts of Scotland, and when I was on my way back on a Friday night I'd often get a text from John saying 'Kasbah?', and our standard order would arrive exactly as I did! For the record, John always had to do the ordering because the Scottish people at the takeaway couldn't understand my English accent. Or so it seemed....
- Make friends with the people you work with!
- For some reason I used to have this idea that only being friends with the people you work with means that you don't have a life. I'm here to tell you that that's nonsense!
- Sure, having friends outside of work is great, but when you move somewhere new you probably see people at work more than anyone else, so make the most of it! Chances are, unless you're working in a job you hate (then why did you move for it?), the other people who work there are likely to be on a similar wavelength to you. Even if you think you're working alone, chances are you're not as alone as you think. In my job in Scotland I was running a mobile science lab and I was assisted by a different set of volunteers each day and in each location. At first I thought I was never going to make friends at work because I was the only one there every day, but I quickly realised that there were more potential pals around than I thought. The lab itself had to be driven to each location by a haulage company, and the regular driver and I quickly became besties. He has a daughter who's a few years older than me, so he called me Half Pint and I called him Full Pint, because we're the coolest. It was SO nice to see a friendly face when I was travelling to the middle of nowhere in the wee hours of the morning!
- Be chatty on social media!
- It's a universal fact that most people feel awkward most of the time. Someone has to be the first one to make the bold move to organise a coffee meet-up or a morning walk, and that person has to be YOU. Don't wait for people to find you - go out and find them! Not in a weird stalker way though.
- I'm really not a big user of Facebook, but being bold and adding new friends I've made has actually turned out to be a great way to solidify friendships. It makes it SO easy to see if someone fanciest trying that new bar around the corner, and I personally find it less intimidating than getting someone's number and texting them (also I'm really cheap and don't want to accidentally go outside my contract by texting a foreign number...).
- Social media (particularly Instagram) has been a great way to find out about awesome local events. Since arriving in Paris I've stepped outside my comfort zone and gone to lots of super cool blogging events, and got a lot of free tote bags! I've heard about these sorts of events through some Parisian influencers I followed on Instagram at the start of my move. Initially I followed them to see nice pictures of Paris, but it's actually opened up loads of doors. I even won a free guided tour of the Louvre! It's amazing to see first-hand how much of a 'real life' community can stem from an online platform.
This is just a tiny fraction of all the things I have to say about making friends in a new city, but lest I chat for too long, I'll call it a day here. If you have any other advice to give, please do leave me a message in the comments and I'll incorporate it into my next post!