Starting in a New City with Kids in Tow
June 2, 2011 4:35 AM   Subscribe

How did you build up your friends and connections when you moved to a new city? Did you do it with a career, wife, and kids? My family will be moving to Austin in about 6 months. We don't have any connections there as far as friends, doctors, accountants, dentists, etc. I know certain people that have a knack for building up their connections very quickly in a new environment. I want to learn how to do that!

Regarding making friends in a new city, it's easy if you are single, especially if you are a guy. You go to bars. You play pick-up ultimate. You carouse with your single co-workers. But when your in the midst of a busy career, with a wife, and kids, time and energy are at a premium, and bringing random cool guys you met at the bar to your home to drink 40's and play X-Box is kind of frowned upon.

Regarding making the connections necessary to deal with the administrative side of your life ( baby-sitters, plumbers, financial planners, carpenters, swimming instructrors ), I look at it as a chicken-and-egg problem. If I don't have trusted friends to ask for recommendations, I am either trusting people with yet to be proven judgment or asking random people on the internet. There is always Metafilter, but sometimes very specific questions like "I need to find a babysitter who lives near Cedar Park" may go unanswered.

So, ultimately, the question is: What are some smart and creative ways to build up a trusted network of people when your busy and responsible? I am looking for specific things to do. Or certain attitudes to take. I am looking for a strategy or set of tactics to attack this problem. I know that a lot of times these things just grow organically and involve some serendipity and looking at this like a problem to be solved is a little robotic. Either way, what things would you do to find great friends and smart professionals. Join a church? Host a meetup? Volunteer at the Y? Adopt a more gregarious attitude? Help us out.
posted by jasondigitized to Human Relations (21 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Volunteer work and collaborating on projects are where I have made the best new connections.

House parties are great, especially if you show up a bit early. I don't really get to know new people at bars. It may be like "yeah totally that's amazing man let's meet up soon!!!" but then the day after it feels weird, so it's harder to follow up on those leads.

MeFi meetups are very good! You can meet very inspiring and conscious people there.
posted by krilli at 4:41 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Volunteer at your local food co-op or community garden. You and your family have to eat nutritious food. So this will not be a distraction from your family but a way to nurture it and also network with people who care about health and/or foodies at the same time.
posted by cda at 4:43 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Church is how I do it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:47 AM on June 2, 2011

When I recently moved to a new city, I started a account and met some friends that way. The groups are organized by interests, so it's pretty easy to find something that would fit you, your wife or both of you. I'm guessing you'll probably want to establish some friends as a couple and then have your own groups you can hang out with as individuals. This is a good way to do it.

Also, search through your Facebook friends for people who live in Austin. You may be surprised to find that old friends you've lost touch with are already living there. When I moved 6 months ago, I found that my best friend from high school is living in my new city, and that definitely helped ease me into finding a new friend group (a task I still don't consider complete).

Good luck!
posted by DeusExMegana at 5:00 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

In terms of finding new health care professionals and accountants, ask around at work. Your co-workers wills have recommendations for you.

As for finding tradespeople, will be your new best friend.
posted by orange swan at 5:27 AM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding church/mosque/synagogue/temple.
posted by Shoggoth at 5:29 AM on June 2, 2011

Building on what DeusExMegana said, ask your friends if THEY know anyone there who might be friendly/ full of advice.
posted by brilliantine at 5:32 AM on June 2, 2011

Having kids can actually be an advantage to making community because you can get to know the families they will play with. Chat with parents at drop-off and pick-up; ask who their pediatrician and dentist is. Explaining that you're new in town, invite a new kid and parent who *seem* simpatico over for a weekend playdate to join you guys for a fun activity you've read about in the Austin Chronicle. Ask new co-workers with families over for a casual dinner, and they'll reciprocate. Mostly, have an open, friendly attitude towards the people you naturally come into contact with through your already set-up structures.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 5:55 AM on June 2, 2011

+1 your kids. Be bold! A mom down the street from me is pretty good at going up to people who've just moved in and announcing "We're getting the wading pool out -- put a suit on [your kid] and come over!" and I know I am not the only now-friend of hers who has been grateful for something so direct. Throw out lots of invitations; some will be accepted, and stuff will grow out of that.

Also +1 volunteering. Ask community leader types (and here the more secular-friendly sort of religious community can be a big help) what needs to be done; tell them what you can do, ask for introductions to the groups that could make use of you. Prioritise "How can I serve my new community," and people will start to actually seek you out instead of waiting for you to find them.

In my experience, one only needs to find one superior tradesperson; once I scored the greatest electrician around, I was through that plugged into a little network of wonderful carpenters, plumbers, etc. Just ask the first guy who he likes, and call with "Superior recommended you..."

Libraries are good gossip hubs, especially for children's stuff. The children's librarian will be familiar with all the people and groups who come in to put up posters announcing children's what-not, and can be a very good source of recommendations.
posted by kmennie at 6:32 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Having kids can actually be an advantage to making community because you can get to know the families they will play with.

This. We moved to a new city around the time our first child was born. Five years later, almost all the adults we hang out with are people we met through his daycare and school.
posted by alms at 6:42 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Other school parents and close neighbors are great for learning the lay of the land and making friends-even if you don't click with one set of people, the people THEY know might be right for you. Just walk up and introduce yourself.

As per finding your resource people for dental/furnace repair/plumbing/mechanic, I would ask around but also scout some ideas from the yellow pages and then cross reference with the Better Business Bureau. It hasn't failed me yet (2 x 2000+ km moves in 8 years to unknown frontiers).

Good luck and enjoy the adventure in Austin!
posted by pink candy floss at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2011

Yeah, dude, if you're moving to Cedar Park your kids will be your greatest asset. I know 'cause I live in Cedar Park and don't have kids and I think all our neighbors think we're weirdos.

Memail me and I can give you some tips.
posted by mckenney at 6:56 AM on June 2, 2011

Yeah, I think it's easier with kids!

Join the PTA, join a church or volunteer organization.

Put out a call on your social networking site saying "Moving to Austin, need help finding reliable sitters, a good dentist, a plumber, etc. ... anyone have friends down there?" People will give you e-mail addresses of relatives, college friends, etc., who can help you out with that kind of thing and give you at least a toe-hold.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:27 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're not on Facebook and Twitter, or if you have accounts but don't use them regularly, start using them regularly. Twitter is a wild card, but this is exactly what Facebook is great at. (See Eyebrows McGee's comment.)
posted by John Cohen at 7:55 AM on June 2, 2011

As far as recommendations go, I generally ask around at work and compile a couple suggestions for each option (doctor, dentist, etc.). Chances are, someone in the office will have similar needs and will have someone to recommend (or to heads-up-avoid).
posted by bookdragoness at 8:30 AM on June 2, 2011

Finding an active Rotary club can be an excellent way to get involved in the professional community and meet volunteer/civic minded people as well.
posted by yoyoceramic at 8:33 AM on June 2, 2011

This may sound silly, but: have business cards with you. Or, if you don't have business cards, get personal cards made up via Vistaprint or a local copy shop -- just your name, email, phone number, and maybe a little logo if you like. Then you'll have an easy way to give your contact information to the stranger whom you want to turn into a friend, when you run into one in a shop or a restaurant or at your kid's school. That little bit of friction reduction can help.
posted by brainwane at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2011

Austin might be the friendlest city i've ever visited. The first time I went, I ended up meeting three or four people I still keep in touch with- so please don't stress too much.

also- hello adult sports! it's fun and you have a non-creepy reason to make conversation with strangers!
posted by Blisterlips at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2011

Yup, use your kids as an excuse to talk to people. I have cards with all our names and my e-mail and phone number on them, and force them on other parents I meet at the playground.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:01 AM on June 2, 2011


The first new social framework you get to (have to) rely on is school(s) for the kids, so start there. Get to know the teacher and get to know other parents. Some classrooms have a "room mom" who runs stuff like volunteering, so go in one day to help out with a craft for an hour and then shamelessly pick the brains of everyone you meet. Join the PTO and you'll have a perfect opportunity to let people drone on and on about what they like best: themselves (and their town and their preferences).

Can you get the kids into a sport? Then you can talk to people while you sit around during practices and games.

Do you have boys the right age for Cub/Boy Scouts? That's a similar situation to sports: the kids are busy and the parents need somethign to discuss to pass the time.

Church can be tricky, unless you also get involved in a lot of activites. I mean, when we're at chuch we're pretty well-behaved, plus most people scoot as soon as Mass ends. But if you join the softball team or whatever, you have an excuse to bond (and grill them).
posted by wenestvedt at 1:02 PM on June 2, 2011

If your kids are the right age, co-op preschool is a great way to find a community. Also e-mail lists (so that's what Yahoo is for) for your new home.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:01 PM on June 2, 2011

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