Best way to build a social network in a new place?
November 10, 2012 5:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to a new city. How can I best build a social network - and what can I do before I get there?

I'm moving to a new city in a few months. I know nobody there, have no family or connections there, and old friends are a plane flight away. There's no major cultural differences, and the practical side of relocating is sorted. Outside of work (or school, as the case may be) how have you built a social network from scratch in a new place?

Keep it non-US specific if possible. Late 20's, female, atypical interests. I'll be single, so dating-type options are welcome, but not a drinker (so, no bars.) No car, relying on public transport. This isn't the first time I've moved like this, and is almost certainly not going to be the last.

- How can I start/what can I plan or do before I get there? (Also, how soon before the move to do so?)
- What should I do when I get there - and what to prioritize first?
- What's more likely to lead to longer-term friendships, and what's more likely to lead to knowing larger number of people but not as well?
- Best way to avoid feeling lonely when I get there?

Last time I moved, it wasn't fun. Help me plan!
posted by Ashlyth to Human Relations (15 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said you know no one there, but does anyone you know have connections there? 2nd and 3rd degree connections - so and so's 2nd cousin, so and so's college roommate's other friend, and so on.

Whatever your atypical interests are, can you find meetup groups or community organizations that are part of whatever this scene is? Email them ahead of time to find out about volunteer things you can do, get something on your calendar.

Professional groups are good too - also on, LinkedIn might be a place to look as well.

Good luck!
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:09 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go out and do stuff when you get there. It really is that simple. Find meetups around your interests, volunteer for a cause that is important to you, get involved in your neighborhood, join a kickball team, whatever. Just do stuff where you are likely to meet people with the same interests as you. If you are moving to a decent sized city there are likely multiple opportunities every night to do stuff.
posted by COD at 6:16 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I took dance classes when I moved to Detroit. It helped that I already was hooked into the community where I lived previously. Dance will fulfill all of your needs and can be found anywhere. Whether it is salsa, tango, ball room, swing, etc you can find a community anywhere in the world.
posted by JJ86 at 6:34 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had shockingly good results milking the social capital built into this very MetaFilter we call home. Is there any way you could do that without revealing in a post where specifically you're moving?

This is more travel/expat based, but when traveling I've had good luck meeting people through I've never actually "surfed" any couches, but they have meetups and activities listed on the site for cities all over the world. When I was in Turkey earlier this year and found that I was literally the only person staying in my hostel, and the owners spoke no English, I went to some couchsurfing sponsored English Language Exchange nights and met a bunch of cool locals who I could actually talk to. Even if you're moving domestically to a place where language skills aren't an issue, it's still a great way to get groups of people to do interesting things with. Which in my experience can be an issue if you're on your own but want to do something that's typically more fun in groups.

The only thing is that they tend to have general meetups in bars, but assuming you don't have a terrible drinking problem you could definitely go along and just order a coke or something. In my experience they're not drunken free-for-alls.
posted by Sara C. at 7:23 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have had good luck with meetup and so did my friends who moved to Stockholm recently. I always think volunteering is a good way to meet people.
posted by bananafish at 7:27 AM on November 10, 2012

Oh one other thing-- I think you are more likely to make friends if you are willing to take on a leadership role within a group.
posted by bananafish at 7:30 AM on November 10, 2012

Dance classes are a great suggestion. Since you're female, knitting or another craft might bring you into contact with interesting people. Atypical sports (curling, crossfit, caber-tossing, and capoeira come to mind, and that's just the C's!). My experience has been that work and/or school has actually been the best source of new friends in a new place, so you may have to just wait it out until that starts. Make an exhaustive study of the local cafes in the meantime.

There will be no way to avoid feeling periodically lonely when you get there. Instead of thinking of yourself as a lonely, friendless outsider, however, every time you notice feeling lonely, think of yourself as an intrepid adventuress. Ask yourself what you would do if you were a superspy on a radio-silent mission trying to get in touch with your local contact (who, conveniently enough, is also the kind of person you'd like to hang out with socially), and do that.
posted by katya.lysander at 8:00 AM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Find a coffee shop where you feel comfortable (patrons/setting/ambiance) and go there at the same time, sit in the same place as often as possible. Try this for 2-3 weeks--if you are not satisfied change the time or location. Only a technique--but remember--same place, same time on a regular basis. Wishing you well.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:08 PM on November 10, 2012

Cyclists can be the friendliest people that often gather in bunches to go on rides. Search your new city to see if rides are happening, to see if there are bike spaces (not bike shops but places for people to gather to work on bikes, such as the Bicycle Kitchen in LA).
posted by dottiechang at 2:19 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Churches work great for this. If you don't believe in God then well, neither do many Unitarians.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:54 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Invite people over - once you're there, have a housewarming (or other) party/dinner and just get to know people from work/school.
Keep suggesting things - don't wait for people to ask you if you want to join them.
Look for a recuring thing (arts/sports/what ever classes or volunteering ) so you know you're going to meet a few people each thursday (it's nice to have something to look forward to if you feel like you're all alone in a new city).
See if there is a possibility for you to offer a class/organize a meetup group - you say you have atypical interests, there might be other people just waiting for an opportunity to join in on those atypical interests.
Get a dog (only if you truly want to!) but it keeps you moving and you'll meet a lot of fellow dog owners.
Have fun!
posted by travelwithcats at 1:24 AM on November 11, 2012

Response by poster: I've asked around, but no 2nd and 3rd degree connections that're also in a similar age range. A friend's great aunt could be a potential emergency contact, but not so much friendship.

I'll start to look into meetup, and investigate the local groups for my interests as well - often they're not well advertised, so that's certainly something I can do.

I'm certainly cool with groups not centered around alcohol that happen to meet in bars and the like, just not so much going to those places without an unrelated reason.

Specific ideas - I think a dog is a kinda bad idea, although I'd like one, given I'm renting plus planning on multiple international moves in it's lifespan. Cyclists and finding a bike space - that's actually a great idea. I've been meaning to learn how to fix stuff on my own bike for a while. Churches... even if a lot of people don't believe, not my thing. Dance, unusual sports - also sound interesting to look into. I'll see what exists in the area!

Any idea how I could get to know one or two people via the internet prior to arriving?

I'll keep reading any responses to the original post here, so please keep commenting - even if you're seeing this in 6 months time!
posted by Ashlyth at 1:48 AM on November 11, 2012

If you really want to find people online, then I'd say CouchSurfing, Reddit, OKCupid, or some combination thereof.
posted by Busoni at 2:31 AM on November 11, 2012

Maybe this is obvious (or maybe it's a quirk of mine?), but I find the key to making friends is participating in activities that bring you together with the same people over and over. Going to meetups works if you commit to going several times to the same one; intramural sports leagues can work great; hiking or biking groups can be great; volunteering can work. But I think the key is repetition. Even if you don't immediately click with someone the first time, don't be discouraged right away, go again, at least 3-5 times.

+1 for, especially moving abroad you'll tend to find expat groups and language learning groups, and don't be shy about starting your own if meetups don't exist yet for your atypical activities.

If you use Facebook I'd suggest posting something like "I'm moving to Blahville, does anyone have friends there they'd be willing to introduce me to?"
posted by mvd at 10:12 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I assume you are going for a job or school. First rule would be to not turn down any invitations for outings with people. Even if you need to drink a little to get through it, once you say no to stuff early on, people stop asking you.

Without relying on job or school, I think building a consistent activity with the same group of people similar to the way classes or a job works is good. If you can volunteer for something on a regular shift or join some sort of club, that would work.

I have also found that OK Cupid was a good way to make friends. It's a dating website, but I stated very clearly that I was new to the city, not worried about dating and just really wanting to meet people/make friends. I got tons of replies and I don't attribute it to great looks or wit -- I think by saying I wanted friends and not dating, the pressure was off and people felt OK initiating conversation with me. A lot of people offered to show me the city or invite me along for outings with friends. I mentioned some of my interests in my profile, like soccer, and people who shared them offered to go to soccer games, etc.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:23 AM on November 13, 2012

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