a year in NYC and I still don't know anyone...
September 18, 2005 8:22 PM   Subscribe

I've been living in New York City for about a year and I still don't have any friends.

Okay, I have a few, but they're all people I knew before I moved here, and I can't rely solely on them to provide me with a social life. I've taken classes and attended a few internet mixers (ie. The Lunch Club) but the people I met were never really "took." Somebody out there has to have moved to a new city without knowing anyone. What did you do?
posted by Pukadon to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Dated people, broke up with them, remained friends. I got several friends that way.

Good question, btw, making friends is hard.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:25 PM on September 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

God, it's always hard, and certain cities are harder than others. Let's face it, though, friendship is a far bigger mystery than "romantic" relationships of any stripe. It's fun to sit down with your sig other and map out how things came to be, but it's much harder I find to do that with old friends. How you go from being near-strangers to people you rely on and need for emotional sanity never seems clear. Also a much harder fit than someone you might date and then discard, and there's almost a greater sense of embarassment when insinuating yourself into a social circle than any kind of romantic overture. But then maybe this is all clear to others. It never has been to me, which may be why I find the city move (which I've done all too often) difficult. It's also hard to go it alone when faced with people you don't feel it's worth investing time in (you just don't connect that well) if the alternative is some degree of social isolation.

Sorry, not much help there except to say that you're not alone (!). You've tried the classroom approach, the arranged social gathering thing... the only thing I can think to suggest is to do a lot of wandering and to interact with those people you run across in as personal a way as possible. Not to tell your life story, but to strike up that conversation with the movie store clerk, etc. Of course, people will think you're a freak, but then those aren't the friends you want. I need to practice this far more often myself, as I've fallen into the new-city-with-girlfriend trap, with built-in socializing as an excuse for inaction.

Also harder as you get older, I find, as people have their circle of friends, and often less inclination -- and time -- to expand them in a meaningful way (not just hello on the street). Anyway, stick it out, bro -- it's tough!
posted by dreamsign at 8:40 PM on September 18, 2005

I've made some great friends at Mars Bar but I can't remember any of their names. Also, the guy who cuts my meat at Katz's.

But seriously, this is a great question. This is a hard thing to do. I talk too much - especially when I am traveling - and have made a few long-term friends just through struck-up conversations on subways, buses, in bars, restaurants, bookstores, supermarkets. Well, of all those places, 3 friends, 2 of whom I am quite close to.

Do you have a dog? Doggy playdates in the park are a great way to meet people.
posted by luriete at 8:50 PM on September 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

You could organize / attend a MeFi meetup. They're always fun and I, for one, have been waiting eagerly for the next one.

It's very very hard to make friends as an adult, and I think dreamsign's advice is spot on. There's only so many people who are going to be compatible and the more people you meet the better your chances of meeting someone that "sticks".
posted by bshort at 8:55 PM on September 18, 2005

I know where you're coming from. I'm having a similar problem over the bridge in New Jersey. I just finished college, moved back home to friends I no longer know because 8 years has passed (high school and college). So all I have are two friends I managed to stay in contact with all these years, and both are busy with school and work all the time.

My theory is that when I find a job, i'll find some new friends. Until then, I bully the friends I do have into hanging out with me. This cannot last long.
posted by Derek at 8:56 PM on September 18, 2005

There are ton of mefites in the area, why not have a meetup?
posted by delmoi at 8:56 PM on September 18, 2005

Check your tags for similar threads.
posted by cribcage at 8:58 PM on September 18, 2005

I hear ya.. I'm in Jersey, 25, and don't know more than one person in the area. It's not so easy anymore.
posted by seinfeld at 9:01 PM on September 18, 2005

Drive north for several hours. When you see the "State Parks, State Lands" signs, park. Walk into woods for a few feet or so. Use a string if you really worry about getting lost being more than 20 feet from your car.

Sit down for a few moments, and you might realize that the 'lots of friends' concept can be over-rated.

Seriously, despite being the bipedal rat fest that can define mega city living; there are lots of friendly people in NYC. Try a coffee shop. Go for a walk... use your nose to find a new restaurant in a different borough. I am sure NYC has some version of the "Duck Tour" amphibious boat trips too. As a last gasp; take a six pack or bottle of wine down to the CP.
posted by buzzman at 9:13 PM on September 18, 2005

Response by poster: This is great advice, everyone. Thank you.

I've considered trying to insinuate myself into some stranger's conversation at various coffee shops and bars, but I always end up talking myself out of it. How do you think a shy fellow such as myself should go about doing that?
posted by Pukadon at 9:34 PM on September 18, 2005

posted by larva at 9:39 PM on September 18, 2005

I've made a few casual friends and acquantances by noticing someone reading a book I like and making some kind of comment about it. This works well with people by themselves, insinuating yourself into a conversation with multiple people can be hard, but lots of single people in coffee houses are in the same boat as you and might like to talk to someone who shows an interest in something they like. Just saying is all. It's happened to me on the flip side so I try to be open about it, that is, if someone notices what I'm reading and says something, I try to do more than just look up and say "yeah. It's good".

Also, YMMV may vary on this one, but I like to play poker, and I've met a lot of people that way. Also, I carry books in casinos (there are often long periods where you have to wait, say, for a table) and people will sometimes strike up conversations while I'm reading. Poker friends are nice, if you like poker, because they will want to talk about poker and all non-poker friends will not. I imagine this is the same for most hobbies. I wouldn't know. I don't know many others who do the other hobbies I do, and many of my other hobbies are a bit solitary.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:39 PM on September 18, 2005

Although it may sound lame, clubs (ie. organised interest groups) can be great for making friends - do you have any interests that others share in a social setting? Play any sports? Feel like becoming a volunteer of some sort? Interested in political activism? Want to learn to dance the salsa? Embrace the inner nerd and get involved in these sorts of things! I'm sure that in a town like New York there's a club for just about any imaginable activity under the sun.
posted by Jimbob at 9:43 PM on September 18, 2005

A girl came up to me last night and said, "Hey, what instrument are you carrying?" It was actually a tripod. So she asked what I was shooting, and told me that she had thought it was an instrument because she was a musician. In 10 minutes we had exchanged cell phone numbers, talked about photography, music, Katrina and our plans for the fall/winter. I had asked her a question that she didn't know the answer to but promised to find out, so she may well call me with that info, at which time we'll have another chat and possibly arrange to meet up for coffee.

So, don't fear going up to people -- just choose people that seem like they'll have a couple of conversation topics in common with you, so that the chat will go well and there's room for more in the future.
posted by xo at 9:47 PM on September 18, 2005

come to the meetup at Max Fish on Wed night, and then come to Scody's meetup the week after. : >

groups are great too--there are thousands and thousands for every imaginable topic and interest. (and the people who run them are usually very good at connecting people)

there's no one at work you've gotten friendly with?
posted by amberglow at 9:55 PM on September 18, 2005

i feel your pain, Pukadon. New Yorkers are often interesting and easy to meet, but they're a tough lot to nail down. If you're as cool the videos you make, you'll be fine. try:
Bar Sputnik.
September 21, 2005
posted by hellbient at 9:58 PM on September 18, 2005

Outside of business, I've made most of my friends through sports and hobbies. People with similar passions tend to bond quickly.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:01 PM on September 18, 2005

cool as the videos...
posted by hellbient at 10:11 PM on September 18, 2005

This can be tough -- but I moved to NYC knowing absolutely no one. I didn't get out much for the first six months or so (well, I got out a lot, but it was always alone), but then I went to a meetup and met a bunch of cool people, most of whom are my best friends now and/or have introduced me to my best friends. (Not to mention that JonMC set me up with my girlfriend.)

We've got two meetups coming up -- c'mon out to 'em!
posted by Vidiot at 10:15 PM on September 18, 2005

I recommend asking people for help, easy stuff like directions or if they can recommend a good shoe repair shop in the neighborhood or whatever. Look at the popularity of AskMe, people enjoy sharing what they know and its easy to draw someone into conversation that way.
posted by cali at 12:31 AM on September 19, 2005

I moved to a major city in the UK, not knowing anyone. I, like many people, assumed I'd make friends at my job. However, I quickly realised that I just don't gel with people in my field (I'm a programmer). For a while, I went to lots of hardcore gigs, assuming that would be the best way to make friends (getting into the music scene was the chief reason I'd moved), but after about five months of this, I had one proper friend and an awful lot of conversations-are-still-slightly-awkward acquaintances.

What changed things was getting involved in a radical social centre. I started going to meetings, and then really began making friends when performing tasks with people: moving furniture, working the bar, building stuff, painting, running events etc. That was about six months ago and I have about ten proper friends.

So, my advice: get involved with some hobby that necessitates spending a lot of time with other people you are likely to get along with. I think this is why coffee shops, aerobics classes, gigs etc. aren't as effective: you just don't have enough time to form a bond with someone.

On a smaller level: get people's phone numbers . After you've known someone and it's clear you get along, suggest something that necessitates knowing their phone number. I can't tell you how many times this has been a watershed in a friendship. It's something to do with changing things from a 'we're a bunch of people hanging out together' to 'we're two people spending time alone cause we're friends'.

Good luck. Remember, EVERYONE has been through this on numerous occasionas. If they haven't, they're not adventurous enough.
posted by pollystark at 2:29 AM on September 19, 2005

I know this doesn't apply to the original poster, but if you're in this position in the UK, try here.
posted by salmacis at 2:45 AM on September 19, 2005

Pick a regular place for lunch/coffee/a beer and try and go a few times a week. Sit in a sociable postion at the bar/counter whatever rather than the corner. Bonus points if this place has some sort of activity you can participate in like poetry reading or live music. Look at it as a nice place where you enjoy the atmosphere and food and drink, rather than that place where you desperately sit waiting for friends every day. No need to press anything because you have to leave in 20 mins, just make sure you go regularly. You will soon get to know the staff and the other regulars, and while the friend of your dreams probably isn't sitting in there waiting for you, it's a good place to start a little social network. As I said, especially if there is something interesting to get involved with, heck even if it doesn't interest you, volunteer to help out with a live yoga display, whatever. Working together with people, however briefly, makes it a whole lot easier. If nobody speaks to you, pick somewhere else.

I've only once needed to do this when I left home very young to go to university quite far away. I couldn't sit on my hands in my flat so I headed out with a book and sat in places, just to be around other people, and it worked. Nobody I kept in touch with, but great company while I was there. Good luck.
posted by fire&wings at 3:07 AM on September 19, 2005

It's a good question -- I was born and raised in NYC, so I have a very different set of circumstances to work with... but there may be lessons to take, I dunno.

So, one thing is that it appears from your site that you're a freelancer -- if so, that makes it more and less difficult -- you're not going to hang out with the folks from the office, but on the other hand, you meet a lot more people.

Years ago, when I was trying to write magazine articles, after a few meetings with my editor, he suggested we meet for dinner so we did. I was wondering the whole time at dinner, when will we discuss this article? But we never did ... he just wanted to become friends, and now 10 years later he's one of my best friends, and we have nothing to discuss professionally. There's been a lot ... a LOT ... of that over the years. Many of your loose professional ties are good opportunities for genuine friendship. There's a weird moment, always, where you both silently acknowledge "this isn't a work conversation anymore" but it's interesting what it leads to, so it's worth it. It's a pleasant vertigo.

The other thing ... I know this sounds dumb ... but parties work really really well in NYC. The right parties are filled with some of the most interesting people you'll meet in your life. I don't mean the fanciest people or the Most Interesting people, I mean brilliant folks who are interested in life. In the last year, I've started going to parties again, and have made some extraordinary friends that way.

Most of all, the thing to keep in mind is that as soon as you have some friends, you'll have more friends. Metcalfe's law, not Murphy's.


(Also, the dating advice is sound. Nerve.com and whatnot may not produce a mate for you, but it often ends up making friends, without casualties. There's something also very liberating in entering a blind date thinking, "you know, worst case scenario is that I might have a new friend.")
posted by cloudscratcher at 3:29 AM on September 19, 2005

Luriete makes an interesting point that is worth reinforcing.

"To meet people" is sort of a lousy reason to get a dog, *but*, if you are a dog person anyway, and have been thinking about acquiring a furry companion, walking a dog on a leash makes you instantly approachable on the streets and in the parks of New York City, for reasons I myself, as a New York City dog owner, still do not fully fathom.

But something about having a dog seems to give people (nice people, usually) permission to approach you and strike up a conversation with you. (You will also find yourself being asked for directions by tourists, who, no fools they, see somebody walking a dog and think "Here's someone who lives close by... s/he must know the neighborhood...")

My wife and I have made some lifelong friends at the Washington Square Park dog run.
posted by enrevanche at 3:44 AM on September 19, 2005

The "purely platonic" or whatever it's called section on Craigslist can actually work. I found myself with tons of time to spare last year when the boyfriend was away for several months and responded to a couple of ads putting together a softball team and stuff like that. Or you could post one. I was wary because there's a whole lot of crap ads on there too but turned out to be a great decision.

When I knew nobody here I was the bar counter regular like fire&wings suggests. I have an advantage in that my Irish accent often draws attention and conversation, but an interesting book or something will do the same. This definitely works.

But ultimately getting out at all will put you in contact with people. The worst thing you can do is hang out in your apartment. Good luck!
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:52 AM on September 19, 2005

I think it's tough to make friends by trying to make friends. Mostly, we make friends when we're not trying (this is true of romantic friends too, no?). So I'm dubious about joining organizations that are overtly trying to hook people up. As kids, we made friends gradually, with people we were forced to hang out with in school or in our neighborhood. So there's something that feels unnatural about an activity that is about pushing friendships on people. The trouble is, as adults, we're not forced into rituals as-much-as we were as kids. This is especially true if you work as a freelancer.

So my advice is to not try. Instead, get involved in interesting social situations and hobbies -- activities that aren't specifically about making friends, but at which friendships could arise by chance. This is the same advice people give to folks looking for romantic partners: live your life, get involved with charities, go to art galleries, etc. Don't look desperate. Just live an exciting life and people with find you.

On a personal level, I live in Brooklyn with my wife. We don't socialize too much though I have several friends in NYC. Even though we all live in the same city, we mostly communicate via email. This is because we live -- by NYC standards -- so far apart. On of my closest friends here lives in the Bronx. For one of us to visit the other is a major undertaking. Like many NYers, neither of us drive. So we're talking about several hours on the Subway. As much as I like my friend, on a Sunday afternoon, I would rather just stay at home. So we see each other about once every three months. We email each other every day. But I have other friends who I also email every day, and some of them live in California.

I guess my friend and I could do the "meet in the city" thing (and sometimes we do), but that takes arranging. There's no spontaneity. We can't just pop over to each other's apartments.

I'm okay with this situation, but if I wanted traditional friendships, I would get involved with activities in MY neighborhood. I would try to meet some people who lived in the same general area -- people who lived in walking distance from me. This is the problem with work friends. The people at my office live all over the place. While there are several of them that I like, we'll never hang out much outside of work. It's too complicated.
posted by grumblebee at 6:03 AM on September 19, 2005

Craigslist thirded - on a quick jaunt to NYC I made friends with people after advertising on the strictly platonic area. Easy, memorable and worthwhile.
posted by skylar at 7:07 AM on September 19, 2005

Everyone's advice seems to be towards how to *meet* people, but in my opinion, actually becoming friends with them is a whole different story. I'll agree with one of dreamsign's points, that it is difficult to make friends when there aren't a lot of people you connect with. But if you follow the advice suggested here and you do eventually connect with someone, then comes the hard part: repeated interactions to create lasting relationships. Lots of people can talk to somebody on the street or e-mail a response to somebody on Craigslist. But it takes a lot more effort to actually follow through with that connection. The "flake factor" on Craigslist can be high, so don't let that get you down.

I've struggled with social anxiety/phobia for about 5 years now, and every social task has it's pitfalls for me. I'm still trying to make and maintain friendships, but I had to realize that nobody was going to do it for me. Take the initiative to invite people out yourself. Or start having a regular social event-- a board game night or dinner at your house or pub trivia or something. When several like-minded people are focused on one task, it makes the group bond quite strong. My friends and I started having "Fancy Dinner Night" about 4 years ago. When we started we were acquaintances, classmates from college who had all moved to a new city. We rotate who does the cooking, the only rule is "Make something you've never made before," and after dinner we play a few board games. Though the group has gained and lost some members, and we went from once a week to once every other week to now once a month, these folks are some of my closest friends, and we always have a good time together.
posted by sarahnade at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

I moved to a new city three years ago. It was to start graduate school, so I was automatically thrown into some social situations (classes, lab) but at that point it didn't really click with anyone I met there.

I also joined an orchestra, and made some friends there, but that also took a few months (first you say "hi" to the same people over and over, then you find out you have something totally absurd in common, etc.)

I went to a few local blogger gatherings and met up with some people I knew online. Eventually, and it really took a year or more, I made some friends there.

Finally, new people joined my lab after me, and a few of them are very outgoing. They organised a lot of things, and I ended up making friends with people I only said "hi" to during the first year (even though they were there all along)

Like sarahnade said: meeting people is not the hard part, it's making friends with them. It takes a while, don't force it.
posted by easternblot at 11:40 AM on September 19, 2005

oh and the Vice Guide to New York is, if nothing else, entertaining.
posted by hellbient at 11:41 AM on September 19, 2005

You have to simply remember that no one is going to come knocking on your door and ask if you want to come out and play. Which means you need to be socially proactive and put yourself in places that encourage interaction. If someone came to your apartment and asked you to come out and play, what would you play? The answer to that question will tell you the type of groups and clubs that you should be looking into. I have a friend who has a natural knack for making new friends. I think it is because he doesn't try to be to cool, asks a lot of questions, isn't afraid to look stupid in new situations, and knows how to network.

If I was moving to NYC, I would send an email out to all my existing friends and see if they had any contacts in NYC. From there, I would get in touch with any 'prospects' and simply tell them I am new to the city, and if they could help me get on my feet. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Then I would probably join a gym, and more importantly get into some fitness / yoga classes. Because I play Ultimate Frisbee I would look for local pickup games. I would also get on Craigslist and Match.com and go on some dates, and on those dates, I would tell them I was new to the city and again ask for social assistance. And finally, I would just go to random events and be as socially proactive as possible. And like cloudscratcher said, once you find a few friends, it will grow exponentially. Sounds like a Meetup would be a great idea.

I forget where I read this, but also don't discount all of the little interactions you have everyday with the girl at the coffee counter, the friendly guy with the hot dog stand, etc. etc. Even though they may never become your good friend, these people are part of your life and should be valued.

Oh, and another thing, pick up the phone, send an email, invite someone to lunch, or coffee. I have found since I started being more socially proactive, I have a lot more friends and aquaintances.
posted by jasondigitized at 12:02 PM on September 19, 2005

Pukadon I agree with 'pollystark's' strategy to "getting involved in a radical social centre" BUT choose your charity, club, society or class carefully. For convenience I'll call these your 'club'.

My Top Tip #1: Consider how much time you will need to put in to meet new people and whether they are the kind that you can have lasting friendships with.
My Top Tip #2: Choose a club that is near a coffee house/bar, bar, pub and other amenities - it provides a means to extend your social after you have finished doing what you are doing at your club.
My Top Tip #3: Know when to move on when the scene has lost its spark.

These tips are borne out of my story:
Some years ago, an interest in media started my involvement in Radio stations in the UK that broadcast to hospital patients to aid their recovery. They are called hospital radio for short. Hospital Radio is a stepping stone to mainstream radio for aspiring media professionals and although I have this aspiration, my original greater motivation for joining was social. I have moved around 3 times in the last 10 years and at each place I joined a hospital radio station where I met some really nice people. In the last 2 places we were near bars so we could have a drink after our session at the station. I met a very good friend whom I hung out with for a long while after we both left my first station and then he moved back up north and got married. But it was fun while it lasted as we were out most nights during the week socialising with others at various places. So I agree with 'I Love Tacos' that "as soon as you have some friends, you'll have more friends. Metcalfe's law"
But I may not agree with their comment that "people with similar passions tend to bond quickly" as at hospital radio you can get friendly with people whom you later realize are only there as a stepping stone into mainstream media.
This would be true of any voluntary club where you can pick up skills for a professional job. These people get what they want and leave. Good luck to them. I may be one of them at some future point. But I couldn't help feeling bitter, used and left behind when they left. 'cloudscratcher' you sound like one of these stepping stone people who I do not take offense with and your story ending in friendship is heartwarming as I see myself in your editor friend's shoes BTW.

Further comments on other peoples postings: 'xo' you were very fortunate with that person you exchanged numbers with when you both first met. 'grumblebee', perhaps meeting some of your friends every 3 months suits you but I have friends that I see once or twice a year and it seems so contrived and is very much a one-up-man-ship meeting where you compare each other's achievements and you have less in common.
posted by rjamesd at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I should add that I met another really good friend who I am now making a documentary with. So, sometimes, you can bond with people who use a voluntary club as a stepping stone. I also met a young lady whom I developed a huge crush on but I think she turned out to be one of those 'stepping stone' people as I don't see her anymore :( Good luck to them.

It is hard to make friends and I agree with the several posters who say that trying to make friends is harder than just going with the flow. Further advice, don't just choose one club carefully, choose several, cram them in.
posted by rjamesd at 2:35 PM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

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