How to make friends in an american suburb?
August 31, 2006 1:19 PM   Subscribe

How does one meet people in a the US without being part of any normal form of social meeting ground?

Posting this question for a friend who recently moved to the US:

"I am a 21-year old boy who has just moved from Norway to Ballwin (outside St. Louis), thereby visiting the US for the first time. I am staying at my cousin's place in the kind of suburbia that is really only inhabited by families with small children, or old people, so there aren't really that many people to meet in my neighborhood. In addition to this, I am only working as an au pair for my family, and do not go to either school or any other natural form of meeting ground. What should I do to make friends in this situation?

I live about 20 minutes from town (by car), and I don't know whether the best way is to just drive in to town and wander around; waiting for that random moment when an opportunity appears and you suddenly meet someone. This is the first time I have been in a situation without any sort of "lifeline", so I would greatly appreciate your opinions and tips!"
posted by klue to Human Relations (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Internet, and that's a serious answer.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:20 PM on August 31, 2006

Coffee shops. Volunteer. Go to music shows. PLAY MUSIC (hint: if you play any instrument well, talk to coffee shops/etc about performing. A local shop here has live music every friday & sat, & pay something like $150-200 (they don't charge cover or anything) - after the show/in between sets, half the room wants to talk to the artist, even if they don't know them). If you're into sports, look into joining a running club or a biking club. Or, alternatively, indoor soccer leagues, city league basketball, etc.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:24 PM on August 31, 2006

Church, if you're the type.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2006

Sports, hobbies, drinking, Internet: mix as desired.
posted by dame at 1:43 PM on August 31, 2006

What are his interests? What times does he usually have free - every evening? And how long is he here for?

I've met a ton of people through community theater productions. It's especially good because you're all working on a project together. This may or may not work for your friend, but be aware that there's a _ton_ of backstage work to be done, including very basic construction work.

If he's interested, he can look for auditions in the paper, then contact the theater and ask about backstage volunteer work. Of course, he could also audition if he were so inclined.

He could also look for a local choir to join if he sings at all.

Read all the little ads in the local paper, especially if there's an independent paper.
posted by amtho at 1:57 PM on August 31, 2006

Besides those, if you want to meet just random people I suggest (seriously) going to what can best be described as a "college meat market". These are the bars around colleges that are packed to the brim with young boys and girls wanting to mingle. Yes it is lame, but it helps you connect with people -- it is not just for getting laid. They are by far the easiest places to just talk to people, and being foreign you probably have a 10x chance of a group being keenly interested. Gallery openings, coffeeshops and the like are also good -- but if you are shy in the least, test your feet in the college bars. You're at the age where it won't be creepy for you to be doing it. I had a foreign friend and while I abhor such setting under 99% of circumstances I took him there and he met all kinds of people and after a few weekends became more comfortable with American culture. It sounds weird, but you'll find groups just coming up to you and talking. If you go in with a chip on your shoulder you'll have a hard time, don't expect to discuss Kikergaardian narratives. Coming from the Midwest I will say people here are generaly very friendly, if not conservative. Expect to be judged if you look like a subculture (goth, punk, whatever) -- but if you look like a regular joe you should be fine.
posted by geoff. at 1:58 PM on August 31, 2006

There's not much traffic yet but there is a St. Louis Craigslist where people announce events and activities.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:13 PM on August 31, 2006

Depends totally on his interests. If he's the outdoorsy-type, he should find the local hiking/cycling/camping club, particularly if there's one with young members. If he likes music, he should go to local music shows. Etc.

The important thing is that once he's at one of these events he should just go up to people, smile, and say "hi, how's it going?"

I wouldn't just try to wonder around hoping to meet people. Go where people already congregate looking to meet other people.
posted by justkevin at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2006

STL specific answer: Go and hangout in the loop (Delmar Ave.) Get a drink at Brandts and sit outside. Or go to South Grand. Go to Manga. Start a friendly conversation with the person/people sitting next to you. Being foreign is going to work in your favor. You are interesting and people will immediately have something to ask you. If you are having a hard time figuring out what to say, ask for a recommendation for a good book shop, or place to buy shoes, or about the local museums.

And I am really sorry you are stuck in Ballwin. It sucks. Get into the city as much as possible. Email (in the my profile) me if you want more specific StL tips. I am not in StL any more, but could help and possibly provide contacts.
posted by sulaine at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2006

Your friend will definitely have to work overtime on creating opportunities for conversation and fellowship. A few risks will need to be taken. This is not the time to be shy. Confidence and generosity are critical ingredients.

Many people have met long-lasting friends at coffeeshops, libraries, supermarkets, lectures, seminars, sporting events, and, yeah, even bars. Etc. etc.

Internet research, online social groups, and maybe the occasional online blind date might help with this. Just don't get trapped at home on the computer...
posted by brianvan at 3:01 PM on August 31, 2006


I had no idea they would have such a developed website or that they billed themselves as a European Cafe. But they are European-ish and that is why I recommended them.

Mangia Italiano
also a fancy website.

another place that would be easy to meet people is the Famous Bar.

None of these places are remotely near Ballwin, but are places that I would feel comfortable just walking in alone and starting up a conversation with someone there. Mangia and Brandts are each near many other bar and cafes (although not near each other) and you should find a place that is comfortable for you.

And just to reassure you, it may be a stereotype, but people in the mid-west are generally very welcoming and friendly to stangers. So be confident and good luck.
posted by sulaine at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2006

Check out this Calendar of Events in St. Louis. There's always something going on. Also, check out the City Museum on weekends - it's open late (1 a.m., I think) and it always has an eclectic crowd.

The Schlafly folks always have neat events, too. I am eagerly looking forward to the Hop in the City beer festival. But they also have a movie and beer night, theology discussion nights, etc.

If your friend is interested in hiking at all there is a fairly activing hiking club in St. Louis, they have a Yahoo Group.
posted by Ostara at 3:19 PM on August 31, 2006

If your friend has good English skills he is in hog-heaven as-is. As an au-pair, he'll be taking the kids out and about - and running into LOTS of other au pairs and nannies. They'll be his age, have about the same income, and often be new commers to the area - and so are in exactly the same boat with many problems. Those women will be his best bet for ideas for fun and for socialization - maybe much more.

If he doesn't have good English skills most ofhe rest of the suggestions won't do him much good.
posted by Jos Bleau at 3:45 PM on August 31, 2006 There's a St. Louis weblog meetup, if you have a blog. St. Louis bloggers.

There's also
posted by gd779 at 3:45 PM on August 31, 2006

I live fairly close to the lad in question.

Ballwin is a cultural desert of stripmalls. Bookstores have be assimilated by Borders and nearby coffeehouses by St. Louis Bread Company. The French Quarter on Manchester is an acceptable bar, although the crowd is a bit older. There's another bar near Target on Manchester that isn't bad.

Otherwise, it's a thirty-minute drive into St. Louis City: South Grand and the Delmar Loop are definitely it for the hip and happening crowd, although the Loop is slowly becoming gentrified. The Central West End is nice, but pricey. I, uh, personally despise Brandt's, but if you're a vegan/vegetarian/etc. it's probably acceptable.
posted by adipocere at 3:47 PM on August 31, 2006

check out it is a non-threatening way to meet abunch of people who have similar interest as you.
posted by nyu2 at 6:09 PM on August 31, 2006

Go to a book group at the St. Louis County Library, if you're into books. Otherwise, heading down to the Loop, or even stopping by a college campus like Washington University in Clayton/U. City or Webster University in Webster Groves, could be a way to meet people. There are always flyers up about groups and meetings and the like down in the Delmar Loop/U. City area...
posted by limeonaire at 7:42 PM on August 31, 2006 has given me better results than, but I'm not in St. Louis. YA(ttendance)MV.
posted by Orb2069 at 4:58 AM on September 1, 2006

I don't have any plans this weekend I'd love to show someone around. St. Louis can be a hard place to meet people. Craigslist is a joke here. email in profile
posted by killyb at 7:01 AM on September 1, 2006

Response by poster: There's no email in your profile, killyb.
posted by klue at 1:51 PM on September 1, 2006

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