This is one of the suggestions that came up when I did the survey (thanks for that!) and I thought it would be an interesting conversation to have. So if you have some extra tips, please leave them in the comments. Also, if you haven’t done my short survey yet and you have a couple of spare minutes, you can find the survey here.”
I’ve moved house several times. When you’re a child, you have different issues – you’re thrown together with a bunch of kids whom you don’t know and whether or not you make friends with your new classmates straight away, you see them every day. When you’re an adult, it’s different. You don’t always need to come into contact with the people who live on your street or in your neighbourhood. Sometimes this is fine – especially if you’re someone who enjoys peace and quiet, but if you are looking for new contacts, it’s good to have some ideas about where to start.
I’m not the most gregarious person around. I’m an introvert. You might not see it, but the list of people who don’t take my social energy is very short! With everyone else, I need to recharge afterwards!
I have a group of people whom I know and spend time with, but rarely at the same time. I much prefer small groups to big ones, and this is reflected in the kind of activities I enjoy. One of my things this year is to try and be better at staying in touch because sometimes people just fall off my radar.
Still, when this topic was suggested for a post, I realised I had developed some strategies, so here they are. I’d be interested to read yours too.
1. Don’t lose touch with your old friends
Moving doesn’t have to mean cutting ties. Actually, when I moved to where I live now, it was easier at the beginning to stay in touch with my friends in Germany than the friends from where I used to live. My German friends and I have been chatting online for years, but I didn’t do that with many of the people whom I saw every day. It takes a bit more effort to change the relationship into one where you still keep in touch even when you don’t see people, and if you want to meet up, at least one of you has to travel. But if you want to prevent feelings of isolation and more importantly, if the relationship means something to you, it’s worth the effort to find other ways to stay in touch.
2. Work can be a source of friends
Many years ago, I first moved to London because of a relationship. That relationship didn’t work out, but I stayed. When I arrived, I only new my ex’s friends, but after that, I developed a whole other network, at first mainly through work, and that was how I got to know some people with similar interests to me, or whom I wanted to spend time with after work.
The tip doesn’t work so well if you’ve gone to work in a new town where you don’t know anyone yet, and workplaces have different cultures in terms of how much people mix work and pleasure, but you may find some people whose company you enjoy.
When I lived in London, one of my closest friends was someone whom I originally went for a glass of wine with because we were both too busy to keep our coffee appointment in work time!
If you work for yourself it’s a bit harder because you don’t have colleagues in the same way. Some people like to join co-working spaces. I don’t want to do this, but there are networking groups around for people who want to meet other business owners and chat on a level that you perhaps couldn’t with other people who aren’t in the same situation.
3. Meet the neighbours!
This is never been something that I’ve been particularly good at. The most I’ve done is introduce myself to them, and anyway, it’s a lottery as to what kind of neighbours you’ll get. But you never know – when I moved here, my neighbour invited me for dinner with her and her partner. By the end of that year I was going out with one of their friends –S, who I’m now engaged to! So you never know where these things will lead!
4. Join a club
I’ve always been in lots of online forums and groups – I find that kind of thing easy. Joining a face-to-face club was actually a terrifying prospect, but I decided to do it after I’d been living here for a couple of weeks.
I chose a walking club, because I wanted to get out in the nature at the same time as meeting people, but it could be anything – a hobby, a sport, a club for people with dogs, or just something local.
The walking club had a social evening in a local bar and when I first got there and still hadn’t even figured out which bunch of random people was the group I was there to meet, I wanted to run for the door. I ordered a large glass of wine before I could change my mind! But once I got talking to people, I enjoyed the evening and did a few walks with them. I don’t belong to the club now, but it was a good way to meet people when I first arrived.
The walking club was on Meetup – a site with all kinds of groups from activities to games to general social groups.
5. Take online friendships offline
If you are someone who likes to suss people out a bit first, or who doesn’t want to do a big group activity, there are plenty of ways to use the internet to find people who share your hobbies or interests. At least then you’ll have something to talk about and not have to hunt around for things to say.
I’ve found language tandems can be good for this. I started talking to a lady online as part of a Turkish English tandem (where you help each other to learn a language). We arranged to meet in a café not far from where I lived. As it turned out, she only lived a couple of roads from me and after our first meeting we met up several times for language practice and cooking together.
One of my other language tandems did not live as close, but I took the train to Cambridge and spent the weekend there with her and her family. Another time she came to London with her daughter and we did a self-guided walking tour where her daughter took some pictures for her art course. I would never have met them if I hadn’t been active online.
You might not like languages, but maybe there’s another hobby that lends itself to forums, Facebook groups, or other ways to find people with similar interests. This can be particularly good if you don’t enjoy small talk because you can go straight to talking about the subject that you both enjoy..
6. Your dog can help you to find friends!
I don’t think it’s good to get a dog if your main motivation for doing so is to find friends – having an animal is great, but it’s a lot of work and responsibility too! But having a four-legged friend alongside you can get you into all kinds of conversations when you’re out walking. Some of the ones I ended up in were just bizarre – not sure if that’s a guide dog thing or a dog in general thing – but there were some friendships that developed out of them too!
7. Local free events
I haven’t actually done this, but a friend of mine joined a Facebook group for people who were new to her part of London. They organised activities such as trips to the cinema, visits to a museum, meetups etc. Everyone was in the same position and looking for some new friends. I think she had a good time.
If online groups aren’t your thing, you could look for notices about local events.
Go at your own pace
I used to feel I had to be the one always doing something, always going somewhere – and sometimes you just need a rest. I’m better at carving out time for myself or to spend with my partner now – getting a long-term partner definitely made that easier! But I don’t have such high expectations of myself or my social life now because I’ve learned that I do better when I’m not out till the early hours every single night of the week. Maybe it’s also just what happens when you hit your 30s!
My point is though that you don’t need to know everyone in the village after the first week, and even if you are up for building a bigger social network, it doesn’t have to happen over night. You need time to figure out whom you really click with and which people’s company will make you happy!
So, let us know – how have you met new people when you moved somewhere new? Or did you move to where you live now so you could have a break from people? Have you tried out any of these tips?
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