Last year, I made the somewhat impulsive decision to move to California. Temporarily tired of London (and no, not of life), I packed up my stuff, rented out my flat, and shipped off to Los Angeles. The sun-drenched sprawling metropolis with its palm trees, beaches and ‘fake it until you make it’ attitude seemed like the change I was looking for.
The first question most people asked me when I told them where I was going was ‘do you know anyone out there?’ The answer was no: no one. There were times when that was terrifying, but I optimistically thought ‘how hard can it be?’
The truth is, after school and university, it’s not easy to make new friends. By a certain age, lots of people are contented with the group they’ve gathered and can be quite lazy in throwing the net out any further. But if you’re moving somewhere new, know that it is possible; you just have to be proactive. Here’s how…
Ask for connections
We live in a super-connected world, plus we’re a generation that travels, so there’s a strong likelihood that your Facebook friends will have Facebook friends that live in the city you’re moving to. Tell people your plans, put a shout out on social media. I found that if anyone knew someone who lived in LA they were always keen to send an introductory email or text putting us in touch. Not all of the connections will come to anything but some will, and it will keep you busy in the first few weeks having a some ‘friend dates’.
Sit in coffee shops, smile at people
Certainly if you’ve lived in London a while, you may have developed an impulse reaction to someone making eye contact: abruptly looking down. Resist the urge and smile. You don’t have to walk around like a crazy person grinning inanely at everyone, but smiling at someone is the quickest way to initiate interaction. If you’re going to the same coffee shop, gym class, or local shop, you’ll likely see the same faces, so make an effort to acknowledge them. You may not become friends, but a little human interaction can still help you feel part of a community.
Turn to tech
The traditional method of joining a group or a club, whether it’s a netball team at work or a book club in your local area does work. And just as dating has gone online so has friend sourcing. There are websites like Meetup.com where you can find local groups or clubs of interest, or recommend one. Bumble now boasts a BFF and networking feature, or if you’re single you can always just sign up for some dates. As my friend who took this tactic when she first moved said, “At best you meet someone you like, at worst you have a night out in the diary and pick up some good local tips.”
Be bold when you meet someone you like
If you meet someone and you hit it off – at work, at a party, at the gym – swap numbers. Like dating, there can be a lot of social anxiety about whether new friends like you or how much you should be messaging them. The fact is, you’ve just got to go for it; there is absolutely no point playing it cool when it comes to making friends (particularly when you’re short on supply). Suggest meeting up; invite them to things. The likelihood is they have the same anxieties you do. A friend who suggested lots of get-togethers when we first met, since said, “I was so worried I came across as really overly keen.” I just thought she was really nice.
Facetime your friends and family back home
It can take a while for friendships to develop to a stage where they can deal with the big stuff. Initially, you might miss seeing the people you can really talk to without fear of judgement. The key is to keep in touch with people back home, too. Schedule Facetime chats or phone calls. In some ways I had more quality chats with my friends and family while being away than I did being in the same country. We’d set aside uninterrupted time to talk with no other distractions, and that can be rare.
Seek out someone who recently moved too
There are benefits to making friends with people who have lived in the city a long time, but it’s also great to meet someone in a similar situation. In the early days you’ll likely cling to each other a bit. My two closest friends in LA moved at a similar time to me. We spent more time together because we all were low on plans in the early days and so we bonded quicker.
Make the most of more time for yourself
Don’t fret if you don’t have a diary full of plans initially, they will come. In the meantime relish the time on your own. Read more books, get fit, go for long walks and philosophise on life: whatever floats your boat. One day you might not have the luxury of time, so make the most of it.
Go on your own adventures
Similarly to the above, don’t wait for people to do things with you; go on your own adventures and explore. If you’re bad at spending time in your own company, learn to be better, it’s a good skill in life to have.
Don’t expect true friendships to suddenly happen, they can often take time. But before you know it you’ll find your people and your new city will feel like home. It might feel daunting or lonely at first, but just remember: when something is unknown, anything is possible.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK