|Photo by elvissa|
It wasn’t that long ago that I was new to this little town in Virginia, and it wasn’t long before that time that I was new in Shanghai, and before that, in Taiwan, and before that, in Pennsylvania…and so the list goes on and on. I’ve had a lot of experience being the new person, so I’ve had lots of opportunities to practice meeting people and making friends.
Here are my favorite ways to make new friends in a new town:
- Within my first few weeks of moving to Harrisonburg, I started volunteering to teach English as a second language with a local nonprofit. Immersing myself so quickly in the community made me feel more at home, even when I was still getting to know the people at work. In any new town, there are probably lots of organizations that can make good use of your time and talents. And if you sign up right away, your schedule won’t be too full to help other people.
- In Taiwan, I made a number of new friends in my Chinese classes and my French class. Again, they were people I never would have met if I hadn’t decided to do something that I loved to do. And right away those friendships are built on the solid foundation of a shared interest.
- When I found out there were Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) in Shanghai, I met up with them as soon as possible. I met a lot of cool people that I wouldn’t have met through my office, and we saw some really interesting parts of the city. And then we partied together in restaurants I never would have known existed. Check out your new neighborhood for a chapter of Toastmasters, a hiking or running group, or a lesbian book club, whatever you like. Bring cookies or drinks to share, and you’re in.
- Sitting at home watching HIMYM reruns isn’t going to help you meet any new people, but if you make an effort to get to the grocery store, the mall, the farmers market, or to park yourself at the local coffee shop for a couple of hours, you’re more likely to see other human beings. It might not pay off right away, but you might get a conversation started at the bar with, “Hey, I saw you at the coffee shop this morning! I really liked your [shoes/purse/nails/frappucinno].” (Just avoid being creepy and intense about it.) Also, a pro-tip: I am a big advocate of bringing your own lunch to work when you’re on a budget and your counting calories, but forcing yourself to eat out with your new co-workers the first couple of weeks is not a bad idea. Neither is tagging along for happy hour, or even asking them if they want to join you. Which leads me to my next suggestion…
- This seems counter-intuitive at first glance: you’re the new person, so how could you possibly have anything to offer one of the established residents of your town? The thing is, most of the established residents have probably gotten themselves into a routine, if not a rut, and an invitation to a poetry reading, or to try a new restaurant, or check out a local tourist attraction that they’ve long overlooked would probably be welcome. Remember that even though your new, it takes just as much courage on their part to approach you as it does for you to approach them.
No matter what happens, remember to stay positive and just keep it in perspective. If someone turns down an invitation, don’t take it personally–you’re new and you don’t know what they have going on in their own lives. If the team doesn’t invite you to their barbecue, don’t stress about it–they might have genuinely forgotten the new person, or they might need a few more weeks to warm up to you, and that’s okay. Just keep putting yourself out there, trying new things, and making new friends. In a year, you’ll be the one showing the noob where the best restaurants in town are.