How to Make Friends in a New City in Your 20s

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Shorter Version

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Let’s face it, moving to a new city can be overwhelming and a little lonely for anyone of any age. However, it can be especially daunting if you are in your 20s and desperate for new friends. If you feel this way, you’re definitely not alone.

The thing is … making friends in a new city in your 20s is totally different than making friends as a young child or teen. In fact, it’s kind of awkward and uncomfortable – regardless of the situation.

How to Make Friends in a New City in Your 20s

Maybe you’re shy and have a hard time making the first move or connecting with others. Or, maybe you are a bonafide introvert, who prefers to fly solo, but know you are going to need a good support system in your new city.

The good news is there are ways to learn how to make friends in a new city in your 20s without the awkwardness and angst. The key is to find common ground in activities that will help you meet people who share your interests and passions on a regular basis.

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 5 Minutes

How To Make Friends in a New City In Your 20s

Moving to a new city can be exciting, invigorating, and nerve-wracking, especially as a young adult with the world at your feet. Most people view this transition as a “fresh start.” It’s a time to explore the city and soak up the sights. It’s also a time to try out the coolest bars and trendiest restaurants. But, most of all, it is the perfect time to meet new people!

Here is the problem

Well, unfortunately, online city or destination guides like Yelp or Travel Advisor can’t really help you in this situation. In other words, these sites don’t offer “best places to frequent to make new friends.”

And, to be honest, trying to make friends in a new place where you don’t know a single soul can be terrifying – even if you are a “social butterfly” or “the life of the party.” If you’re wondering how to make friends in a new city in your 20s, keep reading.

Face Your Fears

Common fears that most people have when moving to a new city is that they won’t be accepted or that everyone will be buddied-up or coupled-up, and won’t be open to adding another person to their cliques.

The thing is, if you allow your fears of being “shunned” because you’re not a local to invade your thought processes, it will paralyze you and you’ll never realize how to make friends in a new city in your 20s or beyond.

It’s also important to be realistic. You’re not going to pop up with a boatload of friends in the first few weeks or even first few months after you arrive at your new “home away from home.” It may take time, and it will definitely take effort – and courage and repetition. Nothing good in life comes easy, right?

Making friends also requires patience and persistence.

Friendships aren’t automatic luxuries, although they have a funny way of making us feel loved, supported, valued, important, and special. In other words, they add joy and peace (hopefully) to our lives, which improves our health and well-being.

Figure out what “types” of friends do you want

The first thing you need to think about when arriving in your new city is the “types” of friends you want in your life.

Generally, most people have three “types” of friends in their lives.

“Hi-Bye” friends (or acquaintances)

Co-workers, classmates, and team members tend to fall into this category. It also includes people you stop and say, ‘Hi” and “Bye” to on a limited or regular basis. This could be the grocery store cashier that you see once a week when you do your shopping or it could be one of the workers at your job.

With these friends, the conversation is often light and brief. Once circumstances change, for instance, you start shopping at a different grocery store and no longer see the person, the friendship typically ends. 

Casual friends

These individuals tend to be people you hang out with during social functions. You typically meet them at bars, concerts, sporting events, and other social occasions. You meet up with them every-once-in-a-while to grab a bite to eat and catch up on each other’s lives.

With these friends, your conversations are usually light, but not as light as “Hi-Bye” friend conversations. And, conversations with causal friends usually last longer. But, still nothing too serious here.

True friends (or best friends)

These individuals are your “ride-or-die” friends. Your BFFs. You have a very close relationship with them, so they feel like “family” and you can talk to them about anything and everything without being judged or criticized.

You may not see these individuals every day, but you do make time to call and see them on a regular basis. They are your true friends. You trust and love them and they feel the same about you.

Moreover, you never have to worry about whose “side” they are on – they always have your back. Lastly, they honestly don’t mind going the extra mile, if you need them.

Wondering How to Make Friends in a New City in Your 20s?

I suggest you make socializing a priority. Don’t stay “holed up” in your apartment alone watching Netflix and eating pizza after work and on the weekends. Go somewhere!

Introduce yourself, ask others questions about themselves, go out with co-workers, reconnect with old friends who live in the area, join clubs or sports teams, go to social events, and be open-minded! Do these things until you’re able to connect with someone else.

If you open yourself up to new experiences and people, your new city will feel “just like home.”

Yeah, you will need to put yourself out there

A lot of people dread meeting new people, although they desperately want and need them, because they are afraid.

They are afraid of making a bad first impression, they are afraid others won’t like them, they are afraid of looking foolish or immature, and they are afraid they won’t be able to sustain the conversation and others will walk away from them mid-sentence. So many fears prevent people from making the connections they need to thrive in life.

But, guess what? The more you overanalyze these worst-case scenarios, the scarier they become. Once the fear of rejection takes hold, it prevents you from socializing with others. Shyness and avoidance all lead back to a fear of rejection and humiliation.

The thing is…in all likelihood, these fears are unrealistic. They are all in your head.

You can do it, seriously

You are psyching yourself out for nothing. Most people are not that shallow anyways. They understand that you can’t get to know someone off one interaction or first impression.

A mature person tries to get to know someone, before closing the door on a potential friendship. And, most people welcome new friends. They base friendships on shared interests and passions, not brief interactions or physical appearances.

But, what if they do judge me on those things? Well, then you wouldn’t want them as friends anyway because all they would do is drag you down.

Think about this…

Most people are too busy with their own lives to target, “shun,” or criticize you. In fact, I would dare to say that the people you want to “like” you are worried that you won’t “like” them!

In other words, while you’re worried about your first impression – they are worried about theirs.

Actionable Steps

Here are some more tips on how to make friends in a new city in your 20s


Be open-minded

The first thing to do when you move to a new city as a 20-something is to be open-minded when it comes to making new friends.

Even if you already know what “types” of friends you want, be open to meeting different people. Maybe the person you thought wouldn’t be your type of friend is actually the right friend for you. Maybe that loud person from “across the tracks” shares your love for country music, Broadway shows, and Nike shoes.
This person probably took you by surprise, but now he/she is your best friend. So, look for your specific “types” of friends, but keep the door open for those who aren’t your normal types of friends.

So, what’s the best way to be open-minded when you’re trying to make new friends? Visit places you normally wouldn’t go to and strike up a conversation with the people there.
For instance, if you don’t usually go to art museums because it’s not really your “thing,” spend a Saturday at one, chatting with other patrons and learning something new. Or, if you hate football games, make yourself go to a few.

Then, introduce yourself to those around you. You may be surprised at how much you have in common.
Note: If you don’t feel comfortable going places alone ask a co-worker, classmate, or roommate to accompany on your quest for new experiences.


Make the first move

Make the first move. I know this seems really scary, especially if you’re in a room with a group of people you don’t know or you’re on the shyer side, but it’s crucial if you want to make friends in your new city.

So, take a couple of deep breaths and walk up to someone with a kind face. Then…say, “Hi, I’m Bekah!” Be cheerful and smile.
If the other people do not say their names, ask them. “What’s your name?” Then, strike up a conversation about something at the function or event.

Share something about yourself, and then allow the others to do the same. Try to keep up your cheerful demeanor and never let them see you sweat.

Be Inquisitive
Don’t forget to ask the questions like, “How was your day?” “How long have you lived here?” What’s the best thing to explore in the city?” “What do you like most about the city?”

Try to find something you relate to and go with that. Once you have broken the ice, you’ll be able to determine if those individuals are the right friends for you. 
Lastly, although the easiest places to meet new people are at work and school, you can also meet people in your neighborhood – specifically in the lobby, at the mailbox, taking your dog for a walk, and perhaps in the laundry room. You can even introduce yourself to neighbors as they take in their groceries or get out of their cars after work.
Note: Don’t hold them too long though. Wave, say “Hi,” introduce yourself, and move on if they are busy. This gives them an opportunity to tell you their name. If the person appears busy or in a rush, save longer conversations for a later date, but at least you met a new person who could become one of your closest friends in the future.
The truth is people like it when you ask them questions and show an interest in them. So, the next time you want to talk to someone – do it. Say, “Hi” and introduce yourself. You may just make a new friend!
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Attend a meet-up event

Have you ever heard of Meetup? It’s an online group that schedules events so people, who have similar interests and passions, can “meet up” and get to know each other. Cool, right?

Meetup was originally created to make meeting other people less awkward and uncomfortable and more exciting and fun. It consists of a boatload of diverse categories, so there’s something for everyone!
They even have a category called “Social: New in the City.” All you need to do is download the app or go to their website and browse the events in your city, if you’re new in town. Then, voila – you have somewhere you can go to meet like-minded people.

All of the people at the events are looking to make friends just like you, so maybe you can form your own clique. If you want to learn how to make friends in a new city in your 20s, try Meetup.
One of the best ways to meet new people is to force yourself to go to events and activities that encourage socializing and mingling. The great thing about Meetup events is that you can join a variety of fun groups like a book club, sports club, exercise club, cooking club, etc. There is literally something for everyone; you just have to make the first move.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Enroll in an interesting class

Another fun way to meet people in a new city in your 20s is to enroll in an interesting class. This gives you an opportunity to learn something new, while getting to know those who share your interests. What have you been dying to do or learn about? DIY projects, Spanish, Sign Language, Salsa dancing, How to make eggrolls and other Asian cuisine? Martial Arts?
Most community colleges and many YMCAs offer classes for a wide-variety of interests. So, sign-up alone or grab your roommate and/or co-worker and go have some fun. It will help you bond with others who also want to have some fun.


Join a local club or sports team

Another tip on how to make friends in a new city in your 20s is to join a local club or sports team.

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter if you join a knitting club or sci-fi club, joining any local club or sports team is an excellent way to meet new people and make new friends. And, the great thing about these clubs and teams is that they are a dime a dozen in any city, so it’s out there, you just have to find it.
Another benefit? You’ll get to see the same people over and over again, so you’ll have plenty of time to bond with each other. Remember how easy it was to make friends when you were little? You met on the first day of school and were BFFs by the last day of school.
It was so easy to make friends back then because you saw your classmates all the time – 5 days a week for 9 months a year. As a result, you bonded with them. You got to know them because you were around them so much.

And, although making friends as an adult is a whole different ballgame, doing something you love while you meet people can make the process a lot less uncomfortable.
When you join a local club or sport team, you get to see the same people over and over again. This provides you with plenty of time to bond with each other.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Go on a “friend” date

If you have just moved to a new city and you’re in your 20s, how about going on a “friend date” to meet new people?

In other words, ask some people you’ve met through your job or neighborhood if they know anyone that could be compatible with you.

Make sure you stress to those individuals that you just want to make some new friends right now, so they don’t try to “hook you up” with someone.
If they find someone for you to meet, be open-minded. They may not be your preference, but they may end up being your closest friend.

For the first “friend date”, ask the person who set you up to tag along. That will make the first “date” less uncomfortable and scary. The good thing is you’ll have plenty to talk about with your friend/acquaintance there with you.
Ask them how they met and how long they’ve known each other. And, share with them some of your passions and interests. Then, ask them about theirs.

Try to connect with the others on some level, if possible. Share a funny story with them or ask them to share a funny story with you. This will help break the ice, so everyone feels more comfortable.
Before you start dating, I suggest you build up your support system and repertoire of friends. You don’t want to jump into a relationship, before you’ve had time to acclimate to your new environment. So, stick with “friend dates” for a couple of months before venturing out into the dating world.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Bond with your new co-workers

This tip is a no-brainer, if you want to make new friends ASAP – bond with your co-workers. They are accessible and you’re forced to be around them 8 hours or more a day, 5 days a week, so why not?
What should you do?

You could invite a different one to have lunch with you every day or you could invite a group of them to lunch – whatever floats your boat. The great thing about this is you get to know the others very quickly, and because of that you’re able to grow closer to each other in a matter of weeks. Once that bond forms, you’ll start hanging out more outside of work too. 
One of the easiest ways to make friends is through your job! There are usually a few people you can bond with due to shared outside interests, so try to get to know your co-workers as much as possible.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!


Contact some of your social media friends in the area

Let’s face it – social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram) has a lot of faults—however, it’s an excellent tool for meeting people (who have friends in common with you).

Why is this a good thing? Because, you can ask questions about your social media “friends” before you meet up with them for drinks and/or dinner. When you don’t know the people personally, ask friends who do know them.
If everything sounds legit, send private messages and ask them if they want to hang out. If you don’t feel comfortable going on the “date” alone, ask some of your co-workers, other new friends, and/or roommate to tag along the first time.

But, what if asking someone to hang out with me is out of my comfort zone? It’s perfectly fine to take things slow.
Start by “liking” and commenting on the person’s posts. Hopefully, this will open up the conversation between you that will eventually lead to hanging out. But, only when you are ready! 
Social media is wrought with catfishes and predators, so always take precautions when meeting someone from the internet. For instance, let someone know where you are going and who you are going with, and send your friend or family member a picture of the person and his/her license plate number.
~ Psychologist’s Tip!

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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