Moving to a new city halfway around the world is fun and exhilarating – some laughs and new experiences are guaranteed. Still, the one big downside is that part where you leave your nearest and dearest friends 16 hours behind you.
I’d lived in Vancouver for my entire life, even opting for undergrad at UBC instead of an out-of-town school. I was in no hurry to leave my beloved west coast, rainy days or not. But, all that changed a year and a half ago, when I moved to Sydney, Australia.
Fast forward to now: life is good Down Under. They weren’t lying about the surf and the sun (or the spiders). And although I’ve been lucky enough to have a partner in crime whose local network of friends and family does much for our social calendar, it’s been important for me to make my own friends here in Sydney.
It’s about opportunities
I read somewhere that making new friendships is a matter of proximity, vulnerability, and opportunities for repeated spontaneous encounters. Makes sense. That pretty much sums up our lives at university and into our early adulthood. Outside of university, though, and perhaps a certain kind of work environment (e.g. flight attending), this scenario is rarely the norm once you leave your early twenties.
So how do we create these kinds of opportunities?
1. Join a group or activity club
New friends don’t have to be just like you, but some point of commonality helps to cement a deeper connection. Start with an interest or hobby, then look online for a meetup group of that variety. These are groups that often meet at a designated time every week. Meetup groups can be hit and miss–give a few a try before giving up–but often create opportunities to meet not just one new person, but many at once, in a relaxed environment.
2. Go volunteer
Volunteering is often based on team work–you could find yourself building, feeding, fixing, ideating, or creating with some seriously open-hearted people. I’ve met some incredible friends through my volunteering, and as a bonus, have also learned how much happiness I get from giving back to my community.
3. Take a course or a workshop
Moving to a new city will, at least temporarily, leave you with some extra time on your hands–time that you could spend learning a new skill, like painting, coding, sewing, running, gardening, or writing. Skip the online classes and go in-person to connect with classmates face to face.
4. Attend industry events
In my line of work, I could easily go to a different professional event every weeknight (and often for free or little cost). I try go to one or two events each month to stay current on industry trends and to meet interesting people. Going to speaking, networking, and panel events in your new city will help you build your network and might even introduce you to your next mentor.
5. Try a matchmaking app
Like online dating, but for friends! Apps designed specifically to foster friendships can help you meet kindred spirits more efficiently than awkwardly striking up a conversation at the local coffee shop. Try swapping some clothing on Elletourage, or just reach out to someone with a few overlapping interests in their profile to say hi. There’s little risk involved and so much potential upside.
Make friends, make a home.
Making friends in a new city takes time, and depends on finding others you feel a connection with. You can speed up the process and increase your odds of success by exploring activities clubs, volunteering, workshops, industry events, and apps specifically designed to help you connect. Try one or more of the above and your new city might start to feel just a little bit smaller, and a little more like home.
This blog post was written by Elizabeth MacDonald
Elizabeth is a Vancouver native who moved to Sydney, Australia, where she now lives, works, and surfs. She occasionally writes about living a low waste lifestyle on her blog, www.facedownwaste.com.