How To Make Friends When You Relocate

2010 September 14
by Grace Boyle

This might sound like a post for kindergartners – but I keep getting this search phrase on my blog and the search stat keeps staring at me and I cock my head to the side and say, “huh…” – then I go paint my toes or head to yoga…leaving that “how to make friends” question alone.

Simultaneously, I have a good amount of friends moving to Boulder. Most of them, only knew a few people (if any) so they find themselves in the “friend business” as I call it – on the look out for friends, meaningful relationships and how to connect with people beyond the people they may already know.

{Photo Credit}

I’ve relocated a couple times and each time, I didn’t know anyone on the other end. It’s scary.

Friendships are our back bone. Just this past weekend, my girlfriend was out running errands and twisted her ankle and fell in the store. She could barely walk on her ankle and was in extreme pain. All weekend, our close friends took care of her, helped drive her to work and ensure she had bandages, crutches, etc. (she couldn’t drive and operate her clutch, at all). Think about what life is without friends? Hard. Sad. Empty.

In my experience (and because people KEEP searching for this and I’m really not into getting all preachy on my soapbox), here’s how I’ve been able to make some friends when in a new place:

  • What’s your passion or hobby? Find a group, club or organization that does just that and join it. No questions. You already know you enjoy soccer, so find an indoor/outdoor soccer league and sign up. What about knitting? Find a store that sells yarn, they can put you in the direction of classes or fellow knitters. Play an instrument? Find a group that jams together and bring your instrument to play along (hint: look up open mic’s, local pubs, live music joints, etc. for inspiration). Kickball? Even if you’re not athletic, these leagues are fun, usually involve more beer than kicking and it’s very social. Try: actually lets you find kickball leagues by your zip code.
  • This is related to above (helps you find those groups) but sometimes it’s unrelated to a hobby, maybe it’s just a group of 20-something transplants who get together once a week for trivia night at a local pub. My friend moved here and to make friends, found a snowboard group, joined it, then met his core group of friends, plus gets hooked up with fun mountain deals and goes in on condo’s for the weekend.
  • Volunteer. Besides being good for the community and ______ cause you’re supporting, you can generally connect with community evangelists and those that are interested in your _____ cause while volunteering. It’s analogous and I call it, the gift that keeps on giving. My first year in Boulder I volunteered with Ladies Who Launch (met many professional contacts and now friends) and Colorado Horse Rescue (this spoke to my passion and I interacted with other horse lovers). Try: or to find volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Join a book club. Again, this is a club but a very specific one. Guaranteed, if you live in a city or town there’s a group that gets together. If reading is your thing, get involved. To navigate and find book clubs in your area try:
  • Get a dog. Sounds funny, and please don’t do this just so you can make friends, but if you have one, let’s consider this. Dog parks are chalk full of dog lovers and owners. This is a great time to connect, say hello and let your dog romp around and make his/her own friends. Usually, you will start to see the same people (when you go at the same time) and you connect, over your dog and your love for dogs.
  • Connect with your Alumni Association. When I spontaneously decided I was moving to Boulder, I got in touch of my career advisor from college and asked her to put me in touch with my Alumni office. They happily pulled all the Alum living in Boulder and I got in touch. I was surprised to realize how many people were out here and inversely, I have been a resource for Alum looking to move to Boulder, so I’m happy to help.

This last point is general, but a good rule of thumb.

  • Be open and say “yes”. Consider yourself a joiner when you move somewhere new. You’re open to new opportunities and when presented with an event, get together, etc. just say yes, it can’t hurt. You never know who you might meet or how much you enjoy it. My roommate recently moved here and she only knew me in Boulder (hint: live with roommates, great way to meet friends) and we both laugh that even when she doesn’t want to necessarily go out, she feels inclined to try it and see what’s in store. This has garnered meeting new people, new experiences and acclimating to Boulder.

Bottom line, you can’t force friendships. They do not pop out of nowhere and often, take time. The key to these suggestions is that you’re at least out there. I also found that patience is a blessing. Friendships or groups of friends do not appear in 1-3 months, give this time and try out what works for you. Be open to change – I have many friends I met my first year here, through these points, who I am not friends with now. That’s okay, we change, evolve and eventually find our niche, our pack, our own community.

How have you found friends (post-college)?

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  • Laurie Steiner

    This is totally spot-on, Grace. Being in a new place can be a challenge–a hugely overwhelming and scary experience for someone who doesn't know where to start. Great pointers and resources! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeremy Orr

    Great post, Grace. I always hear people complain about it being hard to make friends when you move somewhere new. Um, hello, this is the San Francisco Bay Area, there are so many things to do you almost have to try to not meet people! I grew up here (for the most part) and still look for opportunities to meet new friends. I am a member of a bay area hiking group, play soccer on coed and mens teams, and have been a volunteer for 13 years with my favorite cause. You are so right, all people have to do is find an interest and then put in a little research. All the time people show up at my Dad's yacht club on Wednesday nights looking to go sailing; they learned that that's the night that all the boats go out for beer can races. Just put in a little effort and you'll be making friends in no time.

  • Harriet May

    This is so true. After I moved home after college (I went to college in the UK, and home is Charlotte, NC, so this was quite a big move) I made a good core group of friends by just going to the gym, and then starting to complete triathlons. And you're not joking about making friends by having a dog: we know (at least recognize) everyone in our apartment who has a dog, and there's a group of regulars we run into on a daily basis at the dog park.

    I've recently started commuting to Wilmington, NC, with my dad while he gets his startup off the ground, and I've had my dog with me. On nights I've been working, or exhausted, my dad has been taking her to a bar nearby. And yesterday, as I was walking my pup, she got recognized by two guys from the bar! My dog sure knows how to make friends quickly (I'm trying to ignore the fact that my dog seems to have a more active social life than I do!). But anyway, it's a good conversation starter. Or really, as I'm finding, you can just have your dog make friends for you!

  • monica

    Thanks you for this one, Grace. The friend-making piece of relocating can be such a daunting task. I've experienced it for myself and watched my old friends struggle in their new surroundings. Especially for people like me who tend toward shyness, it can be really difficult. I also found that connecting with the local couchsurfing community was a great way to meet people, even though they tend to be more transient and the friendships don't always last.

    I just relocated for the second time in the past few years, this time for graduate school and what I keep reminding myself is that everyone is in the same boat. When I remember that, it's much easier to strike up a conversation at new student events.

    The other key is stay positive and ask a lot of questions when you meet new people. It keeps the conversation rolling and shows you are interested in the person you just met!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Laurie Thank you! I hope it helped – I simply wanted to share my resources and hopefully, fulfill those people who KEEP searching for 'how to make friends' on my blog :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Jeremy Dude, I totally feel you. Also, when people say “I'm bored,” I LITERALLY do not get it. I don't get what boredom means because there's always some fun to be had, some experience, etc. and it doesn't even have to involve money.

    I know you join so many groups, interact with people and know where to go, what to see…

    It is about effort and putting yourself out there. I didn't even realize over time and relocating so many times I figured out a certain method, to at least meet people. Friends are sometimes hard, the true friends, to find, but finding a companion or like-minded people with similar interests, is not.

  • Ryan Knapp

    The toughest part for me when I relocated to KC was realizing the friends I make here will be different than the ones I've had for the last 15 years at home.

    It's great advice. People have to realize it takes time as well. But once you find all these great things to do, making friends will just come along with the territory.

    For me, when I moved to a different city, I felt way more free to do/say whatever I wanted to, which made making friends easier. You can always say “Hey, I'm new here” and that brings up a lot of things to talk about.

    Thanks for the good advice!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Harriet I know, the dog one is good, isn't it? I had a friend who had just moved to San Francisco but didn't know anyone – she always went to the same dog park and had a close group of friends she would hang out with while their dogs hung out each morning. She then, started hanging out with them outside of the dog park and they really became friends.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story, too :)

  • Grace Boyle

    Hi Monica! I hope all is well for you :)

    I know, I've relocated a few times and knew no one on the other end. It's not easy and can be very isolating (even if you are someone who likes being alone, I do!)

    I think that school is a great way to meet people – right away, there's a common interest, common guide and common action. I think being open is good too because you never know what might happen. My current roommate couch surfed with me last year and now she is my roommate and living in Boulder. Couch Surfing is great (especially if they decide to live where you are, versus trotting off to the next destination!)


  • Grace Boyle

    @Ryan Oh wow, that's definitely a bar that's set high. It's hard to go forth with 15 years history and love, to nothing. Great story to share…

    In general, people like to help people. I find that almost everyone has been “new here” at some point in their life, so empathy kicks in and it's a great way to meet new people and be open. I wish you the best of luck in KC – hopefully it's everything you hoped for!!

  • Kayte

    I love the advice!

    I've moved 4 times in the past 3 years…. my luck has been in the following:

    1. Work/co-workers… this you have to be careful about but you can network and make friends. Also you can meet their friends and potentially make more friends.

    2. Roommates on craigslist… Once you have roommates it opens the door to making more and more friends :) Of course, your roommate has to be a good match. But 2 people meet more people than one person alone… at a bar or wherever.

    Even people that I didnt meet as roommates I talked to via email and met up with them as well.

    3. Neighbors! Research the area… find an apartment complex with people your age around

    I've lived in small/big towns and have met so many people… this is an opportunity to make friendships all over the us and the world and have so many connections! Embrace it! A positive attitude helps the most!

  • Doniree

    Awesome advice! And honestly, I'd never even considered the Alumni Association one, but that's such a great tip!

    Also – very, very glad to have met and connected with you here. Your friendship is a huge blessing in my life :)

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    This post came at the perfect time considering I just moved & am in desperate need of making new friends. I miss my ones back home so much I can't stand it. Lovely advice, dear. xx

  • Walter

    I'm a shy person myself but I do make friends with a simple smile. It has a language of its own that says: It's nice to meet you. :-)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Kayte Thanks, glad to hear it!

    My first friends were really the ones at work and I'm friends with many of them. Whenever you're in an organized group, it really helps b/c you're there at the same time, with the same people, etc. it's natural, good call!

    I did a roommate on Craigslist too – it's really a great way to jump into new social circles versus living alone in a new place can be isolating. And nice with the neighbors, I didn't even include that!

  • Grace Boyle

    Thanks Miss Doni!

    Yeah – why not try the Alumni (with both schools) in Portland.

  • Grace Boyle

    Good, so glad to have helped.

    It is SO hard to move – sometimes it doesn't work for everyone, but it can also be very fulfilling and often, show you a lot of surprise in the people you might meet :) Good luck xo

  • Grace Boyle

    Walter, you are SO right. So basic, so simple, something everyone can do is SMILE!

  • Marian Schembari

    Oh my God, not for kindergartners AT ALL… Kid friendships are so much easier to start up. You just walk up to someone on the playground (a predetermined location where all the kids are guaranteed to be) and say, “Wanna play?” or “Let's be friends!” And that's it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    Now you have to FIND where all the cool kids go and be moderately charming. It's worse than dating. If I go anywhere with more than 5 people who I don't know I automatically hide in the corner and pretend to text, so this post could not have come at a better time. I just moved to London from NYC and meeting new people has been a bitch and a half. I try to go to blog meetups but everyone already knows each other – it's so frustrating and cliquey!

    So the other day I took a “friend wingman” who is literally this guy I randomly met on Twitter. Thank God he doesn't think I'm an idiot for needing back up at these things.

    But I LOVE LOVE LOVE these tips – hadn't thought about a book club or even a meetup that's more specific (bloggers can be cliquey sometimes… so sad). Anyway, maybe a hiking something or other maybe? I also posted a comment on the Davidson College alumni group on LinkedIn and asked if anyone was living in London. Lo and behold a girl who graduated 2 years before me got in touch! Soo whoo hooooo! You've given me LOADS to think about, thank you!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Marian Aw, haha, well thank you. I felt weird instructing “how to make friends,” but literally, that is the search term that keeps popping up in my stats. Le sigh.

    It's pretty ironic that I didn't mention Twitter/Social Media/Blogging HA! because lately, that is how I have met SO many closed, loved ones but I digress…it's not for everyone and it is cliquey like you said but still a great medium to meet people. is chalk full of awesome events, groups and meetups. And yes here in Boulder I see more than 4 hiking groups so I'm sure in a city like London, there is a lot. Cool story, thanks for sharing dear and thanks for the RT!

  • Michael Senchuk

    I couldn't agree with the dog comment more. Some of our best friends were met through our dogs – our arguably best friends were discovered because my wife ran out of the house to greet them because they also had a Merle sheltie!

  • Alex

    Really like this post. :) It has been difficult for me to make a lot of friends where I am now because of my schedule and budget as a grad student. I am part of a very small cohort at school and I only really click with a few. I moved five times before high school and about 8 times since then. Honestly, I've lost count of how many times I've moved. I've met some amazing people, but also lost friends for various reasons.
    Moving can be tough at first, but I think being a regular at certain places (like a coffee shop, bookstore, salon, restaurant, etc) can help you find your niche, too. Also, coming from a place of love and kindness is key.
    All these things you mention are really great ways to meet new people. :)

  • jodidey

    Ah! I especially like the last point, Gracie. “Say yes.” Almost is a prerequisite to all others, right?

    I have this theory– friends are formed on the third degree of separation. Meaning you will not likely find a kindred spirit with the first person you connect to in a new social group. BUT! you will likely find a bosom buddy in that person's friend's friend. And this means that you will have to suffer through hanging out with people who are only partially rewarding (or sometimes straight up boring!) before you reach the gold mine.

    So worth it. Just say, “yes”.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Jodi I know, saying YES isn't always easy but somehow, it has reaped the most benefits for me. When I was in Italy I told myself, this is a time of indulgence and also a “I deserve it” moment – it can get a liiiittle dangerous, but it was the best time of my life.

    I never said no. I tried everything and I made more meaningful friends and had better experiences because of it, I'm sure.

    I also like your third degree of separation analogy!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Alex That is a lot of times moving. I like your point of being a regular and really being accountable at that coffee shop each day. You can even make friends with your barrista or the girl who shows up everyday like you do to work.

    The part that is a variable is IF you actually get along with people. You can meet many people but may not find that connection, I think it's okay, because in time you will make those connections…

  • Grace Boyle

    @Michael Great, thanks for sharing the dog story is true! :)

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  • James Wilkinson

    This was really worth reading. 

    On this subject I also recommend reading this article:

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  • Aditi Banerjee

    Now, it is easier to mix up with the people, local connected people. students hangout

  • Caty Häberling

    Good to hear that there is other out there who think the same and not just only me. :)
    I just moved here to SF from Norway since august 2013 but I, have been traveling a lot so I haven’t done anything yet neither any connection.
    I have a dog but he is in Norway and since I travel often I can’t have him here.
    No connection through any places doesn’t help much either…
    I just google and found your blog…

    Here is my instagram :p