5 Things I Did to Make New Friends When I Moved Cities
When I was 19, I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne. It was the best decision I ever made. I’d always felt more at home in Melbourne — whenever I’d been there on holiday — and I’d just gone through a rough break up. I had felt like it was time.
And although I’m still in Melbourne and am the happiest I’ve ever been, with an amazing group of friends, a loving boyfriend and my dream job — I’m not going to pretend that the first few months weren’t tough.
I felt so isolated. I barely knew anyone. For the first time, I had been able to picture a future where my life was bright — I just didn’t know how to get there. So, I had to learn some new ways to meet people, which is how I met some of my best friends today.
If you’ve moved to a new place and are feeling a bit alone right now — don’t fret. Know that your people will come.
I thought I’d share with you how I made meaningful friendships in a new city and how you can, too.
Go On Dating Apps
When I moved to Melbourne, it was 2016 and Tinder was in its absolute prime. Back home in Adelaide, I’d been too afraid to download it — as I didn’t want to see people I knew on there. But in Melbourne, I felt anonymous and it was exciting.
While I knew that Tinder was for romantic connections, I really just wanted to meet new people and go to new restaurants and bars. I figured that counted as dating, right? I had a list of places I wanted to go and eat and drink, and I was ready to meet new people and have new experiences (I was newly single and had a freshly broken heart).
I met some truly interesting people. Whether it was boy who made art, took me to a gallery opening and got drunk with me on martinis, the older gentleman who took me to an Izakaya Den where we drank champagne and ate raw fish until we couldn’t move, or the boy I fell in love with over brunch and then realised we were meant to be just friends — I felt like I was experiencing exactly what I’d moved cities for. Some of the people I met from dating apps back then, I’m still friends with today.
I think it’s important to go into it with an open mind. Don’t think about finding a partner, just focus on meeting new people and going to new places. If you have an open mind — anything is possible.
I know it can be daunting, but dining alone is one of the most rewarding things to do in a new city. You don’t even have to go out for a full meal. Just pop into a bar and have a solo glass of wine or something.
I sort of stumbled upon these experiences by circumstance. I never planned to go out alone, but during the first few months that I was in Melbourne, I often found myself really wanting to go out and about; but not having anyone to go with. I wasn’t close enough with anyone to just suggest a casual wine or dinner — so I’d venture out alone.
I remember the first time I ever did it. I’d finished work at 9pm and wasn’t ready to go home yet. I was wired and restless from being in the bright shopping mall lights all day. I’d heard of this really nice restaurant/wine bar just around the corner, and decided to go and check it out.
I was seated at the bar, where there was one other solo guy. He was well-dressed and reading a New Yorker article on his phone. I immediately felt at ease; it was normal to go out for a quiet solo wine. As I took a sip of my carefully selected drop — which had been chosen by the cute bartender who I’d had a flirty exchange with — I felt this immense sense of comfort. I realised that I was free to observe my surroundings, able to be whoever I wanted to be in this moment, free from criticism and free to explore whatever I wanted in this new city. I didn’t need a companion.
Throughout the coming months, I went out on my own a lot. Almost every time I did, I’d meet someone new. I found that going out alone opens you up to more interactions with strangers; it’s as though people feel more comfortable coming up to you when you’re on your own. I made friends with bartenders, restaurant managers, got asked (and went on) a few dates with people I met on my solo adventures and became a much more confident and independent version of myself.
Go to As Many Parties as Possible
If you’re moving somewhere where you know even one person, see if there’s a scenario where you can meet their friends or acquaintances. I found house parties, dinner parties and gatherings at people’s houses to be some of the best places to meet like-minded people.
I knew two or three people in Melbourne before I moved here, but they weren’t close friends. Even still, I reached out to them to catch up — and they’d invite me to a party at their house or an event they were going to at someone else’s house.
At first, I felt a little nervous to insert myself into someone else’s social circle — I was afraid to be the odd one out — but I found those more intimate social spaces to be a really comfortable place to meet new people on a deeper level. I’d always find myself having deep and meaningful conversations with strangers into the night — some of which I call my best friends today.
Take advantage of the online world. Focus on an interest you have — whether it’s writing, fashion, film, music — and go on a deep dive into the local social media scenes within that interest. You’ll find venues, events and networks upon networks of people that you can connect with.
Reaching out to someone on Instagram is considered super normal these days, which is especially handy if you feel a bit of social anxiety. Send a DM to an artist you’d love to work with, get involved in your local vintage clothing market, ask if your local music venue is hiring new staff, volunteer at a community radio station… just get involved in a community that you want to be a part of and feel your way around. People are way more accepting and welcoming than you’d think.
Work Some Hospitality Shifts
I’m not going to lie — I don’t think there’s any better way to meet new people than working in hospo. Not only are hospitality venues super social workplaces within the crew, but you also get to spend your entire shift chatting to customers (aka people off the street you may never talk to otherwise). I spent my first three years (while I was studying) in Melbourne working in hospitality, and the people I met during those years are some of my friends for life.
Not only do you make amazing friends, but hospo people really know how to have fun. They’ll take you out to bars and restaurants, they always know what’s going on around town — things that are more underground and you might not know, as a newbie — and they’re always planning social events outside of work.
Even if you don’t need a full-time job, I’d recommend working a hospo shift a week or something — if you’re looking to find your feet and meet new people in a new place. Plus, venues need all the help they can get right now. There’s no better time to get involved.