15 October 2013

big city, small town {how to make friends in a new city}

The end of this month officially marks three years in Atlanta for me, which is insane because it feels like only yesterday that I packed up a U-Haul and moved here. At the same time, though, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was living in Indy with my parents. So, so many things in my life have changed. My Brookhaven apartment is a world away now. 

Since moving here, I've gotten a lot of requests for a post on how to make friends in a new city. And while I, by no means, consider myself a pro, I figured I might as well share what I know. 

Friendships after college fit right into the entire decade of our 20s perfectly: they're a total adjustment. 

They're amazing because you're growing up together - learning how to be a mini adult, bonding over the woes of working (where's our summer?), figuring out how to cook, learning the absolute beauty of the weekend.

But you're also paying bills. Learning to say no. Realizing that a best friend after college doesn't mean spending every waking minute together, eating late night food, sharing closets and cracking up over the ridiculous thing that guy said.

No, instead, these friendships are about growing through this transition together and figuring out where we all net out. 

You begin to see that we're not all the same. When you're not living the same life [wake up, class, workout, class, eat, study, go out. Begin again.], priorities become very real. There are people that will still go out every night, rolling into work hungover but somehow magically presentable. There are people that get married and have babies right away. There are those that fly through corporate America, pouring themselves into the latter, climbing and climbing. And there are those who are slowly trying to figure it out - manage a balance of collegehood and adulthood, maturity and grace. 

Find your people. 

They're all good people. Find the ones that suit you.

And, here's how I think you should do it...

1. Be vulnerable. I know. I really started with a zinger. But it's key. You have to be willing to put yourself out there - ask people to do something, be a little more open than you traditionally would be and keep on trying. Sometimes you don't connect the first time you hang out. Sometimes people are crazy busy. Keep asking. 

I am embarrassed to admit this, but when I first moved here, if I met someone in a social setting and could see myself being friends with them, I'd say: I know we just met, but do you want to hang out sometime? And then, I'd normally add: I just moved here and don't really have any friends yet, but you seem great! 

And you know what? Normally they would say: I did, too! It's so hard not knowing anyone! When you're honest with people about your intentions and feelings, it's amazing how honest they'll be in return. Some of my greatest friendships here began with that pickup line. 

(Also, the entire experience of asking girls on friend-dates gave me so much more sympathy for boys. It's nerve wracking!)

2. Be a yes man. I realize this totally goes against all my unglorification of busyness business. But this is a sprint, my friends. In the marathon of life, I still believe in slowing down and prioritizing. However, when you're trying to make friends, sometimes you just have to be that girl that says yes to things. You can't get to know people if you always go home and sit on the couch. It's after you make friends that you begin hibernating. 


But seriously: say yes to things. When Melissa and I first met, we clicked pretty quickly. And we later admitted that a huge draw to one another was that we were both always down to try new things. It's amazing to me how many people (1) refuse to do things on weeknights and (2) aren't willing to get outside of their comfort zones. I'm certainly not suggesting you do things you hate all the time or never, ever have a night at home with wine and your dog. But, when you're first meeting people, be willing to get outside of your comfort zone a bit. It's amazing what you'll learn about yourself and who you'll meet. 

3. Join, join, join things {that interest you}. I am not exaggerating when I say that the majority of the friends I've made since moving here (and didn't meet at work) have been through either (1) my bible study or (2) volunteering for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Do they all go to my church or volunteer there? Heck, no! But they are a friend of a friend of a friend who is now my friend. Besides, when you meet people who do care about the things you care about, you often find you have other things in common, too. 

4. Go places. I told you a while back that people love to tell me: You could meet your next boyfriend anywhere, even the grocery store! And even though it's not my favorite thing to hear, because it encourages people to act a little crazy at the grocery store (like following the cute boy to the beef jerky section when you're living vegan...), there's truth to it. You can meet people anywhere - and you will! You just have to go places. 

When I first moved here, I worked from home because my company was in Indiana. Every day I went to Starbucks and soon learned that this other 20-something guy, Frank, did the same thing. By the end of the first few months, Frank and I were pals. He'd email he if I didn't show up, we'd talk all about his family's vacation home in Marblehead and slowly, we became friends. 

5. Don't be afraid to do things alone. I did so much by myself when I first moved here, and what I learned is that doing things by yourself isn't really that lonely at all. In fact, it's empowering. Today, I'm so glad I have people I can call to do things, yes. But I look back on those days and am grateful for the way trying a new class, joining a club and attending church alone shaped me. I don't fear being alone and now I have no qualms about awkwardly hitting on potential friends, hoping they might like to grab coffee sometime. 

6. Think outside the box. In high school and college, most of my friends were just like me. And that was amazing and fun and we gelled so nicely. But now, a lot of my friends are really different than me. And you know what? It's pretty cool. They teach me to think differently and offer a fresh perspective. Don't be afraid to be friends with someone who looks and acts differently than you. You never know what they'll teach you. 

7. Don't forget your old friends. Making new friends is exciting, but the old ones feel like home. You need them both. My friends and I used to call one another after our girl dates and report back: Yes, I think I like her - we might even hang out again! Or, Nah, she wasn't for me. And then: I'm so glad I have you

8. And remember, it will happen. Be patient. Give yourself grace. Know that it takes time to meet the right friends and develop a connection. As my mom used to tell me when I'd cry to her because I hadn't made friends yet, and just missed the ones I had from home: Once in a lifetime friends are hard to find and you're lucky enough to have found more than one in your lifetime. So, keep trying - it'll happen. And when you look back one day and realize the city doesn't feel so big and scary anymore - it kind of feels like a small town - you'll realize it was worth the wait. I promise. 


  1. I love all of these Whitney. I did many of these when I first moved to my current hometown a few years back. I literally knew nobody but ended up making lifelong friends :)

    1. i am so glad we're on the same page!!

  2. I love this! Great perspective as it is so hard after coming to a new city from home (aka comfort zone).

    1. I totally agree. Living outside our comfort zones is challenging, but also amazing!

  3. moving to a new city, making new friends, and settling in is such a fierce yet beautiful transformation.
    I guess I did lots of these without even realizing it when I moved to charlottesville- but thinking of it, I got my job by going somewhere alone- it can be uncomfortable but SO fun!

    ha, moving to a new city definitely involves a LOT of girl dating.

  4. I moved to Atlanta for a year a couple of years ago and these things definitely helped me! I joined Team in Training by myself, trained for a marathon and met some amazing girls - there's a lot of time to talk during a 20 mile run!! I started attending Buckhead Church and said YES! to every invitation that came my way (even if I wasn't totally up for it).

    Although I'm back in Boston now (my home city) I think these things are definitely still relevant. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. i'm so glad you still find them relevant. it never hurts to make new friends in our hometowns, too!

  5. So glad Melissa posted this on FB so I could discover your blog! This post is exactly what I needed right now too...thank you for the inspiration and reassurance!

  6. Saying "Yes" to things really helps! And being willing to ask the tough invite question and opening your own house to new people...usually I make my husband actually do the inviting, but I believe friendship is built through doing things together and spending time, so making that time a priority helps. Still--I find making friends in a new place as an adult hard--perhaps harder in certain cities than in others...

  7. I love this!! You're so brave moving to a brand new city alone, and this post describes the experience perfectly.

    I was so so lucky that I got to move to a new city with my Best Friend, but it's hilarious, we also call them "friend dates" and try to go on them to meet as many people as we can!! We laugh wondering, I hope she doesn't think she think I was weird because I was so excited to hang out again!


  8. Took your advice and made a girl date! #NerveWracking

    1. this is SO exciting!!! i hope it went well :)

  9. Thank you so much for this article, I'm considering moving to a new city (and out of home for the first time) but I've been worried about how I'll make friends there; all of these tips make sense and are more detailed than the usual 'you'll make friends through work' answers I've found. Definitely eased my anxiety about that part of moving! :)

  10. I've totally had those moments straight out of a movie where I meet someone and just want to say "Hi I'm new will you be my friend?" All good tips and when you are new to a city, it's good to just go out and explore.


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