💁🏻‍♀️ Dear Marie

How do you make friends when you move somewhere new?

April 24, 2019

Dear Marie,

How do you make friends when you move somewhere new? Especially if you are moving to somewhere new because of a job. Can coworkers be your friends? How do you find friends outside of work?

Hey there,

Congratulations on your upcoming move! 🎉

Picking up your life and replanting yourself somewhere new is such an exciting and terrifying process, so full of hope and fear and potential.

I’ve moved across the country twice now. Both times, I found the prospect of making friends and building community daunting. I was afraid I was going to end up lonely and alone in a new place, having left all my support behind.

I’m happy to report that both times, I built a space for myself and formed deep friendships. Some of those were with coworkers, others with people I met through common interests, and others were friends of friends.

Coworkers can be your friends—but don’t treat them as a built-in social network. Some of your coworkers may be thrilled to spend time together in the evenings or weekends, especially if you’re in similar stages of life or enjoy the same activities. But others are satisfied with just small talk in the office and the occasional lunch. That’s okay! They get to set those boundaries on how their work life and their personal life intersect.

Give your coworkers the space to decide how much of a relationship with you they want outside of work. If it’s “none”, respect that and don’t push for more.

I have quite a few good relationships with coworkers, including a lot of people I’m very friendly with in the office. But I really only have a handful of close friends that I met at work. Honestly, it’s easiest to build and maintain those more personal relationships with people that aren’t directly on your team or that you work with daily. It’s hard to maintain even a modicum of objectivity if you’re too close to the situation. If you’re much better friends with some people on your team, you can create weird interpersonal dynamics—even if you aren’t outright trying to exclude others.

Being friends with someone who isn’t a peer is a minefield—for example, trying to hang out with your manager, or with someone you manage. There’s a lot of potential for things to go really bad, really fast. Be mindful of power dynamics in the workplace. Avoid relationships where if it all ends poorly, someone is left in an untenable work situation.

If your company has social groups or employee activities, that’s a great way to meet people at work that share some interest with you, and who may not be directly on your team! Some of my dearest friends in San Francisco were people that I met through an a capella group at my office.

Here a few low-stakes social interactions you can invite coworkers to do if you think you’d like to be friends with them:

  • ☕️ Schedule a 30 minute 1:1 chat or coffee break. Ask them about what they do at the company, and what they like about the area!
  • 🌮 Grab lunch together on a workday. Chat about work stuff, or ask a few questions about what they like to do outside of work.
  • 💻 Invite them to join you for a work-related meetup or event. If you find out about an interesting tech talk relevant to your field, see if anyone wants to go with you.

If they agree and that goes well, invite them to something else later. If they say no, or if they never reciprocate an invitation, they probably aren’t interested in developing a friendship. That’s okay! Y’all can still be great coworkers and you’ll find other people who would like to be friends.

Even if you do end up building really good relationships with your coworkers, it’s healthy to have friends outside of work too. Some common ways that adults meet new friends is through a shared activity or mutual friends.

You might not have a lot of friends in your new city already, but do you have any connections? You don’t have to already be close—you just have to know their name and how to contact them. Or do any of the people you are close to know someone in your new home? Would they be willing to introduce you?

Moving is a fantastic opportunity to reach out and invite people you only kinda sorta know for dinner or coffee. At worst, it’s an awkward hour of your life. At best, you just connected with a new friend!

In terms of social activities, think about what you enjoy doing and make an effort to find groups in your new place! This could look like:

  • 🎲 board game night at a local tea shop
  • 📚 book club at the library
  • 💃 social dancing lessons
  • ⛹🏻‍♀️ intramural basketball league
  • 🚴🏾‍♀️ cycling club
  • 🏕 camping outings with your local REI
  • 📝 creative writing circles at a bookstore
  • 🎤 karaoke night at the pub down the street
  • 📸 Instagram photoshoot meetups
  • 🐕 hanging out at the dog park
  • 🐈 or the cat cafe
  • 🎭 auditioning for community theatre
  • 🎻 joining a civic orchestra
  • 📆 attending meetups

Whatever you end up doing, talk to people and make conversation! There’s no fail-proof process to making friends, but intention and commitment go a long way. If you want to hang out again, say that. If you want to spend time with someone, invite them. When they invite you to something, say yes even if it’s not necessarily your jam1. When you make plans, show up.

The incomparable Jackie Luo wrote a beautiful essay for Vox on this topic, based on a Twitter thread of hers from a while back. You should read the whole thing, but in particular, I love the way she discusses the importance of commitment when building deep relationships with friends:

None of my closest friendships were forged solely because we had so much in common or it was convenient. It was because we prioritized each other. When we had options — and there are always, always options — we chose each other more often than we didn’t.

Friendship is about inviting people to share your life and showing up when they invite you into theirs. You can’t pick up a friend-kit at Ikea or order them on Amazon Prime. You have to build friendship, hour by hour, listening and sharing, spending time together. But the beautiful thing is that you aren’t building alone. You’re in this together, each contributing and receiving.

I’m wishing you the best of luck in your next adventure. I think you’re going to find a wonderful community of friends, wherever you land, and however you first meet them. I’m rooting for y’all. 🙌🏻

Cheers,
Marie


  1. True story: on my first day of work, one of my coworkers mentioned that she had gone rock climbing that weekend. In the interest of being polite, I said: “Oh, how fun!” She then promptly invited me to join her later that week.

    I was… not enthusiastic about the idea. But I wanted to make friends in Austin, so I agreed and dragged myself to the gym. And I discovered that I was horrible at rock climbing but I absolutely loved it.

    Seven months later, we climb together before work several times a week and have gone on multiple climbing day trips on the weekends. And I’d say we’re pretty great friends, now, too. 😊


Marie Chatfield

Written by Marie Chatfield, an amateur aspiring advice columnist, certified Emoji Enthusiast™, and purveyor of fine tweets.

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