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Moving to a new city or overseas? In this guide, I’ll cover how to meet people in a new city. I won’t promise that making friends in a new city is always easy but I promise it is worth the effort!
A year ago, I moved to Mexico City not knowing anyone and barely speaking a word of Spanish. From my window seat as the sprawling mega-city came into view, I had a ‘what-am-I-doing?’ moment.
Was I really moving to Mexico City with no friends, job or plan aside from the first 7 nights in an Airbnb?
You bet! We only get one chance at life so I’m keen to have all the experiences possible.
It went pretty well. While continuing to work online (the world’s least social profession), I managed to build a community and successfully make friends in a new city. Within a few months, I had a group to hang out with at weekends and take trips away with.
This guide is based on my experiences abroad but these tips can just as easily be used if you’re trying to find friends in a new city within your own country!
My story of meeting people in a new city
After my experiences moving to Mexico City, I decided to write this blog post to help others in the same situation, regardless of location.
Before moving to Mexico, I’d been solo travelling and working remotely for 18 months already, spending anywhere between a few days and a few months in a new place. Life was good but I was getting tired of transient connections.
That’s why I was excited to move to Mexico City. The challenges of travelling solo include getting lonely and burnt out. I planned to spend longer than a couple of weeks to really get stuck into the city. I was craving friends I could get to know rather than leave behind.
Since October 2021, I’ve been living in Porto, Portugal and I’ve updated this blog with some extra methods.
Making friends in a new city vs when travelling
When I started basing places around the world to work online, I hadn’t given too much thought to how I’d make friends in a new city. It had always worked out while backpacking, right?
That’s the problem! It’s easy to meet people as a traveller thanks to hostels, tours and bar crawls. Other travellers are always up to socialise.
When you’re living in a new city, it’s different. People you meet aren’t always looking for new besties; they may be busy with their exisiting friends and family, especially if it’s their home city. You certainly won’t meet people during a hostel card game!
Related read: how to find and pick a travel buddy
When answering the question how do I meet friends in a new city?, I’ll leave work colleagues out because a) as a remote worker I don’t have any specific tips and b) it’s kind of an obvious one! You probably want friends beyond work anyway.
1. Facebook groups
This was my first step when moving to Mexico City. I posted in several Facebook groups introducing myself and explaining I was new to the city. Consider something like this:
”Hey, I’ve just moved here and looking to meet other like-minded people! I’m 30, originally from the UK, and work online as a writer. Let me know if you’d like to go for coffee / check out some bars”
Tailor this to you. It’s good to mention activities you’re interested in. I went with bars and coffee but if you prefer hiking or photography, suggest that instead.
How to find Facebook groups: Literally type into Facebook the name of your city followed by terms like newbies, expats, foreigners or whatever’s relevant. I even found a group for British and Irish people in Mexico City. Join as many as possible and fill out the requested questions so you get accepted.
To note: I got a lot of DMs from guys who I don’t suspect had friendship in mind. Most genuine people will reply on the Facebook post and say ‘I’ll message you’ when you go to make plans. I’d focus on these people rather than the unsolicited DMs.
Bonus point: As well as posting, search the group for similar messages posted in the last few months. They may still be looking to make friends and better yet, might have already met people they can introduce you to!
Extra tip: see if any of the Facebook groups have dedicated Whatsapp groups. I find these better for on-the-day events. Once in Porto, some messages popped up from a few people organising a picnic. I was nearby so went along and made two friends who I still see months later!
2. Language groups (if applicable)
This applies if you’ve moved to a new city where people speak a different first language. Firstly, you’ll want/need to know it but secondly, it’s a great way to meet new people in a new city. Consider:
- Language classes – formal settings with a teacher.
- Language meetups – informal social meetups where the focus is improving language skills. Often free.
Both have their benefits! I ended up in a language exchange WhatsApp group in Mexico City with Spanish and English speakers of varying abilities. They held big group meetups but I also arranged a few one-on-one cafe meetups. This might be better if you’re shy about going to a meetup alone.
A good way to find language exchange groups brings me to my next point…
3. Meetup app
Check out Meetup which is a website, and now a mobile app, based on… you guessed it… meeting people in new cities!
It depends on the location but there are usually groups for different ages, working styles, interests, hobbies etc. I’m in Mexico City groups for digital nomads and remote workers. I see in London they have everything from ‘over 30s’ to ‘young Indian professionals’ and ‘friends for weekend walks’.
If there are no groups that appeal, you can start your own. You can search by ‘groups’ or by ‘calendar’ to see upcoming events in your city.
4. Friends of friends
Meeting friends in a new city is like a ball rolling. Once you have people to socialise with, it’s easier to meet more people.
Be proactive and let new friends know you’re looking to form a social group. A friend I made in a Mexico City Facebook group, Cat, added me to her work WhatsApp group with lots of expat English teachers who were also new to the city. They became my closest friends in Mexico City. Had Cat not known I was looking to make new friends, I might have never have!
5. Use your wider connection
Ask your existing friends if they know anyone in the city you’re moving to. Even if your cousin has an ex-colleague who lives there, you might glean some tips or even meet up.
6. Always say yes – at least initially
Use your first few weeks wisely. Always being ‘on’ can be exhausting (especially if you’re settling into a new job as well) but you’ll thank yourself. There’s always later for Netflix nights.
I remember walking home after a busy day when a new Whatsapp group buzzed. One of the girls invited people to meet her at a coffee shop. I was feeling tired and not in the mood to meet brand new people. But I pushed myself and was glad I did because it led to many future meetups.
Making friends in a new city isn’t always easy but it IS worthwhile!
7. Sports and hobbies
You can meet people anywhere but the chances of making like-minded friends in a new city are heightened if you have a shared interest. In life generally, I believe following your passions and interests can only lead you in the right direction.
Best activities to make friends in a new town:
- Any sports team
- Running clubs
- Yoga/meditation classes
- A dance class
- Crafts classes – knitting, ceramics, textiles etc
- The list goes on!
8. Hiking groups
I can vouch for hiking groups as a good way to make new connections. Unlike bar crawls or nights out, hiking is a chilled way to get to know people. Since moving to Porto, I’ve joined two hiking groups, one of which has its own Whatsapp group. They organise weekly hikes and people carpool there together.
Admittedly, this might be easier if you’re a blogger or have an online community. I met my closest friend in Mexico City, a Canadian blogger and online English teacher called April (check out her blog Just Leaving Footprints), through Instagram.
If this doesn’t apply, still keep an eye on Instagram location tags and hashtags related to your location. Follow bloggers and people who look like they’re loving your city. Engage with their content – you may build a connection! I know I’m always happy to meet up with IG followers when we cross paths.
10. Try co-living
When I moved to Porto, I lived in a co-living space for the first month. This is where a bunch of mid-term travellers (usually staying a few weeks to a few months) share a space. Usually, other guests are remote workers so there’s strong Wi-Fi and a workspace.
In Porto, we were all aged around 30 and wanted to get work done so there was a good mix of productivity and socialising. As we were all new to Porto, we explored the city together. These exist around the world; check out coliving.com.
11. Shared Airbnbs
While spending a month in Manchester recently, I booked a private room in a shared Airbnb. This was to save money (it worked out less than rent) but doubled up as a good way to meet new people in the city. I ended up going to the cinema, mall and out to coffee with my host and the other guests!
As rental contracts often require a years’ stay and references, lots of people use Airbnb to find places to live when they first move to a new city. There are generous discounts if you stay longer than 30 days.
12. Join a book club
After meeting April in Mexico City, she invited me to join her book club. This is a great way to meet people in a new city whether you’re an avid reader or not.
Some book clubs may operate on a bigger scale but ours was just four of us meeting monthly in a coffee shop. We were all women of a similar age who, aside from April, I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I also realised that discussing books is a great way to assess someone’s attitudes and values – always useful when making quality friendships.
13. Dating apps
Obviously this depends whether you’re looking for romantic or platonic relationships but it’s certainly a way to make connections in a new place. Bumble has a ‘BFF’ feature for those looking for friendship.
Whether you’re travelling or at home, observe normal safety advice when meeting people in a new city. Arrange dates in public places and tell someone your plans.
14. Hang out in cafes
I can’t promise this method will work because people in cafes are often busy with their existing friends/on their phones etc. However, in Porto I made a new friend, Grace, in a cat cafe and now we hang out often. If you can find a pet cafe or somewhere small and cosy, you might be in luck!
15. Go to a bar
Especially as a woman, this can feel scary! While observing your comfort zone, visit a bar solo. Try sitting near another solo traveller or at the bar; this way you can chat to the bartender if all else fails. Remember, you can just leave if you feel uncomfortable.
16. Borrow a pet
Sounds weird? Stay with me. One of my friends made an (unintentional) new bestie on a dog-walking website in the UK. The premise of these is that busy owners list slots to walk their dogs, and dogless dog-lovers sign up to walk them.
There are several of these websites around the world or you can volunteer at a rescue centre. In Mexico City, we have the opportunity to walk rescue pubs each weekend in Parque Mexico and it’s always a social affair. Worst case scenario you make furry friends instead of human ones and we all know they’re better anyway!
17. Get a group together
This is a great way to not just meet people but get your social life together. Don’t keep your friends to yourself: introduce them! Get a group chat going on. This way, plans will get made without you doing all the work.
Final thoughts about making friends in a new city
While new in Mexico City, I was more proactive than ever before. At home in the UK, if a friend had brought along a friend to a meetup, I’d always be friendly. But in Mexico City, I’d message them afterwards saying it was nice to meet them (only if it was, of course!) and suggest coffee sometime.
Depending how confident you are, it can be hard to put yourself out there. But the worst that can happen is they’re not open to new friendships which is never a reflection of you!
Remember to be yourself. Being adaptable and flexible is a great way to make friends in a new city. But don’t be flexible over your personality or values. If you compromise and make friends that aren’t compatible, you’ll only have to shake them off later!
I say it all the time but it’s better to be alone than in bad company. Remember, you won’t be alone forever – it may just take a little longer to make friends in a new city if the first people you meet aren’t a match.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a better idea of how to make new friends in a new city. Moving away from home can be such a fantastic, life-affirming experience that takes you out of your comfort zone and expands your horizons. Meeting like-minded friends makes it even better!
Moving abroad or travelling solo? Check out my related blogs:
- 101 solo travel tips
- Solo travel vs group tours
- Solo travel myths you should ignore
- 10 reasons to travel solo
See you next time,
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