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Making Friends in a New City: A Practical Guide | UNCLE

Picture the scene: the stress of moving is a not-too-distant memory; you’ve unpacked nearly all of your boxes, hung some pictures on the wall, and are settling into your new postcode just fine. You look around. Where is everybody?

Even for the extroverts among us, making friends is harder than ever. Everything from the cost of living crisis to remote working can have an impact on our ability to connect with each other - there are always more reasons to stay in than go out. Research suggests you need to spend a minimum of 50 hours with someone before you truly consider them a friend, and to many this goal might seem like an impossible target. So, what can you do about it?

While spontaneous friendships that blossom out of nowhere are wonderful, valuable things, sometimes there needs to be a little more effort involved. If you’re wondering how to make friends in a new city and you’re ready to put yourself out there, we’ve got some suggestions for where to start.

Some top tips that you can use to make friends in a new city

Take a look at our friendship-finding tactics.

Invite your neighbours to a housewarming party

Depending on your living situation you may already be in close proximity to some new potential friends. Throwing a housewarming party is a great way to make first contact with your new neighbours, with the comfort of having family and friends in attendance to fall back on if things don’t go to plan. 

It’s polite to give any immediate neighbours a heads up whenever you plan on having a get together, and throwing a housewarming party is a great excuse to knock on a few doors and check out who’s living nearby. If you meet anyone you can picture yourself getting along with, you can take the opportunity to invite them to the gathering and see if a friendship could develop. Similarly, if any of your neighbours give off bad vibes, you’ll know who not to call on in the future. Even if you don’t make a new friend this way, you’ll get to find out a little more about your new neighbourhood.

Be a good neighbour

Horror stories online might have you believing that being a good neighbour is a lost art form, but that’s simply not true. It doesn’t take a lot to be a good neighbour - in fact, gestures as small as a smile and a wave go a long way. 

Here are some things you can do to make sure you’re being a good neighbour:

  • Offer to help elderly neighbours e.g. carrying shopping or garden work.
  • Try to avoid antisocial behaviour, such as playing loud music late at night.
  • Let your neighbours know that you’re happy to take in parcels and deliveries for them.
  • Keep the space surrounding your property neat and tidy.

Taking these steps to be neighbourly could lead to neighbours quickly becoming friends, and developing a sense of community in your new city.

Join in with local events

Participating in local events is a great way to meet new people and potentially make some new friends. Check out local newsletters and bulletin boards to make sure you’re up to date with anything happening in your area, and keep an eye out for posters and flyers for anything you might find interesting. 

Local events such as food festivals and craft fairs are also great ways to find out about and support small businesses and traders in your area. Similarly, music festivals and gigs might help to enrich your playlists with local talent. There’s more to be gained than just new friends!

Go to a bar or pub

Drinking holes are probably the most common examples of ‘third places’, especially in popular culture. A third place is a communal gathering space separate from home and work that you can get familiar with and visit regularly. They’re important to our psychological wellbeing, and help us to feel connected to where we live. Think MacLaren’s in How I Met Your Mother, or, maybe less desirably, Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If you’re looking for the perfect backdrop to make your own gang of new friends, and you’re happiest with a pint in hand, a bar might be a great place to start your search. 

Why not embark on a crawl of the pubs and bars in your area to see which ones match your vibe? Striking up a conversation with a stranger is a little less intimidating once you’ve had a drink, but be mindful of wanting to make a good first impression. A slight buzz might make you charming, but a few drinks too many might not make you best friend material.

Play sports

While UK drinking culture does seem to dominate the city social scene, there are other ways of meeting people that don’t involve alcohol. Joining a sports team is an excellent example, with the added benefit of improving health and fitness. Win-win!

There are a wide variety of sports teams to be found in cities, ranging from athletics and crossfit clubs for the super fit, to the more niche games such as roller derby or ultimate frisbee. Whether you’re reigniting an old passion or trying something completely new, playing sports is a great way to get to know new people. There are adults and beginners classes for the majority of sports these days - there’s no need to have been a child prodigy in your chosen game. The camaraderie and raised endorphins you can find through sports lead to strong bonds - and getting stronger in general!

Find people who share your hobbies

Sports aren’t the only hobbies that can bring you closer to people. If you prefer the sound of art classes or knitting clubs, or get your kicks through baking or gardening, you’re bound to be able to find some like-minded individuals nearby. A shared hobby is the perfect icebreaker - you already know you have something in common, and a wealth of talking points surrounding your mutual interest.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll have anything else to talk about, but it definitely heightens your chances. Remember, the goal in making friends is time spent together - even if that means sitting in comfortable silence while you work on your projects. There’s also the potential to improve your skills and abilities by learning from new people. If you can’t find anyone with the makings of a new best friend, you might at least be able to find some healthy competition.

Volunteer in the local community

A massive 72% of people feel that loneliness and isolation are an issue in their local communities. Volunteering is a great way to give back, connect to your new community, and make friends in a new city. There are lots of different types of volunteer opportunities, so it should be easy to find something you want to do that fits well with your other commitments.

Here are some examples of volunteering opportunities you might be able to find in your new city:

  • Food banks
  • Charity shops
  • Wildlife rescue
  • Greenspace cleanup
  • Tutoring

Find something that plays to your strengths and give it a go - even if you don’t click with any of the people you’re volunteering with, you can rest assured that you’re doing a good deed for your local community.

Visit your local cafes

Cafes are another alcohol-free third place (Central Perk, anyone?), with the potential to become an unskippable part of your weekly or even daily routine. Becoming a regular will automatically bring you closer to not only the people who work there, but the other patrons whose paths you cross on a regular basis. Plus, it’s nice when your barista knows your coffee order without you having to tell them - main character energy, anyone? 

It might feel awkward, saying hello to a complete stranger, but it only takes a few greetings for a stranger to become an acquaintance. Be brave, rest assured that being shot down won’t kill you, and think about the possible friendships you might be missing out on.

Don’t be afraid to say yes

A big part of making new friends is putting yourself out there. With the long list of obligations that adulthood brings, it’s important to make being social something you dedicate time and energy to. While it’s easy to view socialising as a drain on your energy and bank account, the alternative can be a risk to your health. We are not a solitary species; as well as contributing towards depression, being lonely can even put you at greater risk of heart disease. 

So the next time someone mentions an event and throws out “you should come along,” why don’t you say yes? The same goes for anything that will get you out of the house and around other people. Try something new, check out a venue you haven’t been to before, and tag along with work colleagues if they invite you out with them. You can’t make friends without putting yourself in the presence of strangers.

Be patient

Most importantly - none of the above will guarantee instant, fulfilling, lifelong friendships. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t be in a loneliness epidemic. Remember the 50 hours necessary to make a friend - that time is only an estimate. You might need less, you might need more, but either way there is still a certain amount of work you’ll need to put in - and there’s no cheat code or shortcut to hurry things along.

Another thing to remember is, as much as you may feel like you’re struggling with making new friends, the people around you are likely to be feeling the exact same way. Over half of London residents report feeling lonely, making it the statistically loneliest city in the world, while still being one of the most populous capitals

So be patient. Making new friends can happen at any time, at any age, and will always be a massive benefit to your health and state of mind. It’s worth the wait.

UNCLE can help make a new city feel like home

Now that we’ve covered how to make friends in a new city, how about making that new city feel like your city? UNCLE can help you put down those roots. If you’ve got questions, we have answers.

We understand the importance of good friends, which is why we like to include inviting shared spaces in our buildings to give our tenants the chance to socialise, should they want to. Co-working spaces, rooftop hangouts, even sleek residents-only gyms - your new best friend could already be waiting for you, and they might even live next door. Learn more about living with UNCLE and check out our beautifully furnished apartments today, like the ones in our Colindale location. 

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