Moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone is harder than trying to look cool after you’ve just tripped over in a public place.
Depending on your circumstances, you might be starting from scratch with nowhere to live, no job, no bank account, and (if you have just spent 6 months backpacking like I had) no money. Every step of the move has big challenges.
Once you have a roof over your head and a source of income (go you good thing!) you will celebrate with all your mates! Or you would, if you had any friends. When seeking friends there is no ‘walk into a recruitment agency and walk out with an appointment for a friend’. There is no easy way.
Being without your support networks can be the most difficult part to moving to a new city. I experienced this when I first moved to Glasgow a few years ago (why I ended up there is a whole other story). So here are my tips on how to make friends in a new city:
1. Arrive in your new city on Halloween. Seriously, it’s a great idea! As I have previously mentioned, dressing up is good fun. There’s nothing like wearing a crazy wig to give you the courage to talk to people you don’t know. And even if you make a fool of yourself they won’t recognise you… so what’s the worst that could happen?
2. Meet some friendly Oompa Loompas (see above point). I had made a new “hostel friend”* my first night in Glasgow, but we lost each other during the night. When we met up at breakfast the next day she recalled the last she saw of me I had been swept up in a group of Oompa loompas. I didn’t know anyone’s name at the end of it (they all looked the same), but I had a great time. Be warned though, that orange paint may never come out of your clothes.
3. When you’re looking for somewhere to live you can also use this as a tool to make friends. Even if you are viewing a room you don’t like perhaps the people are cool and you can stay in touch. Once I was shown a room by the girl moving out. I didn’t take it, but I took the girls number and we met up. I won’t lie, there was a brief moment where I thought I may have accidently invited a lady out for a date, but it was cool in the end.
4. Slut yourself out to any random friend introductions. When people discover you’ve moved somewhere they’ll often say “oh I have a friend that lives there, I could give you their email?” Accept. One friend can introduce you to many friends so just suck up your fear of the awkward introduction and do it! Also you get to go on a sort of “blind date” for a friend which is fun. Don’t get confused that it is a real date though, things could get really awkward if you mistakenly go in for the ‘lean’ at the end of the night. (Unrelated to previous point.)
5. Cling onto anyone you meet. Get their number and try to meet up as soon as you can. Don’t play it cool and think they’ll contact you. You aren’t cool. At least not in this city. You have no friends remember? You have to make an effort even if you have just worked 12 hours at a seedy bar, are covered in beer and just broke up a fight about a football code you don’t understand. You must be diligent in your friendship quest.
6. Join a local sporting team if that’s your thing. However, be mindful that “friendly” is a term used loosely when connected with sporting teams. A “friendly” competition could mean twice weekly intensive combat-style training sessions and games all day Sunday. They may not be so “friendly” if you are the one continually dropping the ball. As someone who finds walking and drinking at the same time difficult, joining a “friendly” touch football team in Glasgow was not the wisest move. Join with caution.
7. Learn the language quickly. Yes, I know Scotland is technically an English speaking country, but it took me some time to get the hang of the Glaswegian accent. Nodding and smiling only gets you so far, especially if you have to then present said drink you nodded about.
8. Milk your foreign accent/looks/ignorance as long as possible. At home you’re boring, but in a new city you are potentially interesting just for being foreign. Milk this for all it’s worth as you may never get that feeling again. I was openly laughed at when I was baffled at someone ordering an “Irn Bru”** at my first (extremely short-lived) job as a waitress. Luckily they were Neighbours fans, so they spent the rest of the night quizzing me on Paul Robinsons latest antics.
9. Accept that you can’t keep up with everything back home. If you try doing this you may miss your own moments. Like when you found out the EXACT ingredients of haggis or when you saw some highland coos for the first time. There’ll be time for catch ups later. Right now live every moment.
10. They won’t be like your friends at home, but that is the whole point. Embrace it! Learn as much as you can about the culture. Ask questions and enjoy making mistakes. For example, I now know if you order a ‘hamburger’ from a chippy*** in Glasgow it is literally just a deep fried hamburger patty. No bun. No lettuce. Nothing. Embrace the differences! Then when you do eventually make it home you will have lots of interesting tales to tell.
Did I miss anything? How did you/would you make friends in a new city?
*”Hostel friends” can last anytime between a breakfast together and a lifetime. I still keep up with Lauren, she even has a blog and I bet she thinks of me anytime she sees an Oompa Loompa.
**For any of those that don’t know what Irn Bru is, it’s the biggest selling soft drink in Scotland. It’s orange and tastes like creaming soda. It is awesome! I miss it.
***A chippy is a kind of ‘fish and chip’ fast-food shop, but so much more. Think of anything imaginable and you can get it deep-fried and covered with cheese here. Dead brilliant!