I’m a very outgoing person but I’ve realized that once you enter “adulthood,” dynamics change entirely. Aside from childhood or college friends, some of whom you may just outgrow, I had no clue how to make friends. How did couples meet each other and go on ski retreats to the Poconos? This happened, right?
Despite my general anxiety of meeting new people, I decided to leave my roots in Kansas (yes, I know) and move to New York. And again in 2012, I decided to quit my job and New York City, and I moved to Bangalore, India. While my future memoir will describe this move as a glamorous and inspirational change, I’ll let you in on a secret (which now makes us good friends!): I was terrified of leaving all my friends and that I would never be able to connect with anyone ever again.
I may have a penchant for the dramatic, but I understand how scary it is meeting people in a new city or country. Therefore, on my one-year anniversary of the “Shilpa Moves Abroad” saga, I offer you six practical tips that have helped me replace my book at dinner with a conversation.
Register for Meet-Up groups
This one may seem very obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many people feel ashamed or too shy to sign up for expat clubs or various meet-up groups. It may feel like Internet dating for platonic friendships, but everyone attending the events also has the intention of meeting new people; essentially, it’s like the first day of kindergarten, except for adults.
Take a fun class
Shy about going to a bar or dinner alone? Joining a group class is not only a fun way to learn a new skill or craft, but also great for continuously engaging in fun activities with others, long term. Classes meet consistently, so you can even build up the courage to start talking to other classmates over time: it’s not a “one shot” moment. The real benefit is that everyone there already shares a similar interest and the commitment to exploring it fully.
Join a gym
To be frank, I only started going to the gym to meet people and to feel less hypocritical about working for a health awareness website. Aside from the health benefits (blah blah blah) of a gym, what health mags won’t tell you is that gyms are teeming with young people! I live relatively isolated from the “cool” parts of town, but I ended up making a great friend at the gym who lived in my building, was from New York, and could bench press 180 — what a triple threat!
Go to that random party where you only know one person
Congrats, you made one friend! Now the key to multiplying them is to take him/her up on any offer to go to a house party, a dinner party, or a random bar where you won’t know anyone else. If you enjoy one person’s company, chances are you’ll meet and enjoy his or her friends as well. Party crashing is the new networking.
Sign up for networking groups / listservs / professional Google groups
Speaking of networking, you should continue to do that! Aside from the obvious benefits of meeting mentors and industry connects, you will also meet equally ambitious people who can become lifelong friends. I am a part of numerous business listservs that host Happy Hours, panel discussions, and gala events.
Whether you join an organization or sign up for a one-day effort, a few hours of your time to give back to the community can give you the warm fuzzies and possibly a friend! When I first moved to New York, I volunteered by counseling rape victims in the ER. Due to the difficult nature of work, we had an intense four-day training session where I met a girl who ended up being a friend well after our volunteer duties ended. Showing passion for a common cause lays a strong and healthy foundation for friendship.
The ultimate theme in these tips is to keep putting yourself out there. Obviously, you’ve taken a big step and left old comforts for a new city and new adventures. You will meet and engage with people whom you’ve never been exposed to before — provided you are willing to take on any experience and encounter with a grain of salt and a possible tequila shot.
Photo by Remi Coin