One of the biggest fears people have about travelling, or just moving to a new city is the effect it will have on their social life and whether they will be lonely; one of the first things my mother asked about when I said I was moving to Madrid was about what I’d do about my social life. However, with a little bit of work, you can easily make new friends anywhere and here are some of the methods you can use to make friends in a new city, even if you’re the shyest of people.
This is possibly the biggest way of meeting new people. Meetup.com lists community events that are happening in your city. They range from mothers’ meetings to speed dating to software development lectures, and most of them are free and open to anyone interested in attending. I found dozens of groups in the Madrid area, with something I’d be interested in every day. In particular, I found 10-15 language exchanges, which is something I’ll mention below.
There are plenty of free dating sites you can use to meet new friends. Two of the most popular sites are Plenty Of Fish and OkCupid, but there are plenty of other dating sites you could use. Most people might be on there to find a romantic partner, but I’ve found that a reasonable proportion are happy to make new friends there. You can explain that you’re new in the city and looking for friends, or you can just treat it like any dating experience and you never know, you might find more than friends. It might be harder for straight people to find friends of the same gender using this method though, although I can’t speak for the successes of gay users.
Reddit is an online link-sharing and discussion site and one of the largest sites of its nature on the Internet. The site is separated into “subreddits”, with each subreddit covering a particular topic, but you’ll often find a subreddit for the town or city you are living in. For example, there is a Madrid subreddit, which gets a couple of posts a day. Often they’ll arrange or advertise social events, or may have an associated Facebook group where you can get to know people in your city.
Language exchanges are social networking events that allow people to talk to native speakers of a language and practice their conversational skills. But they are one of the best ways to meet people and to make friends, because they are full of people who want to talk and are great social and networking events. You don’t have to worry about speaking another language, because there will be people who want to talk to you in your language. I visited three language exchanges last night and spoke to 5-6 people for 20 minutes or longer and got the number of a guy who had just arrived in the city.
I will be writing more about my experiences of language exchanges in a later post.
Other large Internet communities
If you are a user of a suitably large community site, like Imgur, Twitter, tumblr, 4chan etc, there’s a good chance that someone there lives in your new city. Start following people on Twitter or on Tumblr or post that you are new to the city, or will be arriving soon and are looking for people to meet up with. The advantage here is that you will have a shared culture from the community already formed, so you’ll have some topics to fall back on.
You can use each of these methods to find new friends and expand your social circle. You don’t need to wait until you’re in the city to start using them either. Change your dating profile location to your target city and start joining groups on Reddit or Meetup.com and getting to know the feel of the groups and city before you arrive.
One of the first people I met in Madrid was a woman who saw my profile on OkCupid and messaged me, even before I’d left England. The second person was someone who’d posted to Imgur saying they were in Madrid and looking for new friends. I messaged her and we met up and she introduced me to even more friends.
The sooner you start making friends and research events, the better your first few weeks will be.