From the moment you begin to unpack, there’s a frenzy of activity and excitement associated with a move. In addition to getting used to your new home, you need to master the nuts and bolts of navigating the neighborhood: finding a supermarket, gas station and post office.
Even more challenging, you may simultaneously be adjusting to a new marriage, or changed schools or work setting. If you’ve moved with a family, you may have to deal with school enrollments and sports signups for your kids.
Things can be so hectic that only after the dust has settled do you begin feel a tinge of loneliness and loss for what you left behind. You would have gotten together with your old friends on Friday night or called a neighbor to come over, but now you feel like you are living amongst strangers.
What can you do to make friends after a move?
As the “new kid on the block,” you have a lot going for you. If you’re lucky, a neighbor may knock on your door and introduce themselves, or there may be a newcomers club in your community set up to help new people meet each other. A co-worker may take you under their wing and introduce you to his or her friends or people with whom you can carpool. If you’re a mom, your children may be natural connectors, introducing you to other families with children. Also, having a dog to walk can be an instant icebreaker in getting to know other dog-owners.
It’s a good idea to give yourself some time to get settled, allowing for some friendships to develop organically as you go about your life, but most people find that making friends after a move needs to be an active rather than passive pursuit. Here are some tips to make the process easier:
1. Mine Your Immediate Neighborhood
Whether you live in an apartment or private home, introduce yourself to the neighbors on both sides of you. They may not be especially “friend-worthy” but you’ll feel more comfortable knowing the people around you, even if they wind up as acquaintances rather than friends.
Make it your business to smile and greet them when you meet on the street or in the elevator. Next time you see them, it will be easier to engage in conversation.
2. Get Immersed In Your Local Community
Even if they don’t live next door, making friends with people who live nearby not only makes get-togethers more convenient, but also gives you something in common to talk about—your community.
Seek out and get involved with local organizations close to home, such as religious organizations, gyms, public parks and volunteer groups. Is there a book club you can join? Often, local libraries can help you identify these and other community activities.
Make it a point to get out of your house and place yourself in settings with other people. Is there a coffee shop where you can meet others? Becoming a “regular” at a local business can help overcome the hurdle of feeling alone.
3. Get A Boost From Technology
NextDoor.com is a free hyper-local website specifically designed to foster a sense of community among neighbors. It offers a house-by-house map of other people in your neighborhood who are part of the service and want to be neighborly.
In my own community there is a Facebook page for moms in the neighborhood, numbering in the thousands, who want to exchange information and advice. Check out Facebook by entering the name of your neighborhood.
4. Find Kindred Spirits
If you work or attend school, you’ll find people in similar circumstances. Ask someone to take a walk during lunch, or meet for coffee or a drink afterwards. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you’ll meet parents at the bus stop or on the carpool line.
When you see the same people day after day, people with whom you already have much in common, it’s easy to make small talk—and making an acquaintance is the first step to making a friend.
Pursue your hobbies and passions, whether its film or theater, jogging or kayaking. The free website Meetup.com allows you to find or start local groups, organized by ZIP code, where you can meet up with like-minded people.
5. Be Realistic
Don’t fall into the trap of expecting too much too soon. If you come across as too desperate for friendship, you may unintentionally turn some people off. Remember that it takes time for friendships to blossom. Smile, be friendly and set the goal of making new acquaintances. And don’t take it personally when other people are already over-committed.
In the meantime, strike a balance between old friends and new ones. Invite your old friends to visit your new community and stay abreast of their lives by phone, text and email. Remember that your move may be just as difficult for them as it has been for you.