In renowned author Ann Patchett’s nonfiction work, Truth and Beauty, she tells the story of making a lifelong friend in an unorthodox way. It was fairly early in Patchett’s career, and she’d just moved to Cape Cod alone after being accepted into a program at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. “I had spent a lot of my life trying to find quiet time alone, but I had very little experience with being lonely,” Patchett shares in the book. The writer was on her own in a new city, and not sure how to meet new people. But she was determined to do something about it. Her approach was unconventional.
She decided to start knocking on the doors of strangers in the buildings near her home. “I sucked up my courage and knocked on the first door I came to, but no one answered,” she writes. She tried again, but still no luck. The next knock was more successful. The woman who answered was a red-lipped Elizabeth McCracken, who today is also a famous novelist. She explained her situation, and they ended up getting a treat together at a local Ben & Jerry’s “having a conversation that would be the start of the next great friendship of my life.”
This may sound more like a shot in the dark than a useful tactic for making new friends, but if you don't put yourself out there you'll never know. For those of you who don’t feel like playing a door-knocking version of Russian roulette, however, we solicited tips from author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin (the New York Times called her “the queen of the self-help memoir”).
Whether you just graduated or moved for a new job, Rubin says there are plenty of ways to make lasting friendships in new locations that are practical — and maybe even fun.
Join or start a group
Rubin recommends joining or starting a club involving something you’re passionate about. “It could be a book club or a podcast club or a Real Housewives club,” she says. This can help you expand your network.
She notes that people tend to default to a book club, but Rubin notes that reading a book each month can be too much of a commitment for people with busy lives. Instead, think outside the box. She recalls a friend who went to a “Serial on cereal” club, where they ate Cocoa Puffs and talked about the latest episode of the true crime podcast Serial. You could also try it with longform New Yorker articles, since those are interesting but shorter than most books. If you opt to start a group, she recommends asking everyone you invite to bring a friend to expand your network.
Dating apps aren’t just for finding love. You can use Bumble BFF to meet people, usually those who are also new to the city. Like on all dating apps, you’ll likely have to sift through some losers. But it can work. When I moved to Denver one summer for an internship, I met up with a girl from the app at a baseball game. We ended up being hiking buddies all through the summer.
Find a work wife
Rubin says research shows that people are happier if they have a close friend at work. To make a friend in this scenario, you might suggest getting lunch or a coffee outside of the office with a coworker, and eventually see if you can parlay that into a happy hour or an exercise class. Offer to help them if they’re having a stressful week. Just being friendly will get you far.
Korla Brumfield, 28, says that when she moved from Chicago to Atlanta after undergrad, she struggled to find new people to bond with. So, she used her network on Twitter to meet people. “My followers on Twitter introduced me to quite a few people in the city,” she says. “I had already been communicating with my followers before I knew I was moving to Atlanta, and the ones who lived here showed me around and helped me get acclimated.”
Form a routine
Rubin says forming a routine is a great way to turn acquaintances you see every day into friends. People tend to go to the same coffee shop or the gym around the same time every day. If you do too, you’ll likely start to see the same faces around, and recognize people. If you see someone enough, you can introduce yourself. “Research shows we tend to like people more the more we see them,” Rubin says. “So try to make friends with someone at your morning yoga or spin class. Or someone you always see at the dog park. When you’re out, look around and see if there’s anyone you could connect with.”