Woman traveling alone

9 Ways to Meet People and Make Friends in a New City

8 min read

Moving to a new city is a stressful and strenuous situation. If you pile on having no friends (and/or family) in your new city, well, that’s tough, to say the least. Whether your move is for a job, an adventure, or a significant other, it’s possible you will find yourself in a, particularly trying solo situation when it comes to friends. However, meeting people and making friends in a new city is a good place to start when it comes to feeling at home in your surroundings. 


It’s daunting to think about having to start over, possibly find a job, find a new house, get to know your new city - all while struggling to make new friends too. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It takes time but there are many different ways to find your tribe, make connections, and start to really gain a feel for your new community. 


Here are nine different ways to meet people and make friends in a new city:


1. Facebook Groups 


I moved to Asia with my then-partner, not knowing anyone else. My partner quickly found work in our new city which meant that I was left to my own devices until they returned home. I was enjoying my time exploring but there was gnawing loneliness creeping in. 


Bored at home one day, I decided to do some digging on Facebook. I found a travel group for female-identifying individuals and posted ‘Anyone in my city? I’d love to find someone to hang out with and discover tasty foods!’. And that’s how I met my very first friend in Asia. 


Facebook groups are a great way to meet other travelers, expats, or even locals in your new city. There are more generalized groups (i.e. female travelers) but they can also get specific too (proof - I belong to a Facebook group for women who listen to a certain true-crime podcast). 


Of course, the downside of Facebook groups is that you may not always be in close proximity to the other members. Having pen pals and online support can be great - but sometimes you need an activity partner in your area. That’s where apps come in handy! 


2. Apps


In addition to Facebook groups, I also joined a few friend-finding apps that have expat users and local users close to where I lived. Apps such as Panion provide quick profiles for you to read through to ensure that you’re connecting with friends whom you have something in common with. This is super handy because it gives you something to talk about when breaking the ice - and activity for your first friend date! 


Woman smiling and looking at phone
Use your phone to make friends IRL. Photo by Kevin Grieve.


Through an app, I met Katie (name changed). We bonded over a mutual love for trying Instagrammable, super-cute cafes for afternoon tea and cake. As I kept using the app to meet new friends, and as my friend Katie did too, we each found ourselves with a group of amazing ladies. We merged our friendship circles and ended up with a food-loving squad of wonderful people.


3. Networking Events


Networking events do double-duty. They’re a chance to expand your business connections in your new city (which is handy if you’re job hunting or looking for an informal interview or mentor) but they’re also a chance to meet new friends on a personal level. Having friends in your industry is advantageous for your career; they’re always the first to alert you of a new job at their company and they can also give great advice about a tricky work situation.


Use event hosting sites (such as Eventbrite or Universe), or social networking sites (like Facebook) to search through to find groups in your industry that meet regularly. If it applies to you (or if it is of interest) be sure to check for networking groups for freelancers, remote workers, entrepreneurs or business owners, or groups specifically for those who identify as women (i.e. your local Lean In chapter). 


If you can't find what you're looking for - why not host your own event using Panion's newest feature  - Gatherings? Gatherings allow you to create a spontaneous event for new and old friends nearby.


4. Co-Working Spaces 


If you’re working remotely or as a freelancer, co-working is an option for you to get out of your bedroom and meet new people. Most big cities (and even smaller ones too) have co-working spaces that provide not just a space to work, but a community of professionals that support and inspire each other. Many co-working spaces hold events and workshops too, offering a more informal opportunity for social networking. Co-working spaces won’t break the bank and some companies may even front the costs for the expense.


Group of people looking at laptop and working together
Get to know other professionals in your industry and build a community of like-minded colleagues. Photo by Alexis Brown.


5. Volunteering 


Volunteering is an excellent way not just to meet people, but to help you, as a newcomer, feel like you’re part of the community and city. Do some online sleuthing to find organizations online that support causes close to your heart. Get in contact via email, phone, or simply check their website for upcoming volunteer opportunities. Volunteer gigs attract like-minded people and because you’re actively working together, it’s a low-pressure environment to strike up a conversation. 


It was a difficult transition for me when I returned to my hometown after living abroad for two years. I didn’t really feel like I belonged in my city anymore. One of the things that got me out of my funk was volunteering. Every Monday night, I had a standing social date, and the routine was reassuring. I met other volunteers and enjoyed speaking with those I was helping out. Getting out of my head and doing something for someone else has been so enriching and made me feel much more fulfilled. 


6. Classes 


I met one of my current best friends in a public relations night course I took at a local community college. Having the class in common was an effortless way to begin a conversation. We started as schoolmates, sitting beside each other in class and chatting about the assignments, and it was on our bus rides home that we began to talk about our personal lives. Pretty soon, we were hanging out outside of class. 


Group of friends talking together outside class
Classes are a great way to get out and meet new people with a common interest. Photo by Alexis Brown.


Find local community colleges and investigate their offerings to see if there is anything of interest to you! If you’re not working yet, having a class is an excellent way to brush up on your skills or learn a new one while you search for a new job. 


If school isn’t your thing, make a list of hobbies or activities you’ve always wanted to try and find out where you can make it happen. Always wanted to learn to make a clay vase? Or perhaps you’re interested in archery, or calligraphy, or yoga? There are classes in many cities for all of these and they all offer the possibility to meet new people. 


7. Work it Out 


Join a gym to work out the stress of moving to a new city - and as a bonus, you have the chance to meet someone new! Many gyms have class options too (spin, yoga, etc.), and sometimes sharing the common experience of sweating profusely is the social lubricant needed to talk to a fellow classmate! 


Compliment their work out gear and it’s an instant icebreaker! If you have a specific interest, like running, biking, or soccer look online (through sites like Meetup or Facebook) to find regular groups that meet. 


8. Language Exchange


If you’ve arrived in a new city where you don’t speak the local language, use this as a way to expand your friendship circle! You can find language exchange meet-ups through Facebook or other sites. At these get-togethers, expats, travelers, and locals all gather to learn new words or partake in the conversation. 


Pick up a few phrases to help make your daily life simpler and in exchange, provide a few pieces of English (or any other language) to a local or even a fellow expat. If you hit it off with one of your fellow language-learners, ask to meet up for a remedial session at a coffee shop. If you’re not into big group settings, you can join online groups where people post ads seeking one-on-one language exchange sessions. If you’re also taking language classes, it’s a great way to get some homework help!


9. Start Something Cool 


Use your newness to the city as an advantage by asking coworkers to show you around the city or to introduce you to a cool, new spot or start a happy hour hang in your office. Feel free to request that coworkers each bring a guest (the more the merrier!) so you can double your chances of making a new friend. Ask around to see if your workplace already has groups or clubs you can join and if not - start one! This is also a good way to meet friends with a common interest. Start a book club at work, a bowling league, a weekly D&D game - whatever you’re into, there’s probably someone else who shares your passion.



— Rosie,  Digital Nomad and ‘New City’ Expert

Rachel 'Rosie' Young
Rachel 'Rosie' Young
Rachel ‘Rosie’ Young is a writer and yoga teacher who explores the globe as a digital nomad. A former public relations executive for several Fortune 500 Companies, she now shares her philanthropic messages and yogic teaching via online journalism and directly to remote communities across Central and South America.