For the first 18(ish) years of our lives, making friends comes organically. You become close with classmates from elementary to high school because those are the people you see nearly every day. But fast-forward to post-college and you find yourself in a new city—how do you find genuine friendships as an adult?
I’ve been lucky enough to have a group of girls and guys I’ve been friends with since kindergarten and who I’m still extremely close with, even though we’re all spread out across the country. I know this isn’t the case for most people, but when you find a set of friends who truly get you and you trust with your deepest darkest secrets, you hold onto and cherish those relationships. Throughout my high school and college years, I always had an active social life and booked nightlife schedule. But let’s rewind to 2012, when I first moved to Los Angeles and this certainly wasn’t the case. Talk about a total reality check.
Sure, when you move to a new city, you expect all the changes—new apartment, new favorite grocery store, new job, etc. But what I didn’t expect or really think about was how challenging it would be to make a new set of “LA friends.”
I was fortunate enough to move to the west coast with one of my dear college friends from the University of Kansas, so I wasn’t completely on my own during this journey. But even with one good friend under my belt, I still found it difficult to find new friends. I remember it hit me about three months in (you know, let the honeymoon phase fizzle) and thinking, wow, I went from always having plans and friends to hang out with to literally sitting on my couch feeling weirdly lonely watching all my college friends who live in the same city go out and post on social media, and there I was so far away and feeling so out of my comfort zone.
While yes, that was a shitty feeling, it didn’t last forever. Below I’m sharing foolproof ways to find and make meaningful adult friends.
The obvious (which I won’t go into detail about, but they are worth mentioning):
-Spiritual place of worship
Now for the not-so-obvious:
Have a solid list of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. that you regularly attend. What does this have to do with making friends, you ask? Aside from running into other regulars who could potentially flourish into friendships, if you’re like me, then half the battle when it comes to making plans is figuring out what destination to suggest. This makes it so you don’t have to think twice and takes the mindless stress out of planning a friend date.
The friend-of-a-friend setup
Take advantage of childhood or college friends who are willing to set you up with someone they know living in your new city. Will this feel like a first date? Yes. That’s because it basically is. And honestly, treat it like one—do your Nancy Drew investigative work before meeting up so you’re prepared with topics to chat about. One of my good friends taught me to always have five questions or topics ready to talk about or funny stories to share on a first date so conversation doesn’t get stale. Works like a charm, even on new friend dates.
You may go on a handful of first-date friend setups, but the good news is that as you get older and hit a level of maturity, you realize that if a friendship isn’t working out, there’s no need to force it and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. Plus, who wants to waste time and energy (and the cash!) on a relationship that’s not a fit? So on to the next friend date … you’ll find your crew.
The thing about making and keeping new adult friends is you have to be ready to put in the effort. Don’t feel weird about reaching out to a coworker or someone who went to your college who you weren’t friends with but now live in the same city. Just remember you’re great and people do want to hang out with you, so be a little shameless and extend an invitation. One way to ease the awkwardness of setting up a hang is to research local events in your area. For example, in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl hosts a set of free concerts in the summer (or at least they used to be free a couple years ago), which makes for an entertaining and unique night with your new friend(s).
Take advantage of social media connecting people online. We’re all guilty of Insta-stalking and somehow ending up on a random person’s pretty Instagram page. If you think you could see yourself being friends with the person or have common interests (via your scrolling skills), reach out and introduce yourself. You never know until you try, and what better way to use IG’s platform than to make plans offline and spend time disconnecting from the internet? What an idea … having genuine conversation IRL.
Join a college alumni group
As I mentioned, I went to the University of Kansas, and as a Jayhawk, we pride ourselves on dominating college basketball. So when I moved to LA, I joined an alumni group on Facebook that would post and host spots for grads to gather and watch our team play. This was an instant way to feel a slice of home while being so far from my friends and family. It’s comforting knowing we’re all in this together just trying to meet new friends and have a good time. This is also a smart way to network and build out your contacts for potential new career opportunities.