How to Make Friends in a New City

Excerpt from How to Live, Work and Play in the City, by Glouberman & Heti.

If you’re just finished school—maybe you’re in your early twenties, maybe you’re moving to a new city—you need to make friends. The most important thing is to know that this isn’t easy. It’s really easy to make friends in high school and in college. But for a lot of people, I think, it’s a real shock to discover that making friends doesn’t take care of itself in adulthood. When you come to university you’re crammed together with a couple of thousand people who are around your aged and who share a bunch of stuff in common with you, and most, important, are at that very same moment also looking for new friends. In this sort of situation, it would take a lot of conscious effort to end up not having friends.

But adult life isn’t like that. You may move to a new city, maybe for a job that doesn’t easily put you into contact with people who you have much in common with.

So what that means is that it’s work, and maybe for the first time in your life you have to actually take making friends on as a project. I knew so many people around that stage of life who suddenly found themselves isolated and couldn’t understand why, and had never thought of making friends as something they had to bring conscious effort to.

If you see making friends as a project, you can understand that there will be efforts and costs and risks. You have to go to functions that you don’t exactly feel like going to; you have to stick your neck out and make gestures that are embarrassing or can make you feel vulnerable. You’ll have to spend time with people who seem initially interesting but then turn out not to be.

But all those things are OK if you see them as the costs involved in a project. It’s useful to identify what you like to do, because friends are the people with whom you can do these things. So if you like to cook, you might take a cooking class. If you like to watch television and make fun of it, find other people who want to do that. It’s useful to remember that friendship needs an activity associated with it.

If you’re the ambitious sort, you can try to create your own world around you, like have a party at your house every two weeks. This gets you more than friends—it can create a whole community.