How do you meet people in a new city when you’re shy?

August 25 |
A Conversation with Phillis Wheatley
Do not try to make friends with statues. They do not have any interest in your life. Photo by clairity. Used under Creative Commons license.

Help Cate!

I'm moving soon, and for the first time I won't have the built-in community of school.

How can I meet people in my new town, even if I'm shy?

My advice is: start with Twitter or Instagram. It may not be any help at all, depending on your town, but many larger towns and smaller cities have bigger-than-usual Twitter users per capita. Des Moines is like that.

That's it. I'm a nerd. That's my advice. So I throw it open: Homies, how's a shy girl meet the nice people in her new town?

  1. Wine tastings. You usually meet interesting people, and a flight of wine makes everyone a little more talkative.

    3 agree
  2. Special interest meetups! My brother has lots of friends he met through his board gaming group, and I've got a gaggle of lady-loving friends I met through Autostraddle meetups!

    2 agree
    • Completely agree with finding special interest groups. If you like gardening, reading, WOW or anything else there will be a group meeting up in your area.

    • Try meetups.com. It's a great resource, and also very reputable – you don't have to worry about sketchballs any more than you normally would.

      1 agrees
      • I can attest that Meetup.com works- just moved to Denver less than a month ago with my husband and we already have a group of friends to call up for dinner or hiking or whatever.

      • Wish there was more in my "city"! I looked it up on meetup and everything is in Montreal (50 miles away) or Burlington, VT (1 hour away & an expensive ferry ride). Guess I could create something and see if folks are interested.

      • Meetup is great — I met my husband at a meetup!

  3. I've moved half way across the country 4 times now, once out to school (MN to IN) and three times since I've graduated (IN to OKC, OKC back to IN, and IN to VA). I was in a sorority in school and the alumni chapters have always been great ways to meet all kinds of new women from all age groups. I know my school also has alumni meet ups in cities across the country, although I haven't been to one. I've also joined a gym everytime I move and made friends in yoga class. Additionally, I go to professional society (ASCE) events (I'm a civil engineer) and meet new people through that; they even have a Young Engineer group that hosts events like cocktail hours. I've also done community service through ASCE, and have met people through that. I did have to do some research online to find the right contacts to participate in events, and I had to pay memebership fees for all of them, but I've made excellent connections, both personal and professional. Other options could be meetup.com, any service orginization (meals on wheels, habitat for humanity) or a political/special interest organization (join a campaign, or my husband joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation when we moved to VA).

    • I'm a civil engineering major! I saw ASCE, and I thought, "I wonder if it's the same one…"

      Hello, fellow CE!

  4. just pursue your passions. if it's cooking or volunteering or belly dancing, you'll meet people who are into it as well. simple as that. be genuine about who you are & pursue that.

    4 agree
    • I was going to say basically exactly this: do what you like to do and you will meet people. Hop on Facebook and see where people are having poetry readings or selling pottery or holding protests. Our city has several craft/farmers markets that seem like they would be good places to meet people.

    • THIS! After moving to a new town, I met several of my best friends by volunteering at a historical site. You could also volunteer for an animal shelter. You could also try a community dance such as a Contra Dance. They're alot of fun, affordable, good exercise and attract a wide variety of people. The other nice thing about Contra Dances is unlike those terrible dances in high school, its just a friendly get together populated with mostly adults and you're constantly switching partners, so there is no sexual tension unless you want there to be.

      • Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun! I always see this in period movies and wish people danced like that today. I'm so happy they do! I will definitely look into it.

  5. Meetup.com has been a godsend for my husband and myself. He was new to the area, and I wanted to meet some post-college friends to expand my circle. We have both found some really fun groups on Meetup (both individually and as a couple), and continue to find cool stuff to do!

    Additionally, I have used Meetup as a way to expand my hobbies, and it's been great for that as well.

    I don't know if you have a dog, but we have made a ton of more casual acquaintences at our local dog park.

  6. After grad school I moved several states a way to a city I had never been to for a job. To make friends I joined the office softball team. Since i was by far the WORST player on the team (i am comically bad at sports) I got to know everyone pretty quickly. I'm still friends with the people on this team 6 years later even though I left the company.

    A few years ago I needed to get a second job to pay the bills. I got a job as a server at a local tavern. My closest friends now are people I met through this job. I even met my now husband while working.

    When I had my twins a few months ago I wanted to meet other moms (none of my friends have kids). I used twitter to meet some like minded moms and we have since started hanging out offline. Twitter has been a great way to meet people.

  7. I'd boil it down two things: Do something you like to do, but in a group setting and try something new. Like sports or running around outside? Find a kickball, soccer, volleyball, etc recreational team. Sign up for a class (language, dance, karate, cooking, knitting, etc). Volunteer.

    The other thing that has worked for me was trying to accept as many invitations as possible when I've just moved someplace new, even if they're outside my comfort zone.

    Good luck!

    • That second suggestion has been so true for me! After college I moved from NY, where I'd lived all my life, to California. I didn't know a soul out here, and I decided I was just going to say yes to any invitation to anything (unless, of course, it seemed creepy). I met so many people, including some of my best friends, by just going to events that I never would have typically attended and really consciously stepping outside my comfort zones.

      Just going into it with a really open, "say-yes-to-everything" attitude can make a huge difference.

      1 agrees
  8. Great tips; and I'll reiterate the idea of sticking with things you love to do so you can meet other people who have similar interests. We joined a book club through our local library and it's been awesome. If all else fails, push outside your comfort zone and do something new.

    1 agrees
  9. Others have already mentioned MeetUp, which is a great source for finding people with shard interests! In larger urban areas, that's great.

    My partner and I moved to a smaller city in MI a couple of years ago, and all the people we kept meeting were party-hard college kids. Not my style. I stumbled upon this website run by local folks my age, artsy/progressive types. I posted there to see if anyone had interest in starting either a book or supper club, and BOOM! I had a ton of interest.

    I'd maybe met one of the people who came to the support club in person before, but that little group got together regularly over the next 9 months, once a month, to cook amazing good food, drink drinks and hang out. Those folks make me miss MI terribly, and I'm so glad I just threw the invite out there.

    Good luck!

  10. I think it can be boiled down to two points:
    1. Join things.
    2. Accept every invitation (at least for the first month or two).

    Like others have said, meetup.com is a great place to find groups to join. Or perhaps something more structured like a class would be helpful if you're shy. Language classes might be a good choice, usually you have to talk to your classmates to practice the language and you get an excuse to ask personal questions (What sports do you play? Do you like to read? Where are you from?) under the guise of language learning. Plus there's usually lots of good bonding to be had over the silly mistakes and new sounds you're learning to make.

    • Yes to joining organizations and accepting invitations! I can sometimes be so shy at parties and events that I stand off to the side and look as though I really don't want anyone to talk to me! This is no good and it's not true. But when I'm actively doing something (in my most recent move it was soccer and volunteering) I automatically have something to talk about with the people around me. I've had friendships that began with phrases like "can you hand me that wrench?"

      Also, be open about being new to town. Asking for recommendations for restaurants or coffee shops will not only result in you finding those places faster it also opens the doors for people to include you in their "dinner with friends" plans and the like. No one assumes "That girl sure looks like she needs some help building up her social network. I should invite her along."

      1 agrees
      • I totally agree about asking for recommendations and stuff too. I'm really bad about this and then wonder why I never know any good restaurants… This is also a good tip for vacations. My parents are super chatty even just with the people working at the hotel and whatnot and always get great recommendations.

  11. Totally agree with all the suggestions and would just add – let it be known (either to the new friends that you make or if, lucky you, you know even just one person before hand) that you're up for any activity and you'd like to get to know people.

    At least in my experience, if you're eager to be included, people will want to include you.

  12. Great advice. I am moving to a new city in a month and was wondering the same sort of things. I will be seeking out LGBT, mommy and knitting groups!

  13. Art openings. There is usually wine served, lots of people show up, and over time, you start recognizing people. The art gives you something to talk about.

    Also, volunteer. Lots of opportunities to meet people with common interests if you're working on a project together.

  14. as folks have said, most importantly, do stuff. whatever your stuff is.

    one thing to note about that is that you may not make friends overnight. if you aren't going to make the first move, it may be a year of fencing class before someone says "hey, let's all go grab a beer after," and it may be another before y'all hang out more than that.

    but! that's okay (if it's okay), because you will make acquaintances almost immediately, and you will be doing something you enjoy, so it will still be fun, even if you don't make fast friends right off the bat.

    but also, get out of the house, even if you aren't doing a "thing." go to the coffee shop, the bar, your front porch, the bookstore. sometimes just being around people feels less lonely, even if you don't know any of them. and sometimes, when people are around, they talk to you ("excuse me, did i just see you looking at knit plant pockets – that is so cool!")

    2 agree
  15. I agree with special interest groups, and definitely with volunteer work. One other place to look for special interest groups in the realm of 'how to' classes – find a community center (or community college with a continuing education dept), those classes are fairly cheap, sometimes free/cost of materials only. Take a look at what they offer. Classes will run the gamut from crafty to sporty to life-skillsy. join a yoga class or a soccer team, learn how to knit or bind a book, take a cooking class or learn how to build a piece of furniture. Especially if the classes are multi-session, it'll take the pressure off & you can get to know people gradually, kind of like you would if you were actually still in school.

    Also – do some of the touristy things. It'll help you get familiar with the city & it's history, and when someone does invite you to go hang out with them somewhere, you'll have a better frame of reference as to *where* exactly they want to meet you. You might even meet new-comers like yourself on the excursions.

  16. this question is coming at a seriously awesome time in my life. it's really likely my husband and i will be moving to a new city (des moines actually!- let's be friends cat?) we've never lived outside of tulsa, OK. so glad someone is thinkin' what i'm thinkin'.

  17. If you are into photography and have a flickr account, check out Flickrmeets – I think most major cities or regions have a group like that. That's how I met one of my best friends – she was new to town, and started attending Flickrmeets. In my experience they're pretty laid-back, low-commitment, and have a huge cross-section of different sorts of people attending.
    But yes, I realize this falls under the same category as everyone else's advice – get out and do what you enjoy!

  18. Find a bar/pub/tavern where the locals hang out! This might be easier in a smaller town. My husband and I started playing Trivia once a week at a little Irish pub a few years ago. By now, the owners & wait staff know our names and drink orders, and we've made friends with a bunch of the regulars. It's kinda like Cheers!

  19. LARP! (is also a nerd) My husband and I are part of an (inter)national Live Action Roleplaying organization. We have met a number of our friends because, upon arriving in Ga, they looked up the local org gaming group (us) and decided to come out and play with us. Instant social group. A few of these people even stopped playing once they had established the social connections. They still managed to keep us all as friends though. The biggest advantage? If you move again, or even just travel, there will probably be a game near where you go with people who know (or at least know of) many of the same people you now know.

    • YES! LARP!

      I am a theatre lover/nerd/degree holder, and I think LARP'ing is amazing….my boyfriend on the other hand would rather play with real swords. Anyway, I think that LARP'ers are some of the most accepting people ever!

      Also, its fun to say. Larplarplarplarp.

    • Hmmm…. I suspect we are part of the same group… ;) Definitely an awesome thing for connecting with people from everywhere!

      PS: Anie- going to the event in New Orleans in a few weeks?

  20. Someone mentioned the possibility of Offbeat Empire meetups — you could always try posting the area you live in/are moving to on here and seeing if any of us happen to live in the same place :)

      • Small internet! I'm from Stafford! I live in Morgantown WV right now but all of my family and friends still live in the Stafford/Fredericksburg area!

        • Awesome! We've only been living here for about a month, but we lived in Quantico 2004-2007, so I'm *kind of* familiar with the area already.

          • I'm in Northeast Ohio…..anyone here?

  21. Check out stores for things you're interested in, especially the smaller ones. Comic book stores are one place to potentially encounter interesting people and to also find out what might be going on. Smaller book stores may have events like book talks.

    Talk to the people in the store. Usually good small business owners are willing to chat, especially if the store isn't super busy. Slip into the conversation that you're new to the area. Can they recommend a good restaurant, any other stores of X type, a good place to find organic apples, whatever floats your boat? They may mention events you can go to. Or someone else in the store may hear you and mention something. Smaller stores tend to be a bit more community-minded so it's a fun chance. Plus flyers in those stores are a great opportunity to hear about events you might enjoy.

    I say this as a woman who spent took 2 years or so to start making new friends when she moved and had just properly established a good friendship when I was moving away. This is what I wish I'd done more of.

  22. These are great suggestions, and come at a great time. My husband and I moved to Spokane last Saturday and know no one. And I'll be working at home for the first time. We need all the help we can get! Thanks everybody for your insight!

    • I'm just over in Coeur d'Alene. I see you've been in Spokane for a couple months now. I hope you're settling in. :)

  23. Great suggestions! I just moved back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, after having been gone for the last ten years, and found most of my friends from before have gone on their merry way with life. I can't rely solely on the couple of friends I still have from those days, nor do I always want to hang out with work people or my mom. I checked out meetup.com, thinking it was going to be only American…but lo and behold I found 2 great groups, and signed up to join both on the spot!

  24. Hey everyone:
    I just went to start a (North) Seattle Offbeat Empire Meetup Group and found that Meetup.com charges organizer dues. I'd love to and all, but, I'm really just not in the position to pay even a small chunk of change right now. Anybody else in the area up for it?

    • I paid the dues for the Meetup group that I started in my area… I am super poor, but maybe if mine goes well, I can help you out with dues?

    • How much are Dues? I'm also in North Seattle and might be able to spring for dues if there was interest.

      • When I signed up, it was $11.50 for one month, $27.00 for three months billed at once, and then whatever the next price was for six months. I just checked, and I don't know if they just changed the prices (and it must have *just* changed, because I started this group last nite), or if there's a thing where the first organizer dues paid are cheaper? but it's $19.00 for one month purchased at a time, three months for $45.00, and six months for $72.00. So, a lot more expensive than I had originally anticipated. Unless we garner a lot of interest quickly, this might not be the best plan. Christy mentioned Yelp, so I'll have to look into that…

    • I reaaaaaaally hope all you Seattlies are coming to see us at GeekGirlCon.

  25. Depending on the place, Yelp can be a good tool. It shows you cool places to try out, then you can write reviews and attend Yelp events–official and unofficial. After a major breakup I made a whole new group of friends through Yelp. What I liked best about it was that it wasn't all people with the same interests, because I like diversity in my friend group.

  26. I'm not shy so my usual "oh I met this really good friend on a public bus and that one at the swimming pool" probably won't help, but let's see:

    1.) join a club – pick your interest and internet search for clubs or meetups. It may take awhile to make an actual good one-on-one friend, but even if you don't get there immediately at least you are being social

    2.) find a place and become a "regular" – like a friendly coffeeshop (independent ones tend to have the easiest clientele to befriend). Again, even if you don't make great new buddies, having a place to go to where you know the cashier and some other customers well enough to say "hi" can combat loneliness.

    3.) Start a blog – no need to Twitter…start a local blog, even one about the trials and tribulations of being new in that city and shy (or any other local topic). Other locals will find it, comment, and you may make new friends (I did!)

    4.) Take a class – whatever you are interested in. See if you don't get to know some other students. Don't worry if it doesn't happen immediately – if you choose something with levels (such as a sport, yoga, a language) keep going and you'll see the same folks come back plus new faces. Sooner or later you're bound to make a friend or two.

    5.) Do stuff even alone – free concerts, wine tastings, activities you see fliers for. Even if you arrive alone, you might just meet someone there.

    6.) If you are a person of faith (I am not so I can't be of much help here) join the congregation of your choice. Tons of activities and chances to socialize.

  27. I feel your pain! I'm fortunate enough to have my husband, and some friends live close enough to visit once and a while, but when I first started my job in Philly I was painfully shy. Combine that with the fact that I lived about an hour from work (thanks to my husband's job, which was also an hour away from home), and I had a hard time making local friends. Over time I got to know people from work, so I'll go to lunch or happy hour once and a while. We're not quite on "Come over for Saturday's BBQ!" terms, but still a great way to be social.

    I only recently started trying to find my own local friends, though. I came across an Irish step dancing class that, after much hemming and hawing, I decided to "take a risk" and join on my own. After 8 weeks I'm still a bit fuzzy on names, but hey, I'm getting out on my own and chatting with new people (and the dancing is SO MUCH FUN)!!

    Just don't beat yourself up if you don't have 5 new BFFs within a week. We shy people can take a bit to open up, and if you're anything like me, you can be terribly awkward when talking to new people- in which case, I completely agree with the wine tasting suggestion. :-P

  28. My husband and I moved to DeKalb County, IL (far west of Chicago) from Charlotte, NC in January after living in the South for 7-10 years. We wanted to be closer to family and friends in the Chicago area, but in our town that we live in, we didn't really know anyone. So we decided to make our weekly (sometimes twice a week) activity bowling. Since then we've met a lot of great people, and now… the staff members purposely put us "Tuesday night people" together. :)

  29. Sign up for Couch Surfing and look for people in the area. It's not just for travelling – I just had soy chai and strawberries with a fellow couch surfer who lives around the corner from me (after four years of living in this neighbourhood and never talking to any neighbours, I found one in an online community. Weird, but cool!).

  30. If you'll be sharing your living quarters, having an extroverted roommate who has already lived in the area is a fast, easy way to meet a LOT of people in no time. It worked for me, anyway.

    One caveat: there's a fine line between "extrovert" and "party animal."

  31. Amanda – where in NE Ohio? I grew up in Kent and know a ton of people there, Akron, Cleveland, etc. Let me know where you are and maybe I can make some specific suggestions for you.

  32. Check out Meetup.com for groups who share an interest with you.

    After my divorce a few years back, I went and found out about monthly Doctor Who taverns in my area, and made a whole bunch of new friends.

  33. Keep in mind all of these suggestions are great, but if you're so shy you can't talk to strangers, none of them will work. That's been my problem, and something I'm still working on. Here's just a couple of things that sometimes work for me. 1. Get comfortable smiling a lot. Make it your default face.If you look mean & unapproachable, guess what? No one will approach you. 2. Compliment someone. Just start doing it randomly til it becomes a habit. Then when you're in a situation where you're doing something you love with a group, you'll be comfortable saying at least something to a stranger at that point.
    Also remember we are what we decide we'll be, but all of our traits are just habits. Stop labeling yourself as a shy person, change your label. Then start building new habits to fit your new label.
    I'd also suggest making friends with someone real gregarious. I was fortunate enough to find outgoing roomates through craigslist when I first moved to Albuquerque. I don't live with them anymore, but we're still close friends and I've met so many other friends through them.
    Good luck!!

    • Good point!

      Also – along those lines, having several housemates can also really help. 3 x circle of friends is a lot more people than 1 x circle of friends.

      Lastly: if you're like me, you always assume everyone else is busy or has no interest in getting together with you. But usually people are thrilled to be invited over – you would be, right?

  34. I tend to stick far away from meetup websites, but that's probably due to the fact that I watch way too much Law and Order: SVU. My husband and I moved from NY to CA a year and a half ago, and even though he's made a few friends, I have yet to make any that I feel comfortable calling "friends." One or two I guess that I can be like, hi what's up, but nothing major. Moving to this city was my first time moving out of the home I grew up in, and I had never even been here until I moved here. I'm probably as shy as it gets, and incredibly awkward when it comes to talking to new people. I do have my husband and two cats though, that's good enough for friends right? Wrong, I still feel lonely sometimes. I love this city, don't get me wrong, but sometimes being a hermit just isn't what I want to do. And, being on a tight budget where I can't really go out doesn't help. If I could find someone who loves couponing, taxidermy and baby animals, but can still get my messed up sense of humor, that would be great. Am I asking too much for a friend I've yet to meet?

  35. OK maybe I'm just not on the twitter bandwagon, but I do have an account. How do you meet people using Twitter??

    2 agree
    • I was going to ask this too, but I don't even have an account so I figured that would be a good start. Glad to know it's not just me, though!

  36. I met a bunch of awesome people when I volunteered at a museum. It helped me meet people and build my resume at the same time. Finding a volunteer activity related to your field could be a good option if you're just out of school!

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