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

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A Conversation with Phillis Wheatley

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?

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 😛

  3. 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. 🙂

  4. 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!).

  5. 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.”

  6. 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.

  7. Check out 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

    • 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!

  10. 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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