When you’re a child, it’s easy to make friends. There’s the proximity thing—the people you go to preschool and elementary school with are going to become your friends—but there’s the added bonus that your parents do most of the work for you, arranging playdates and bringing you wherever they’ve decided that you’re going. I’m fairly certain that parents pick their child’s friends based on the other child’s parents. (Sidenote: If you’re a parent, there’s your excuse to find a new friend!)
Making friends when you’re in high school, college, and even graduate school is also decently easy. You’re surrounded by people your own age, who are at least vaguely interested in the same things (you’re all getting an education at the same school, after all), and you see the same people if not every day, then at least weekly. When you’re spending that much time with the same people, you’re bound to find someone to talk to, study with, or hang out with outside of school.
But what about when you’re done with school and you’re living on your own for the first time? You may still have friends from college or high school, but chances are that you’re not all living in the same place anymore. People go their separate ways after graduating (which is awesome because it will give you a network of people around the country to visit whenever you have time off) and you’re left relatively alone, especially if you move to a new city.
So how do you find your local friend soulmates? Here are five ways to make friends as an adult:
1. Befriend your neighbors.
Your neighbors are your proximity friends, whether they live in the same building or on the same block. When someone new moves in, make cookies or buy a plant and deliver it to them as a “Welcome to the neighborhood!” gift. They’re not likely to forget your kindness, and you’ll have broken the ice. That way, when you see them again in the parking lot or walking the dog, you can have a real conversation, and conversations lead to friendship!
If you’re not the type to put yourself out there by knocking on a stranger’s door, make an effort to go to events that are local to your neighborhood. Some complexes hold Super Bowl viewing parties; others have holiday parties, pool parties, or tasting events. If you get an email or see a flyer about something, RSVP and go! You’ll meet other people who live close to you, and you can bond over the common ground of the event, even if you’re only in it for the free food!
- Proof it works: When I first moved to the Washington D.C. area, I knew no one. My husband and I started attending events held by my neighborhood complex—adult pool parties, wine tastings, Christmas events—and eventually came to know another couple well, so well enough that we took an international vacation together.
2. Stay local.
If you only do your grocery shopping at the store that’s 20 minutes away from your house, you’re unlikely to accidentally bump into any of your neighbors. If you go to a gym across town—one that’s not near your job or your home—you’re not going to see anyone you know. If you go to the coffee shop down the hill from your neighborhood, though, or the gym that’s a part of your apartment complex, you’re going to run into people who live near you and whom you have a chance of seeing on a semi-regular basis.
Once you’ve seen the same person more than once, start a conversation. “I’ve seen you in here a few times. Do you live nearby?” is a great opener. You could also make a comment specific to your location. Once you’ve started chatting, let it flow naturally. There’s no need to get the details of someone’s address when you first meet (plus it’s creepy). At the end, ask if they’d like to meet for coffee or go to a workout class together next time.
- Proof it works: My current best friend? We met because my husband met her husband at the neighborhood gym, and then we ran into each other at Target.
3. Go to a meet-up.
Meet-ups are the adult version of playdates, but they typically revolve around a theme (crafts, games, drinking, book club). You might find an actual meet-up through meetup.com, but meet-ups can also be hosted by alumni associations, fraternal organizations, or local shops. Watch your inbox for invitations from your alma mater or any other organizations you belong to, and pay attention to flyers when you’re out shopping.
Meet-ups are great because you’ll automatically have something in common with the people who attend. By going to a book club, you’ll find other people with an interest in reading. By going to an alumni event, you’ll find other people who graduated from your former institution. It’s going to be awkward to walk into a room of strangers, but the common ground makes conversation easier.
- Proof it works: I was dragged to a Harvard event last year where I mingled with other people who went or were currently going to Harvard (unlike myself). I mostly kept quiet, but ended the night talking to one young couple in particular. He is now taking classes with my husband, and we meet up for dinner with both of them every couple of months.
4. Join an adult sports team.
Most cities have adult sports leagues through which you can sign up to play soccer, ultimate frisbee, bocce ball, basketball, kickball, dodgeball, and any number of other sports. If you want to get active and meet people at the same time, signing up to play a sport is a great step!
As a note, most leagues do charge a small fee (in the ballpark of $100) for you to play, which covers renting green space and having referees. It’s a small price to pay if you end up making some new friends!
- Proof it works: My husband and next door neighbor have been playing in the same recreational adult soccer league for three consecutive seasons and there’s no end in sight!
5. Make a work friend.
If you work in an office or with other people in any capacity, befriend a coworker. They don’t have to become your best friend outside of work, but having someone to chat with over your lunch break breaks up the monotony of sitting in a cubicle all day. If you don’t want to make friends with someone who works for your company (it can be hard not to gossip, after all, and you want to be a professional), make friends with someone who works in the same building, takes the same public transit route, or eats at the same lunch spot.
- Proof it works: When I was a TA in graduate school, the class I was teaching had seven other subsections. I befriended one of the other TAs—it helped that we realized a lot of commonalities outside of geosciences once we started talking—and we started going to cooking classes outside of work. We now live in different states, but make an effort to see each other any time we’re in the same town.
How will you make your next friend?