Moving can be a challenging transition, especially relocating to an unfamiliar city full of strangers. One of the biggest challenges in adjusting to a new area is making acquaintances and building a social network there.
People are inherently social creatures, meaning we need socialization and connection with other humans to sustain optimal mental health. Being in a new environment without a social network can increase the tendency to isolate and withdraw from others.
People who are challenged by mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, or who are in recovery from substance use disorders like alcohol or opioid addiction, can have more difficulty socially adapting. Even people who are naturally extroverted can initially feel uncomfortable meeting and connecting with strangers in a new city.
Here are five ways to develop a social life in a new city without letting challenges such as social anxiety and shyness get in the way of getting to know new and interesting acquaintances.
1. Explore and Expand Your Personal Interests
Moving can be a stressful transition, during which it is important to prioritize mental health. Studies on the neurobiology of social behavior have shown that socialization is critical to our mental and emotional health. Feeling connected with others and to ourselves can help us stay grounded and balanced during a transitional phase of life.
People also have to pay attention to their values and interests, and not lose sight of those in a new social setting. If you know sports is one of your passions that makes you feel good about life, finding people with those common interests can increase your sense of identity, authenticity, and connection.
You might consider joining a local rec league, club, yoga class, art class, or another group centered on your personal interests to find like-minded individuals.
2. Join an Online Social Group
Getting involved through online forums such as Meetup, Eventbrite, and Foursquare can be a gentle segway into increasing your social life in a new city. Meetup is an online platform that is designed to help people find and build networks in their local communities. There are opportunities to meet new people online or in person, if you’re more comfortable starting with virtual groups before meeting offline.
3. Online communities offer a variety of interests and activities, including:
- Outdoor recreation
- Trivia and board games
- Cultural groups
- Book clubs
- Writing groups
- Foreign language learning
- Food and wine clubs
- Running clubs
- Recreational sports
4. Support Local Businesses
Shopping at local food co-ops and farmers markets instead of going to chain supermarkets to stock up on groceries is a nice way of getting to know your neighborhood and supporting local businesses at the same time. Supermarkets are less personal than local stores, where people who shop there are friendlier with each other and welcoming to new faces.
Small food co-ops also provide social value, serving as places where people can put up flyers for local events such as neighborhood block parties. If you’re a natural introvert and feel reluctant about introducing yourself to new people, you can naturally encounter more social opportunities by bumping into your neighbors every time you go grocery shopping.
5. Reach Out Through Social Networks
Social networks from your past are very helpful resources for establishing and developing new ones. Reaching out to old friends or acquaintances from a social network of former alumni or colleagues can help get you introduced to people in a new city who have mutual connections.
Not only will you meet people who share something in common with you, but you’ll also have mutual contacts so the first interactions aren’t as awkward as they might be between two complete strangers. It is also nice to meet other people who are also new in town and might be just as shy yet eager to overcome their social reservations.
Not only is local volunteer work a natural way of meeting others in your new community, but studies also show that volunteering can positively affect mental health. Volunteering is an expression of social trust, or faith in humanity and good human will.
In urban areas where it can be challenging to make friends and personal connections, opportunities to develop social trust and social good are beneficial for those who volunteer and their communities as a whole.