Have you had to think about how to make new friends as a grown up? I’ve seen so many articles and updates recently about the struggles of making new friends when you get older (Psychologies, The Pool) and a few readers have asked me about it as they are also moving to a new area. I really don’t think getting to know people has to be harder as you get older at all, especially with social media, there are so many ways to make new friends.
I think as you get older you care less about making an idiot of yourself or what people think of you, and that makes it easier to get to know new people. When it comes to socialising we’re all afraid of making the first move, but we’re all so grateful when someone does.
It’s still early days since we moved, but I feel quite at home now, a mixture of renewing childhood friendships, keeping friendships from our old town going in new ways, and being open to meeting new people and being part of a new place. Slow and steady is absolutely fine, and baby steps lead to giant leaps.
Hope these ideas are useful, I’ve also shared some tips on keeping old friendships going after a move.
Discovering a new area with someone who knows it can be fun. I was following at least 3 people who lived not far from my new area, and as we prepared to move our comments naturally moved to recommendations for things to do and places to go and then to meeting up. It’s amazing how much you have in common when you can talk ‘in instagram squares’, we had so many reference points that talking in real life felt like joining up the dots. I also like looking at local hashtags as I learn so much about the area and find some inspiring people to follow.
Facebook local groups are an easy way to plug into local knowledge. Search local towns and villages and click on the groups tab. It took me a few months to pipe up in my local town’s mum’s facebook group asking for running clubs or buddies, but I got a brilliant response, I ended up with running buddies, insights on the local running club, plus a new exercise class which is small and social, exactly what you need when you are new to an area.
Pick something you are passionate about and you are bound to meet other people who share your interests. I did a silver clay course recently, and if I had been local to that area I feel sure I would have seen some of the other participants again. As it is, we’ve kept in touch via instagram. Even if you don’t make friends for life, a course gets you out of the house, chatting to other people and doing something constructive with that awkward transition to a new place time.
I love that most the parents in our small village playground smile and said hello to everyone else, but the leap from saying hello each day to actually getting to know people is more tricky. When you are the new one sometimes it is you who has to make the first move, which can feel a bit counter intuitive. We sent invites to come and play to a few children and soon got to know other parents. I joined the PTA, and volunteered to help at school events. Anything you can do to make yourself a more familiar face and show you are keen to be part of the community helps. It is the weirdest feeling at first, but I do feel at ease in the playground now.
Lots of kids clubs rely on parents helpers, Scout and sports clubs especially seem to be a great way to make yourself useful, meet other parents and feel a bit more part of something.
Ask the Universe
Chances are you have friends who have friends in the new area. One of my friend’s husband’s friends grew up in our nearest village and although I haven’t actually met this person, it did remind me how small the world is and how few degrees of separation there are! Another friend has an ex colleague who lives in the next town and our work overlaps a little, we’ve been saying we will meet up, but have chatted on the phone. An intro could be all you need to help you discover a new area.
Get a dog
Dogs are a brilliant passport to chatting to people, especially big long legged soppy greyhounds for some reason, to be honest though, just taking a stroll can be enough to get your face recognised, especially in a small place.
Go to the local pub
The first person I met on my first dog walk in a nearby village was the ex landlady of the local. She was full of all sorts of useful information. We’ve visited a few locals now, I’ve discovered pub owners take an interest and are great at making you feel like you actually live somewhere when you don’t quite feel it yourself.
Make your own village
When we arrived to view our new house, which is stranded between several villages, the previous owner talked about the joy of making your own village. That idea stuck with us. If we couldn’t see them every day, we would make more time to have friends over to stay.
Having friends on your doorstep definitely helps you to settle, but moving doesn’t have to mean the end of old friendships. But you have to work at them.
Your oldest friends can really help you to feel rooted and a sense of familiar when they come and visit you in a new place.
We found some of our old friendships actually strengthened after we moved, because spending a day together or a weekend gives you chance to really bond, share a day out or an experience, or cook together. Inviting people into your home is a really special thing, and feels really different to meeting in the pub or at the school gate in the same town week after week. (Open invitation there to all my Notts friends, and it’s ok to invite yourself too!)
Other times, I found I had to put more effort in, because when you aren’t visible or geographically near people naturally start to forget you, or feel you have moved on. It is important to accept you will have to work hard at first to build new ways to keep in touch. Chances the people you have left behind feel a bit lonely and lost without you too.
Moving can even bring you nearer to old friends you have lost touch with, although it takes time to fit into people’s lives again so don’t rush people.