“I don’t write your address in ink anymore; I have to keep changing it.” remarked one of my friends when I told her about another move our family would be making. What can I say? I married a successful businessman who sometimes takes risks. Nineteen moves have been exciting but overwhelming at times. The biggest problem I’ve dealt with is saying goodbye to old friends and finding new friends while having to memorize another zip code. For those who think they’re diving off the deep end or are following one of their spouse’s crazy ideas, I offer ten tips below to help meet people and develop new friendships.
Tip 1: Don’t unpack all the boxes right away.
Get out and mingle. If you don’t emerge until 6 months later, even the neighbors will forget they have a new neighbor or they will think you are unfriendly.
Tip 2: Fake the friendliness.
If you’re not in a cheerful mood, just remember making a first impression can’t be undone. Be approachable.
Tip 3: Call the Welcome Wagon Organization.
They are connected to newcomers clubs. Those you meet at a welcome tea have probably relocated in the last three years too and know what it’s like to move. You will find them very hospitable. Also, the “club” structure creates an instant social life. Newcomers have book clubs, bridge groups and lunch bunch groups. You will learn lots about your new town when you go to these meetings. Call Welcome Wagon if they haven’t contacted you.
Tip 4: Call your old friends to connect, not whine.
It’s important for you to talk to old friends who know you. It gets weary to keep explaining who you are as you meet new people. You do need to vent and good friends have listening ears. Just don’t become a “Debbie Downer”. Keeping your attitude positive will get you adjusted much faster.
Tip 5: Don’t compare.
Try not to compare this location with the last location. No one in your new town wants to hear how wonderful the weather was in South Carolina during a New England blizzard.
Tip 6: Look for friends anywhere.
Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, the PTA or the grocery store are starting points. When I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina I found many people in our local Starbucks and Barnes and Noble store very chatty. Churches are good but it sometimes takes longer to connect. Just be on the lookout for friendly people as you go through your day. For long term, join a tennis or golf club, volunteer at the local library or coach for the local recreation department. Look up you college alumni group and become involved. My sister-in-law Susan, an avid history buff, insists by joining a local historical society you meet lots of interesting people across the board and learn things about your community you’d never have known.
Tip 7: Take time.
Don’t jump into any big commitments. If you don’t have to work right away, concentrate on finding quality friends. You need people in your life right away so the sooner you get started the better. This is not the time to procrastinate. Let the adrenaline of change propel you to seek new relationships. If you don’t start this process early, I can guarantee you will crash and burn in a few months.
Tip 8: Make the first move.
If you sense you are connecting with someone, ask them to join you for a cup of coffee. If they have enough friends (and I ask you, who has enough friends in life), just move on to the next person on you list. Life is too short to obsess why one particular relationship didn’t click.
Tip 9: Be patient.
Remember, it takes time to enter people’s lives. People are busy because they haven’t been unplugged from their life like you. Don’t feel hurt if people can’t fit you into their schedule. Be patient. Maybe you could meet someone for lunch if they work. There are always people open to friendships; it just takes perseverance to seek them out.
Tip 10: You will have friends.
In all of my 19 moves, I have made friends. Some places have been easier to break into than others. I haven’t been able to keep up with all of them but I have some rich memories. At my fiftieth surprise birthday party, I looked around the room and saw friendships from several chapters of my life. That night friends and family from California, Chicago and Michigan greeted me. Many people I met through the simple routine of daily living: neighborhood, Girl Scout meetings, Bible studies and work. I went to bed that night feeling my cup had overflowed.