Moving to a new city is hard. It’s easy to pretend you’re brave and adventurous, but while you’re telling people how excited you are, it’s likely that your actual thoughts about the whole ordeal are an anxious mess. Leaving your life behind, the move itself, and the settling in period are stressful and emotionally draining. For many introverts, there’s an additional worry: how am I going to make good friends?
This problem isn’t exclusive to introverts. But in order to make meaningful friendships, you usually have to give yourself lots of opportunities to interact with people. Extroverts are generally able to create more of these opportunities.
The options for settling into a new city may seem pretty grim for an introvert: either give up your downtime to small talk with strangers, or be a happy recluse. Honestly, the second option is always the most tempting, but it turns out that having friends is awesome. So how do you get from Point A (reluctant acceptance that hermitdom is not the answer) to Point B (having consistent and meaningful social connections)? My suggestion is to fake extroversion. Just for a little while, I promise. Here are some tips for becoming a short-term, extroverted introvert:
Be a “yes” person
This will be tiring (and probably expensive), but it’s worth it to invest some initial time and energy and say yes to as many social invitations as you can. This doesn’t have to be extreme; rest before you go out, and don’t feel compelled to stay at events the whole time. It’s ok to say you’re tired and leave early; in the first few months in a new place, it’s good just to show up and connect with a few people.
You’ll likely spend the rest of your spare time recharging, but you’ll be rewarded with more options for friendships. After some time, you can relax and create your own schedule with the people you’ve clicked with.
Where do I even find people?
Sometimes, a move can come with a pre-made group of friends, like when you start a new school program and click with your classmates. Most often, this isn’t the case. Thanks to the internet though, it’s much easier to find people to hang out with.
Meetup.com is great. With social groups based on interests (e.g. hiking, being gay, speaking French), it’s easy to ‘find your people’ (their motto, but it’s true). Events are drop-in based, so there are always new people there. Plus, there are no expectations for you to go regularly. If a dinner sounds intimidating, why not skip it and go to a laser tag event where you can have fun with less pressure to chat?
Facebook has some great social groups too. I joined a lesbian group when I moved to Seoul, which led to camping weekends, nights out, a book club, and connections to other groups and events. There were tons of other (non-gay) groups that were easy to find through a simple Facebook search.
There are so many perks to befriending outgoing folks! They are generally eager to make friends, you don’t have to worry too much about carrying the conversation, and they can introduce you to lots of people. Ok, I’m not suggesting you take advantage of their social prowess, just that you shouldn’t be intimidated by it! What can you offer in return? Balance! Listen, offer support when you can, and don’t forget to reciprocate once you get comfortable. Whether you invite them to hang out or suggest group events, they won’t want to be the inviter/initiator *all* the time.
Balance your time with activities that give your introverted self energy. This may not be easy, given that you’ll be juggling work and/or school with lots of social activities (since you are being a yes person), but it’s important to squeeze in regular walks, Netflix binges, or whatever recharges you. If you make plans every weeknight, try to book most of the weekend off for yourself. If you have a full weekend, keep the week free.
Or… don’t fake it.
Acting extroverted when you move to a new city isn’t about changing who you are, it’s just about stepping further outside of your comfort zone. If you can make meaningful connections sooner, you’ll probably have an easier transition. But there’s nothing wrong with being true to yourself, giving yourself lots of downtime, and taking your time to meet people!
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