I lived in my last town for nineteen years; I had a few friends. I’ve lived in Columbia for a year, and I now have more friends than I can count. It’s a bigger town by quite a bit, so the pool is much larger, but I also think that it’s easier to make friends in this town. How to do it? There are many ways, but here are my top ten:
What better way is there to meet people? You find yourself working side-by-side with someone new, sometimes doing mindless tasks that allow you to share your entire life history. Before you know it, they are buying you lunch and you are inviting them to your big anniversary party. Happy ending! As a hospice volunteer, I don’t actually make friends while volunteering, but there is hope for the rest of you.
GO TO THE GYM
or the yoga studio or the walking club or whatever. Choose a physical activity where you aren’t panting too hard to talk. By the end of my second water aerobics class, I had a job offer; by the end of my first real yoga class, I had a lunch invitation.
HANG OUT IN THE STREET
The car traffic on my street is seriously outnumbered by the foot, bicycle, stroller, paw, and wagon traffic. It helps that I have an adorable dog who thinks that everyone he sees is his new best friend, but animals are not necessary. I met Jen on the street one day when I was biking home and she was returning from the park with her children. We chatted for an hour and now we go dancing together.
JOIN A CLUB
There are so many possibilities here: How about that group that meets at the Heidelberg to work on their conversational French skills? Or the many service clubs? Or that crazy multisport club that I first encountered when dozens of them were dressed as smurfs? Or even the raw foodists? Check meetup.com for informal clubs and groups or start your own!
GO TO CHURCH
or meditation or temple or synagogue or a pagan gathering or whatever! The options in this town are vast. Once you find a place that feels like home, you will know that you have at least one thing in common with everyone else there. That’s a good place to start.
GET A JOB
I hear that the workplace can be a good place to meet people. I don’t have a job, but I do have some things that I do for free that can be considered work and that allow me to walk up to perfect strangers and start talking to them…like writing for the CoMo Collective.
FIND A HOBBY
Or just a way to interact with others while doing your hobby. My hobby is biking, and I mostly do it by myself or with my husband. We decided to join Off Track Events‘ group rides before we discovered the event mastermind living next door. At our first event as Columbia residents we made friends and got numbers, even though we were both dressed in wedding dresses. There are tons of events in Columbia all year long; anyone can find something that appeals.
TAKE A CLASS
I am currently taking a class at the Career Center that is chock-full of potential friends. I happen to know that several of the people from the previous session formed their own little club when their class ended and became very good friends. Other great options for classes in Columbia (aside from the university and colleges) are Inside Columbia’s Culinary Adventures, Columbia Art League, Access Arts, and the library.
Yep, stay home, but for this one to work you have to open the doors. We moved into our new home in August; in September we invited all the neighbors over. It was a bit of a whirlwind–meeting that many new people in the span of about three hours–but we quickly learned who was interested in meeting us (nine out of twenty-two families) and who we wanted to get to know better (to start with: everyone named Kate).
For our next neighborhood party, on St. Patrick’s Day, we invited those people and asked them to bring friends (and a dish to share). The food was awesome (Grilled cheese with pickles! Irish soda bread! Beer cheese!), and there were eight new (to us) people walking around our house wearing nametags showing their temporary Irish names. All you need for this one is something to drink, something to eat, and a semi-clean house. What could be easier?
Sometimes friendship opportunities arise when least expected. The Columbia Welcome lady? She could be your awesome new friend. The lady massaging the kinks out of your back? Ditto. The homeless guy on the corner? It’s possible. I’ve made friends in all of those cases, and it was just a matter of reaching out first. You’ll never know if you don’t try.