Answered by Meagan Maher, online english tutor
If you've never moved to a new city alone before, it can be intimidating, but it's actually pretty easy to meet people. Most people who are traveling want to meet other travelers, and locals are often curious to talk with you and happy to show you around as well. My biggest recommendations are to be open-minded, friendly, and yourself. That in mind, below are some of the ways I meet people when moving to a new city:
How I've Met People Ahead of Time
I post my travel/relocation plans on Couchsurfing and reach out to locals ahead of time. Chatting with locals is a great way to learn about the food, neighborhoods, weather, and what kinds of things there are to do for fun. The Couchsurfing community is generally fantastic; on multiple occasions locals have seen my post and reached out to me first with recommendations and offers to hang out. There are sketchy people everywhere though; use common sense and don't agree to do things like bring mail into another country for someone you've never met.
I've never used Couchsurfing to reach out to other travelers ahead of time, but that's an option too.
Facebook Travel Groups
I join Facebook groups that are relevant to what I'm doing (Girls Love Travel, Beyond Her Atlas, Expats in [City], Digital Nomads of [City], VIPKID Teachers Who Travel, Freelance Writers...you get the picture). You can join the groups that make sense for you. Ask for recommendations on how to find housing/what to pack/safety tips. When you get there, say you want to grab coffee/go on a hike/have a work date/go out dancing and ask if anyone is interested in joining you. Once you've gotten to know the area, help some newbies with their questions.
I know this one probably seems unusual, but it was a gem the one time I used it. When I knew I was heading to Colombia, I searched â€œpeacebuilding in BogotÃ¡â€ (I studied peacebuilding) on Google and found a list of professors at a university in BogotÃ¡. I headed to LinkedIn, looked them all up, and messaged the professor with the most complete profile. He agreed to meet with me, introduced me to his colleagues and to students who were studying what I studied, and invited me to sit in on classes and to tag along on a field trip to a peace community. Depending on what your professional interests are, it may be worth it to give LinkedIn a shot.
Whenever I move to a new city, I ask myself if I know anyone there or if I have friends who have been there and may know people who are still there. If a friend of a friend (of a friend) is living where I'm going, I ask to be put in touch. Most of the time it doesn't occur to people who haven't moved to a new city alone that it's nice to have some sort of connection in the place you're heading, so I recommend being proactive here and initiate relationships. A Facebook status along the lines of â€œHeading to Chiang Mai in September! Has anyone been or know people who have been? Looking for recommendations :)â€ can be surprisingly helpful if no one is coming to mind right away. Worst case: no one responds or your friends give you fake answers. Best case: you meet some of your future best friends.
How I've Met People Once There
Roommates and Neighbors
This is one of the more obvious, natural, and technology-free routes. If I'm somewhere for a short amount of time, I'll normally stay in a hostel, where it's common to strike up conversations with people in your dorm room or in the common areas and explore the city with them. I've also made friends with hostel staff, which is cool because they typically know the area really well. Staying at a hostel while apartment searching is a cool option because you get to be in a social environment while you're brand new in town.
When staying in apartments for a few months, I've become close with roommates and people who lived in the same apartment building as me. Be friendly and talk to the people you see on a daily basis. Speaking of which...
I Go Do Activities and Talk to People
I like dancing and yoga and doing new things. So I meet people in salsa classes, out dancing, at yoga, while scuba diving, etc. I've made friends while waiting for stir fry and while eating nachos at a burrito place popular among expats. If you're able to, go do your work at a cafÃ© and talk to people (just don't annoy people while they are trying to do work). Go out into the world and do the things that make you happy because you will be surrounded by people who have things in common with you. Even if all you have in common is a love for eating nachos, you can make a friend to hit up when you want a buddy to eat nachos with you.
The Couchsurfing App has a cool hangout feature that I use to meet up with people. You basically flip a switch and say you want to go to the beach, take a walk, grab lunch, etc. and wait for people to ask to hang out with you. You can also see what other people want to do and ask to hang out with anyone you'd like.
Some people seem to think this is a dating app; just be aware of that. If you think the other person is giving off weird sexual vibes, they are. Sorry. Unless you're into it. Then go for it? Which brings us toâ€¦
Dating Apps and Websites
I've used OkCupid and Tinder in the past to meet people in a new city. This is actually my least favorite way to meet people because I've found that I have to sift through too many people I don't enjoy interacting with to find cool people, but it's an option. Some people must love it, or else it wouldn't exist, right?
A Note on Safety
I've already touched on this, but when meeting people, obviously remember to take care of yourself. I know it's easy to throw caution to the wind and YOLO while traveling, but it's probably not a great idea to get into a stranger's car to go anywhere (I've totally done it. Doesn't mean it was a good idea. Sorry, Mom). Keep in mind that â€œstranger dangerâ€ applies to both men and women; I recently heard of a dude who was robbed by a woman who was supposedly taking him back to her place.
In the words of a good friend I made while in Colombia, â€œDon't talk to strangers. No, mentira (No, lie). Talk to them. They are nice.â€ Strangers can be great. Strangers can turn out to be some of your favorite people. Just be careful and listen to your gut.
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