Moving house can be a major upheaval at the best of times – no wonder it's often described as one of life's most stressful events. But if you've relocated to a new town, city or even country to further your career, you may suddenly find yourself far from friends and family.
The last time the Office for National Statistics examined how many people moved within Britain for job reasons was in 2003. But even back then around 10 - 11% of the working-age population changed their address each year, and around 2% moved to a different region. But many who relocate to pursue their career goals can experience loneliness as a result of living somewhere new – and it can affect the partners and children who move with them too.
Making friends and building new social circles when you move to a new location may sound daunting. But there are lots of things you can do to help things along. Here are a few suggestions:
Don't stay at home
When you move to a new location it may be tempting to stay at home as much as possible. That way you don't have to worry about feeling awkward in social situations where you don't know anybody. But getting out of the house is essential, at least in the early days.
You could eat at a cafe or restaurant instead of getting a takeaway, go out for coffee instead of brewing your own, visit the library instead of buying books online or take a walk to the local park instead of working out to an exercise DVD in your living room. Look for any reason to get out and about and mixing with others – after all, you'll never broaden your social circle by locking yourself away.
Get to know co-workers
If you've moved to a new place for work, the obvious place to start forming new friendships is at your new office. You'll already have one thing in common with your new co-workers, so try to start conversations with them during breaks, and always accept invitations to after-work events and get-togethers.
Even if you don't make any great friends at the office, at least you'll feel more at ease during work hours if you make an effort to get to know those around you. Studies also show people with friends at work are more productive and take fewer sick days than those who prefer to be alone.
If you find yourself getting along with a few co-workers really well, try suggesting going out to lunch or plan social activities with them after office hours or at weekends. You may find this will lead you to more people who you would like to socialise with.
It's also a good idea to get to know other people in your industry who work in other organisations. Look out for industry events such as conferences, trade shows, talks, lectures and networking events, as these are ideal places to make new connections both personally and professionally.
Meet other parents
If you have children they'll probably find it easy to make friends at their new school. Inviting your children's new friends to your home means you'll meet and get to know their parents.
If you're responsible for taking your children to school, try talking to the other parents at the school gates. You may also want to think about getting involved with your children's new school in some capacity – perhaps consider joining the parent-teacher association or, if time permits, volunteer to help out at school events. Other places you may run into other parents include parks, playgrounds, libraries and sports clubs.
Introduce yourself to your neighbours
Your local neighbourhood is also an ideal place to meet people and strike up new friendships. Give your neighbours a smile and say ‘hello' when you see them out and about, and think about introducing yourself once you're comfortable with saying ‘hi'. Ask them lots of questions about the area and show an interest in them and what they do. People usually love it when someone shows an interest in them, so it's a great way to break the ice.
Join a club
Taking part in classes, groups and clubs is also a perfect way to meet others. Not only will you automatically see them on a regular basis, but you'll share an interest, hobby or passion with them too. It may seem awkward when you start, but after a while you won't feel so self-conscious. One strategy you could use is to say ‘yes' to any invitation to joint activities you receive from people you work with or neighbours. Or you could try searching for a club or group that suits your interests on MeetUp.com.
Sports activities and workout classes can be useful if you're interested in fitness and want to meet others who are too. Try arriving early if you want to start chatting with someone, as many people tend to rush home after exercising. If you like singing, think about joining a choir or a singing group, as researchers have found people who sing together bond more quickly than those who go to creative writing or craft classes.
Become a culture vulture
If you've moved to a new city and you're interested in art, music, theatre or literature, find out about the cultural events that are taking place all around you, such as art exhibitions, opening nights, concerts, museum tours, book readings, talks and festivals. There's bound to be something taking place that you're interested in – plus who knows who you might meet.
Give up your time
Volunteering for a charity, campaign or cause you feel passionate about isn't just good for those you're trying to help, it's good for your wellbeing too. And it's a great way to meet others who have the same interests and values as you do. Putting yourself out for others can also make you more approachable and interesting, and by boosting your mood it will also make you feel more sociable and inclined to make new friends.
Once you've met lots of new people you're interested in, make sure you stay in touch with them. Don't be afraid to ask for their telephone number or email address and follow up with them every now and then. Try to get into the habit of calling, texting and messaging your new acquaintances once every week or so, and invite them to meet up with you socially after work hours or during the weekend.
Then when you've built a new social circle, try to remember what it was like to be the new person in town and welcome new neighbours and work colleagues who were once in your position. By helping others to feel included, you'll make even more new friends and social connections.
Moving can be stressful, and if you're feeling isolated it can make you miserable. So if you're finding it hard to adjust to a new location or situation, we're always here when you need a friendly voice to chat to. Call us on +44 (0) 1788 556 366 or chat to an advisor online for advice and to find out about our range of free emotional support services.