When I first moved to Charlotte four and a half years ago, it was my fifth city in four years. Besides getting really good at packing boxes, I learned first hand the complexities of making friends as an adult.
An important takeaway I got from living in so many places is it usually takes at least a year to acclimate and make real friends. Unfortunately, that was usually when I was about to leave a town.
The default for many young people is to find friends at work. While I’ve certainly made connections that way, I’ve mostly joined smaller organizations with offices of 20 people or fewer (all of my jobs in Charlotte have been in that category). It limits the pool.
That can be incredibly lonely. I remember crying to my husband about 20 months into our time in Charlotte that I had no friends. This was right after someone I wanted to be better friends with canceled plans on me.
I was a religious watcher (and rewatcher) of Sex and the City in college, and I think I always hoped for that type of strong bond with other women. The kind where you make time for each other no matter what else happens.
I still wouldn’t say that I have a best friend in Charlotte (that distinction goes to my college roommate who lives in Virginia), but I do have friends I would call for just about any occasion — whether it’s watching Scandal or running 12 miles. And that’s pretty darn good.
What changed? I really had to step out of my comfort zone. And luckily, I have a supportive husband who pointed me in the right direction with suggestions for groups.
I started by joining a Meetup group for young professional women. I was involved for a couple of years and would attend dinners about once a month throughout the city. I’ve also made good friends through church and workout groups.
Here are some of my best suggestions for meeting new people who aren’t your future significant other:
- Learn something new. One of my main hobbies is cooking, and I’ve invited friends I want to know better to take classes with me. So far in Charlotte I have tried a class with Chef Alyssa and another at Whole Foods. If cooking isn’t your thing, try a class with SkillPop and learn anything from hand lettering or photography to novel writing or marketing strategies. Like to craft? Try Crowned Sparrow. Both are on my list of things to try this year.
- Start a book club. Do you have a group of people you want to get to know better? This is a great way to do it. My husband and I started one a few years ago, and it’s been a lot of fun. (I bet you didn’t know the editors of Charlotte Agenda, Charlotte Magazine and Charlotte Five all belong to the same book club.)
- If you’re into fitness, there are a ton of ways to meet people in our city. Try a brewery run or a free boot camp with F3 (men) or FiA (women). If that’s not your scene, try yoga on tap or join a kickball team. If you’re looking to connect with other active moms, you can also try Charlotte’s Moms Run This Town group. I’ve made lasting friendships participating in FiA — and it’s great to have a group of women surrounding you who are so positive.
- Get to know your neighbors. This might be weird for you. Coming from Ohio, it certainly was for me. Seriously, I couldn’t have told you my neighbors’ names growing up and we lived in the same house for almost 10 years. After buying our first house a year and a half ago, I am happy to report that suburban legends like Bunco groups still exist. They’re fun — plus a good excuse to drink wine. Introduce yourself if someone new moves into the neighborhood.
- Want to rekindle a musical passion? Audition for the Charlotte Community Band or a choral group such as Carolina Voices or Charlotte Chorale. This is one I’ve long wanted to do but haven’t found the time. Don’t worry — I haven’t heeded my husband’s suggestions to sell my flute.
- Attend church regularly already? Consider joining a Sunday school class or small group. I’ve found that’s where you really get to know people better. Most large churches have groups aimed at people in their 20s to 40s.
- Join a civic group. I have friends who have met some awesome people through the Junior League, and there’s the added bonus of getting to help others. The United Way’s Young Leaders program has a similar bent. There are more nonprofits and causes than I could possibly name, so pick one that matters to you and get started.
- Are you a sports fan and/or not a Charlotte native? (Hello, just about everyone!) Meetup has some groups devoted to following the hometown team — or try your alumni club if college sports are more your thing. You can also join a professionals group like I did or search for just about any hobby and get a match.
The best advice I can give you is also sometimes the hardest to follow. Remember that friendships can take time to form. Sometimes you have to wait it out and keep going to groups even if you’re frustrated. Sometimes you also need to be the person who makes the first step.
New people are constantly moving to Charlotte, so be the person who extends an invitation. The person you reach out to will always be grateful. Plus, I promise there’s no such thing as too many friends.