Changing duty stations can be both exciting and terrifying. You may be tired of your current work environment and ready for a fresh set of peers. But, you’re also scared you won’t know anyone and that it’ll take you ages to build yet another group of friends. The good news is that there are plenty of places for you to meet new people outside of work. And who says you have to stay on base to make new friends?
It’s actually a good idea to expand your circle of friends to include some non-military people: it’ll add variety to your discussions and it’ll be nice to know someone who won’t be deploying or moving anytime soon.
Part of making friends at a new location is being someone people want to be friends with. Avoid being negative or complaining too much. You may gossip with your oldest friends, but building a relationship where you can feel safe talking about anything and everything takes a lot of time.
Clubs and Volunteering
Joining clubs and volunteering in your community are great ways to grow your personal and professional networks and to build a sense of pride in and connection to your new area. No matter where you’re living, there are always local charities or schools that need donations, organizers, and volunteers and they’ll be delighted to make use of whatever skills you bring to the table.
Most bases offer a wide variety of events that you can attend or participate in. They could involve volunteer work, personal and professional development, fitness, and more. You may have to work around your job schedule and family time to attend an event, but engaging socially with people other than your coworkers can make you feel like a part of the entire base, not just your shop or office.
These days more cities are dreaming up new ways for residents to mix and mingle. In addition to the usual city sports leagues, including soccer and football, you may find that many municipalities have expanded into things like salsa dancing and ultimate Frisbee. And don’t forget about book clubs. Sure, they may have been filled with older women discussing even older books, but today, plenty of young professionals are getting ready to debate and discuss the newest titles.
It may sound counterintuitive to search for new friends online, but these days there are tons of options. Many websites, including Meetup.com and EventsandAdventures.com (just to name a few), organize events where you can meet new people. You could go wine tasting, attend a sporting event, take a hike, or sign up for dance lessons. The organizers do the hard work to find venues and come up with unique ideas. You just show up.
Religious institutions are great places to meet new people who have something in common with you and your family. Most religious institutions have a variety of opportunities for people to gather and discuss their daily lives, share food and recipes, and develop a sense of extended family.
Volunteer to be a greeter or participate in a service to get your face out there.
Some experts say you should treat budding friendships like you’re applying for a job. After your first interaction with someone new, send a quick email to say how much you enjoyed your conversation and to suggest another meetup—just as you would after a job interview. But be careful: the early stages of new friendships can be fragile; you don’t want to come off too clingy or too distant.