I’ve had two experiences moving to new cities as an adult.
Fresh out of college and newly married, my husband and I got back from our honeymoon, spent one day in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and then drove out to Nashville to our new apartment. Our dads had actually moved all of our stuff there while we were on our honeymoon. (BEST DADS EVER.) And, knowing no one and nothing, both aged 22, we started adult life.
I found it pretty easy to make friends in Nashville as a newlywed.
It seemed like everyone there was a transplant; being a native Nashvillian is rare. At work, through Vanderbilt (where my husband was doing his graduate work) and at church, we met people and connected. We spent a lot of time with our church friends, even as they had kids. We would frequent the Bluegrass Inn with a couple and their toddler daughter pretty often! Our first Christmas in Nashville, unable to travel to our far-away homes for the holidays, a woman I had worked with just two months invited us to their home to celebrate on Christmas Day.
Our closest friends lived a good 45-minute drive from our condo, but we still traveled back and forth. Nashville is spread out, and we just accepted that sometimes it would take us an hour’s drive to get somewhere. Oh well. With church, our work/school, and a supper club, we felt very connected and supported.
So in January 2010, after living apart for four months, I finally joined my husband in Chattanooga. By that point we had one daughter who was 14-months-old – and within two months I would be pregnant again. My husband had met some people through his new job at Baylor, but I found myself kind of lost as a new stay-at-home parent. (And then as a very sick, pregnant, new SAHM.)
It took us months to find a church that felt like a good fit. Meanwhile, the only friends I really had were our backyard neighbors, a couple in their 70s. I tried a MOPS group and a Mom’s Club. I did a Bible study with some other women.
And so I kept kind of busy, but I didn’t feel connected.
Even when we joined a church, I didn’t feel like I belonged or had anyone I could really call when I was going crazy, wanted to hang out or grab a coffee, or desperately needed a friend to watch my kid for an hour.
At this church we quickly discovered that half of the people there were related in some way or another. These two went to youth group together, and his brother married her sister, and then HER brother married someone else and they all still went to the church. (Untangling this web was like a month’s-long logic problem.)
It’s something I’ve found more and more: a lot of people in Chattanooga grew up here. Their families still live here. Their friends from high school live here. They don’t really NEED new friends.
I think the mountains and roads in Chattanooga also cause issues when it comes to making connections. Want to get from Ooltewah to Soddy Daisy? It doesn’t look that far on a map, but it will take you an hour. And people don’t venture that far from their homes quite as often. I’m used to getting where I want to go in 15-20 minutes, and anything farther seems a nuisance. (How many people in Hixson DESPISE crossing the river? So many.)