One typical question when moving to a new city is how to find local friends. In San Francisco meeting people is easy. The atmosphere encourages people to talk to each other — I think nice weather and American extrovert culture are main vectors behind this atmosphere. For example, I had amazing random conversations when I was eating by myself in close by restaurants, hiking in the city or enjoying the nightlife in bars. Typically these random conversations end up to some event invitation which is pretty rare in Finland!
In the beginning, hanging out with the locals might not be the number one interest. I arrived in San Francisco just before the summer. Thus, I met many summer interns who shared several interests with me — exploring national parks, visiting every sight in SF, and trying out surfing and other local sports. In my experience, locals are not so much into hiking around every sight in the city. Eventually, after a couple of months, I felt like I knew more sights in San Francisco than in Helsinki. I suppose that sights don’t feel so special when you see those every day.
After 6 weeks local area starts to feel normal and you might want to stabilize your situation by finding weekly events instead of just wandering around the city. To me, this took a bit longer because of a challenging housing situation —which is no exception at all. Moving from place to place was also one way of exploring the city. You have a totally different view of the area if you have lived there instead of just visiting the location.
I found my weekly activities through local meetup groups. I played beach volleyball, badminton, and participated in different language exchange meetups. Meetups are often connected with tech but this kind of hobby meetups actually have a really diverse set of participants — tech industry was not dominating non-tech related meetups at all. Meetups allow you to get to know to other people and join to their events.
Regular meetups also make your life easier. People like routines. Figuring out what to do every evening is a challenging task if you haven’t prefilled your calendar with regular events. One Facebook’s engineer actually automated this process by creating a bot to monitor and prefill his calendar by registering for different meetups in Eventbrite. I can see the point there but I wouldn’t go so extreme. However, there are numerous sites which are gathering event data from the close by area and recommending events to you — after all, it is still San Francisco. My favorite tool was https://sf.funcheap.com/ because it visualized the week’s events in a compact form.
Another way to find connections is through different clubs, organization or hobbies. I met most of my good friends through my colleagues, Young Scandinavian Club and of course the fellow Startuplifers! I think the best way to get to know people is to follow your friends’ connections.
Eventually, you can’t avoid meeting quite a bunch of amazing people!
Joel just came back home for Christmas from San Francisco. If new technology and all things startup resonate, be sure to not miss the application deadline on February 4th by submitting your application here.
Startuplifers is a student-driven nonprofit and community of the brightest minds in the Nordics. We introduce you directly to relevant startups, give coaching on your CV and interviews and take care of your visas and flights!