How to make friends in the Twin Cities

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Before smartphones with meet-up apps, transplants (like me) struggled to make friends in the Twin Cities because so many people already have their friend groups cemented.

Having moved here in my mid-20s in 1999 with a person I was dating at the time, I had access to an instant surrogate family for weekend meals, birthdays, and the usual family gatherings.

After the relationship ended a short time later, I was left with a small, but incredible “work family” which expanded and contracted over time as new people arrived and some ultimately moved on.

As an introvert, attempts at expanding the friend circle outside of work was daunting.

Sure, people were polite and nice to me at the grocery store, in the neighborhood, and in line at the bank. There was even lots of small talk about the weather, maybe a compliment or two on jewelry, clothing, or a new hair style.

BUT — breaking beyond a casual conversation into an outing for a coffee, movie, or dinner just never seemed to happen because enough ‘relationship’ can’t be created in these micro meetings.

Now, nearly 20 years later, I can see how I ultimately made friends and want to share some tips in case you are struggling to break the Minnesota ‘nice’ barrier.

Tips on finding and meeting friends — with or without your smartphone.

#1. Explore your interests.

Building any kind of relationship takes time and it only makes sense that participating in an activity that you enjoy can almost always be done in a small, medium, or large size group. Whether in-person or online, interest-based groups can be found in so many places.

Gyms, churches, schools, classes, music, theatre, arts, and sports are only some of the groups you can find in your neighborhood or online through sites like www.meetup.com, www.goldstar.com, or www.eventbrite.ca.

Whether you want to explore a new interest area or expand one, there is no shortage of activities to choose from all year long.

#2. Start cooking.

No matter where you are, people have to and usually enjoy eating. But, it can be intimidating to host a dinner party if you aren’t that great in the kitchen.

So rather than becoming overwhelmed with learning how to cook everything, focus on a predictable crowd pleaser and practice it until it becomes your ‘specialty’.

The key, in my opinion, is to select dishes that can be scaled and kept at the proper temperature so you don’t have to fuss over them once your guests arrive.

Things like soups, salads, taco bars, or even a muffuletta sandwich are great options for hosting a self-serve party.

Add a crusty loaf of bread, chips, snack mix, and a BYOB invitation, and you can sit back and enjoy your new friends while they enjoy your delicious ‘specialty’.

#3. Take a walk in your neighborhood.

Depending on where you live, there may or may not be hangout spots that you can frequent where you’ll more than likely run into the same people. Remember that relationships take time, so make the first move and start a conversation, smile and say hello, or ask a question.

If there’s not a neighborhood spot, take the same walk path and see who you run into along the way. Same rules apply — convey a genuine compliment, take interest in what people are doing, and be patient. Not every meeting will turn into a friendship, but some will.

If you have a dog, even better — as long as you always clean up after your companion — there are a lot of dog lovers out there that are eager to chat and tell stories.

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Sarah Steil is a Minnesotan by way of Denver, CO and hails from the metropolis of Algona, IA (once home to the world’s largest Cheeto). Sarah puts her visual and communication nose to the design and brand grindstone each day as founder of a local brand and design agency.