How to Make Friends in a Small Town or Rural Area

Making friends in a small town can take more effort than it would in a big city. There are fewer activities and social groups to choose from, and services like Bumble BFF or Tinder are often not very helpful in a small-town setting. Here are some ideas that you can use as inspiration to get you started.

Ideas for making new friends in a small town

1. Join a local board or council

Every small town or rural area has local boards for road maintenance, snow maintenance, water, town council, etc. You can join and take an active role in it. Doing so helps you meet people on a regular basis. Go to your town’s website and look for the relevant boards.

You can send an email to the contact person explaining that you’d like to give to the community and help.

2. Attend local events

You can often find information about upcoming events and local activities at your neighborhood community center and or a library. Your library might also have a book discussion group, screen free movies, or offer other activities.

Check out the neighborhood community center bulletin board, a library or a newspaper to find an event you might be interested in.

3. Become a regular

It can be a cafe, a diner, a bookstore, or a bar, among other places. It’s a great environment to make small talk and find out what’s happening around town. The locals will feel more at ease talking to someone they see often. If they don’t seem too busy, you can also straight up ask your waiter at a restaurant about fun stuff there is to do locally.

Pick a place that you like, and visit it somewhat regularly so that people could get to know you, especially if you’re new in town. If you have no places in mind, a simple google maps search might be a good starting point.

4. Volunteer

Volunteering is great for meeting new people. You can volunteer at a zoo or an animal shelter, a local high school, church, fire department, or hospital. There are also festivals, markets, fairs, or other local events which may be less readily available, but are still worth looking into.

Make a list of places where you could potentially volunteer at. Then contact them starting from the top of the list.

5. Check out the local shops

Even if you won’t instantly make friends from shopping, it can still be a good way to make your presence known and let people know that you’re open for interaction. An especially good pick would be a hobby supply shop.

When you’re buying something at a local shop you can make some small talk and let the clerk know that you’re new in town and looking for stuff to do.

6. Connect with people at work

Working in the same place already gives you something in common. Once again, even if you don’t make friends instantly, be open to conversation. Be curious about others and what they like.

Ask one of your coworkers if he’d like to hang out after work.

7. Get to know your neighbors

If you don’t know your neighbors at all, you can come over with a small gift, introduce yourself and invite them to come over to your place sometime, as a way to break the ice and make a step towards something beyond simple courtesy. If you’re already acquainted, you can offer your help with chores.

Host a potluck at your place, inviting a few different neighbors.

8. Join a gym or fitness class

If you like to stay in shape, consider working out in places other than your own home – it will let you mingle with other people who are into the same thing as you are, and over time provide an opportunity to befriend some of them. If you’re joining a gym, consider giving priority to one that has group classes.

Get a gym membership, join a yoga class, a walking\running group, or a sports team such as baseball or even bowling.

9. Join a baby group if you have a child

Attending a baby group is another great way to meet people regularly. You will also have an opportunity to help each other out, share tips and stories about a common topic, and that might help you bond more easily.

Check if there’s a local Facebook group or simply ask around.

10. Attend church or church-related events

Even if you’re not religious, you can consider attending one of the church-related events, as they aren’t necessarily centered around worship or rituals – it can be something as simple as a bunch of people coming together for some tea and idle chat. There’s also volunteering, choir, and other church-related stuff.

See if your local church has a bulletin board or a website where you could find an event, or simply go there and ask.

11. Get a dog

Having a dog means having to walk it regularly. If you take your dog for long walks at the local park and play with it, you’ll be very likely to meet other people walking their dogs. This one would be higher on the list if not for the fact that getting a dog is a pretty big commitment.

You can look up a local animal shelter, check the bulletin board, or simply ask around.

12. Play bingo

Despite the stereotype that only old people are into bingo, it can actually be pretty fun, with an added bonus of potentially meeting the same people on a regular basis.

Try looking online or asking at the local community center.

13. Visit exhibitions

While not exactly the perfect place for making friends, attending art galleries, museums, and other exhibitions is another way to get out there and participate in the town’s life and make yourself more visible.

When you go to an exhibition, try starting a discussion about one of the pieces with another visitor.

14. Attend evening classes

A good option if you’ve been putting off learning something new. By doing evening classes, you can get both an opportunity to learn an interesting subject and an opportunity to mingle with the same people on a regular basis.

Google the nearest university that offers night classes and see if they have a subject that interests you.

15. Attend workshops

Similar to evening classes, attending workshops is a great opportunity to combine learning something new with meeting someone new. A good place to start can be hobby and art supply stores, as many of them often host artist workshops and classes.

Ask around one of the local hobby shops if they host any workshops or know of any in the local area.

16. Get a car

If another town is close enough, you might have a better chance of finding people with similar interests over there. Especially if the other town is a lot bigger than yours is. Of course, buying a car isn’t strictly necessary – you could travel to the neighboring towns by carpooling or using public transportation.

Explore nearby towns for some activities that you may be into. You could use some of the tips above, or look things up online.

General tips for making friends in a small town

  • Keep in mind that it might take some time to befriend people, especially if you live in a very small town and you’re new there. You might have to get out of your comfort zone and participate in activities that normally wouldn’t be your first choice.
  • When talking to others – especially people you don’t know too well – don’t complain about having nothing to do, or constantly say how you’d rather live in a big city. It could easily make people less eager to be around you.
  • Whenever it seems appropriate, bring food over to the events that you visit. Food brings people together, and even bringing something that isn’t too elaborate – like bringing a chocolate bar to a tea party – will create a positive impression.
  • Make small talk with clerks and other people you encounter for reasons that aren’t social. Try to be open for a conversation anywhere you go – on a walk, at a laundromat, or a cafe.
  • Keep in mind that many of the small town events aren’t advertised online. If you have trouble finding any events online, try using bulletin boards as well. They can be found at restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, churches, community centers, libraries, and at all kinds of other places.
  • Be on the lookout for other people that may have the same problem as you. Perhaps it’s someone who always seems to spend time at a local cafe all alone. Maybe they moved to the town recently, or are not great at making the first step towards a friendship.
  • Instead of using public transportation or going somewhere in a car all alone, try to use carpooling as much as possible – it’s an additional opportunity to make some new acquaintances that could potentially become your friends later on.

You can learn more from our main article on how to make new friends.

David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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