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In a city as large and spread out as Los Angeles, how do people build social connections and find their comfort zone?

Some wonder how people can live in L.A. This might clear up that mystery.

Some wonder how people can live in L.A. This might clear up part of that mystery.

I have worked with countless clients who are new-comers to Los Angeles. Many of them have expressed their excitement at being in this city with its year-round sunshine, particularly if they have moved from a cold climate during winter time. However, an equal number of people have seemed a little disoriented or confused as to how to navigate the vast L.A. sprawl that renders it unlike most other cities. We do not have a centrally located city center where a majority of the action takes place. Instead, we have little cities within this one big city, and each offer their own unique demographics and character.

Besides trying to figure out which areas of the city are of interest, a new transplant must also establish a social support network. Since Los Angeles has a car culture, it’s much more difficult to just “run into someone” either walking down the street or on public transportation. It can feel lonely in a big city like this, not having people to turn to for support or to get together with socially. But how does one go about creating a social support system? How does one make this large metropolis feel like home?

Turning to co-workers for social interaction might seem like an obvious answer. While this might work for some people, it isn’t always the best strategy for everyone due to differences in age, interests, or marital status, as well as the need to maintain professional boundaries. Finding support in Los Angeles sometimes demands a little creativity.

A larger population = more people who share your interests

A larger population = more people who share your interests

Meeting New People

My number one recommendation for clients to check out is www.meetup.com. This is a website that offers an extensive number of activities and interests, all broken down by zip code. There is literally something going on at all times every single day. While it can take some courage to put yourself into a new social setting to meet people, at the very least you are participating in a hobby or activity of interest to you, and you are meeting like-minded people.

Even big cities have nature lovers

Even big cities have nature lovers

Volunteering

Volunteering is another way to meet people, which also feels rewarding and allows people to give back to the community in meaningful ways. A website that offers some interesting volunteer work is www.volunteermatch.org. Again, simply put in your zip code and area of interest, and lists of matches come up.

What else can one do to integrate into the city? Get involved!

  • Find a charity whose mission you believe in and become affiliated
  • Join a sports league
  • Become affiliated with a religious organization or house of worship
  • Sign up for a class through a local university, night school, or community center
  • Join a book club
  • Attend free music concerts around the city (these are particularly abundant in the summer)
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that bowling skill was not the magnet that drew these folks together

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that bowling prowess was not the magnet that drew these folks together

There are a variety of ways to meet new people and get more familiar with Los Angeles. The more you do here, the more you can appreciate what this city has to offer. So what are you waiting for? The sun is shining and there are adventures to be had, so get to it!

by Andrea Bardack, LCSW, CEAP
Professional Staff at CWFL

bardack@usc.eduAndrea

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