Making new friends can be intimidating. It can be especially daunting if you are somewhat of an introvert, and have just moved to an area where you don’t really know anyone. Having just relocated across the country myself (and having moved around a lot as a child), I can relate. Work and school can offer built-in—albeit not always ideal—social environments to fall back on, but to really reach out to like-minded, interesting people, one often has to actually put in some effort. And what about making new vegan friends?
If the thought of seeking out any new friend is nerve-racking in and of itself, especially if you happen to be the new kid on the block, how might you ever go about figuring out where those cool kids hang out? Not to fear! First, take a deep breath. Then, read the post below for eight ways to get involved in your home base, broaden your network, and meet plant-based buds, whether or not you’re new to town.
1. Find out if your town or nearby cities have a vegetarian/vegan club or society, and sign up for its newsletter
Some veggie clubs are quite formal, with frequent meetings and planned events, and others less so. Still, almost all of these clubs and societies host or post events of interest to vegans, so getting on the mailing list is a good way to get tuned in to your area’s vegetarian and vegan community. I’ve found out about many neat talks, dinners, and festivals this way! You can also drop by meetings and introduce yourself, offer to volunteer at an upcoming event, or even apply to be an officer. Vegan friends, here you come!
2. Search Meetup.com for meet-ups (vegan and non-vegan!)
I’ve found that Meetup.com is a great way to find groups and clubs in your area, and by selecting from a list of interests, you can get notified about related groups as they are created. There are groups for people who love to run, knit, hike, play board games, code, read…and yes, live a vegan lifestyle! Focus on those that sound genuinely interesting to you and whose events you can actually see yourself going to, as these groups are more likely to have members that you will click with. Many groups make their events public so that outsiders can get a better sense of what they’re about. If you are specifically trying to find vegan-ish groups, search for broader phrases and words such as “healthy eating,” “ethical,” “veg*an,” “plant strong,” etc. to expand your results. And don’t forget that vegan groups aren’t the only places to let your veggie colors fly. For example, you could nominate The China Study for your non-fiction book club’s next selection, or offer to host a vegan cooking class for your Foodies meet-up group…your new peers might really enjoy it!
3. Start your own group
If you have a great idea for a group and are dedicated enough to see it through, go for it! You can start from scratch, or look into creating a local chapter of an existing group or organization. One of my good friends in Boston was frustrated that many of her peers were oblivious to veganism’s ties to other social causes, and created an online group called “Peaceful Choices” to, amongst other things, “encourage the spread of knowledge and connections between speciesism and prejudice, unfair treatment, and torture of human beings.” Little did she realize that quite a few people in the area—vegan and non-vegan alike—related to her message and wanted to get involved. It can be very empowering to bring a passion to fruition in a group or blog format, and chances are that your interests will resonate with others. This could very well pave the way for new friendships and lasting partnerships.
4. Make an effort to get to know your coworkers (and look for jobs that resonate with your values and ideals)
Many of us work one or more jobs in order to make a living, and therefore see the same people on a very frequent basis. So why not befriend them? Some people never show their true personalities at work, but sometimes it’s simply because no one has ever made the effort to be more than “just” coworkers. If you’re already employed, make an effort to participate in social events that your employer hosts (or industry networking events, if you’re self-employed) to get to know your peers better. You can also find creative ways to start conversations and bond with coworkers, such as keeping your favorite books at your desk or bringing in treats to share at work. If you’re on the job hunt, a good indicator of whether or not you’ll get along with your coworkers lies with a company’s philosophy, culture, and core values. If these are in line with your own values, chances are that their employees will share similar ones as well. The result? Fulfillment with the work you do and cool people to do it with; a win-win!
5. Volunteer for an organization that you care about
Environmental, animal rights, humane, and vegan organizations are always looking for volunteers to staff events, raise awareness, and help their programs run smoothly. Oftentimes, you can work remotely. If you are able to volunteer your time, it can be a rewarding way to make a difference while connection with people who share similar viewpoints and passions. Here is just a short list of some groups worth checking out: Compassion Over Killing, Action for Animals, A Well-Fed World, In Defense of Animals, Food Empowerment Project, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Vegan Outreach, Vegetarian Resource Group, Peta, the Humane Society, and Farm Sanctuary. There are also many ways to get involved more locally. Some ideas include volunteering to teach kid-friendly healthy eating lessons at local schools, participating in the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, and helping out at a beach clean up. Local animal shelters are also often in need of volunteers, and the best spot to make lots of new, furry friends.
6. Meet and be nice to your neighbors
This one is simple: make an effort to smile and say hello to neighbors on your street, in your apartment building’s elevator, in your dorm’s common room, etc. Be considerate of volume when listening to music or having guests over. If your neighbor needs help, a cat-sitter, or to borrow baking soda, offer assistance when possible. If you’re the event planner type, host a block party or neighborhood potluck. Many friendships start as cordial neighborly kindness. (If you live in a very rural area, the main difference is that your definition of “neighbor” is slightly expanded!)
7. Visit local businesses
There’s nothing wrong with being a homebody, but it’s much harder to meet people if you’re constantly cooped up! Get to know the local hot spots by walking, biking, running, taking public transportation, or (if you must) driving around the neighborhood. Try some new grocery stores or farmer’s markets, if they are available to you. Pop into some bookstores (see if they have any good author talks coming up), coffee shops (if you don’t drink coffee/tea, you can always check out the artwork on the walls!), and gyms (see if they offer a free pass for first-timers). Get a feel for who hangs out where, and even say hello if you’re feeling bold. I was amazed at how many people I got to know well just from taking group fitness classes at my old gym and shopping at the small produce supplier down the street.
8. Expand your digital network
There are a ton of social networking sites and forums that cater to the plant-based! They are a fun alternative to aimlessly refreshing your Facebook news feed, and a cool way to potentially meet vegans from all over the world. Sometimes, a supportive online community can be the best platform for receiving valuable advice, gaining inspiration, and discussing issues in depth. Some free veg communities that come to mind include Volentia, VeggieBoards, Vegan Bodybuilding, 30 Bananas a Day, and Vegppl, but there are many more out there!
The bottom line is that with a little effort, it’s easy to meet new people and get more involved with the vegan community. You might have to go a little out of your comfort zone, but don’t forget that many people are in the same shoes and want to get to know you. Whether you have lived somewhere for a while or have just relocated to a new area, being open, genuine, and a little proactive can result in unexpected and meaningful friendships (and meeting both vegan and non-vegan friends who will gladly share your kale slaw).