The Hard Facts: We’re Not Moving

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“The share of Americans who move their homes in a year has reached a record low. … From spring 2010 to spring 2011, just 11.6 percent of the people moved residences, the lowest rate since the government began keeping track of migration in 1948.” (“American Migration Reaches Record Low ; New York Times, 11/15/2011)

A natural assumption these days is that it’s getting harder and harder to make friends because people are moving more than ever. We’re a transient society, and with that transience comes the seemingly constant need to make new pals. But research says otherwise. We’re still moving, sure, but the census shows we’re moving less than ever before.

According to The Times, “The difference between [the 2010] rate and the 2009 rate of 12.5 percent was not statistically significant, but it was a far cry from its heights in the mid-20th century. From 1951-52, for example, 20.3 percent of Americans moved.”

And perhaps it’s that fact that’s making new friendships so hard. When I moved to Chicago, I felt like everyone who lived here was from here (according to the census, 59% of Americans live in the state where they were born). They already had social networks from growing up and from their Big Ten school, and didn’t seem anxious to grow those out. (I went to a Big Ten school myself, but for whatever reason my besties all moved to the coasts.) At least I wasn’t moving to Louisiana, where 78.8 percent of residents were born there, or Michigan (76.6 percent), Ohio (75.1 percent) or Pennsylvania (74 percent).

This doesn’t mean there aren’t other transplants in your city, even if you just relocated to New Orleans. Just fewer of them. For me, one of the most successful friend-making methods was tracking down other Chicago newbies. When I first moved here, I thought I wanted to find local friends to fold me into their clique and show me all the best restaurants and boutiques. But as soon as I started “officially” searching, I learned that transplants band together. We all want new friends, and are willing to do the work to maintain those friendships.

And if you’re a Californian moving to Texas, or a New Yorker retiring to sunny Florida, you’re in luck.Check out this list  of the most common migrations in that 2010-2011 time frame:

  • California to Texas (68,959 movers)
  • New York to Florida (55,011)
  • Florida to Georgia (49,901)
  • California to Arizona (47,164)
  • New Jersey to Pennsylvania (42,456)
  • New York to New Jersey (41,374)
  • California to Washington (39,468)
  • Texas to California (36,582)
  • Georgia to Florida (35,615)
  • California to Nevada (35,472)

Are you surprised to hear that people are moving less, not more? As a transplant, do you find it easier to befriend locals or other new kids?  Do you think the decreased moving rates is what makes it harder to make new pals?

Hey Chicago! I’ll be at Open Books in next Thursday, March 22 at 7 PM. It will be a reading from MWF Seeking BFF with an eye toward introducing local readers looking for new friends. Please come! I’d love to see you there. 


Filed under The Search

44 responses to “The Hard Facts: We’re Not Moving

  1. Meghan

    I find this interesting. I’m sure the economy is why people aren’t moving as much, it’s hard to sell now. When I first moved, all of my friends were my husband’s friends. He grew up in the small town we live in, and was still close with his HS friends. Now that I’ve been here awhile (4 years), I’ve noticed that most of my friends are also transplants to the area, not natives. I think not being from here, is something we’ve bonded over.

  2. Amy

    What time will you be at Open Books? I’d love to stop by. I’m just about done reading the book, and I have loved it!

  3. Lisa G

    Interesting NYT article! I was struck by the map showing people living in their state of birth and found many surprises (e.g., expected AK, HI, and more of the Plains states to rank higher). It’s definitely been hard to make inroads in MN; so many people have lived here all their lives, seem to have no interest in making new friends, and their FAMILIES are here too, which offers a tremendous built-in support network. I’m hoping a move to the South will make it easier to find fellow newbies and bond with them – and this article helps affirm that’s possible!

  4. katieleigh

    As a transplant, I find most of my friends are also transplants. (I just had this conversation with a friend yesterday. She’s been in Boston eight years, but we both know we’ll never be natives.) It’s tough to break in when people have been here forEVER and don’t need new friends. But even longtime transplants remember how it felt to be the new kid, and I think that makes them more open to new friendships.

  5. Wow, this is TOTALLY not my experience. Pretty much everyone I know continues to either flee Chicago or is making serious plans to (I am from here). Where can I meet all of these people who are staying put? SO tired of making new connections and then hearing that they’re running off to Portland — this seems to be the most popular destination.

    Going to try and make the Open Books reading!

  6. Frume Sarah

    There was a huge push to get Californians to move to TX a year or two ago. U-Haul, for example, had HUGE discounts on one-way rentals TO (and NOT from) TX from CA.

    We just moved this past August. From CA…to Pennsylvania. And have found it nearly impossible to break past the whole “native” barrier that is in place. I’m twenty pages into “MWF…” and feel as though I’ve found a kindred spirit.

    If only you lived closer…

    • We were temporarily exiled to Pennsylvania (west of Philadephia in Drexel Park) a few years back. My daughter wouldn’t even spend her college summer breaks there choosing instead to work as a nanny in Croatia! Generally I found the people in PA very unfriendly and they seemed to keep to themselves. Because the homes were old (and beautiful) in the area I lived we shared a driveway with an older couple who we became close with – but a lot closer when they learned we were moving and we still keep in touch today. I think their attitude might have something to do with the snow? I, though, loved the snowy mornings when, before the sun came up, I would snow blow our joint driveway and then continue on up and down the street clearing the sidewalks and a drive or two of an elderly neighbor. I made myself known. One of the ways I made friends there was to start a Dinner Club in the neighborhood since I enjoy cooking, eating and drinking. The club is still going strong today and through that club I did eventually meet a nice group of quilting ladies with whom I have kept in touch with after moving back to Texas. In fact, a few years ago we did a round robin quilt by passing each others quilts to each other through the mail so we could add something to everyone’s quilt. I now have a quilt made by a few of my special Drexel Park friends.

  7. DJ

    The fact that Louisiana’s rate is so high is SO evident now that you mention it. Not only did I find it really hard to make new friends when I moved from one side of Louisiana to the other (and yes, 100% of my friends are transplants or in transition), but we are moving out of state and people find it shocking that we’re not staying close to home. You would think somewhere like Massachusetts was Mars. Excuse us for wanting a little adventure in our mid 20s!

  8. Well to be honest I am an immigrant, so transplant is even too local for me. My roots came from Ireland 19 years ago. I found it very hard to make lasting female friendships in the US, but I am happy. I have lots of friends and this BFF thing is a little too claustrophobic for me anyway. Great post, and goodluck!

  9. It is very interesting that the numbers of people moving are so low at the moment.

    My family and I made the move to a beautiful little town in Tasmania. There was no difficulty making friends as there were many transplants. It was a standard joke that no-one had met a Tasmanian though.
    One day about eight years in, I was in the town car park outside of opening hours. No-one was around. All of a sudden people were coming from everywhere. Cars and families filled the park. I recognised very few of these strangers. I felt I had shifted in the space-time continuum. I discovered later that there was an AGM at the catholic school. These were the long standing locals that could trace their family back many generations.

    • We moved 3 times from the USA to Australia, and have begun our 3rd move back to the USA. Compounding the difficulties related to Oz’s runaway cost of living is the reality that we keep landing in the wrong regions to make friends. Most folks, where we’ve lived, are disbruntled transients, pensioners, and commuters – it’s like living in northern New Jersey in the USA (a place no one ever wishes to move to). I wish I could have convinced my partner to move to another city in another state in Australia, but as attempts to make friends fail, the lure to return to what was comfortable became an insurmountable barrier to any option other than returning. Doesn’t mean we’ll make friends there either, but homesickness becomes one less factor.

      • I hope with your return home you will find the comfort that you need. All that uprooting can leave you depleted. I am sorry that you were unable to find the community that suited you. It must be a tricky call. Even here I can see if we went to this town rather than that our cultural experience would be different. May you find the home for your heart where ever you land.

  10. Pat

    I’m worried about what I’ll do when my best friend finally sells her place and moves south to be with family. I guess she’s staying put so far simply because her place won’t sell in this down economy. Good for me, not so good for her!

  11. I am a west-to-east transplant and I have found that I usually find myself in the company of other transplants. I suppose we are respectively interested in the other persons reason for making “the big move”. But, I have to say, I wish that making friends was “pre-school easy”. Something like: Hi, my name is Love. You have cool hair! Wanna be friends?

  12. Hi! I happen to be a transplant, but in Mexico… I have no idea really how the statistics look like here, but what I can tell you is that it’s been really hard for me to make friends in this “new” city. I lived in Mexico City for 21 years, then moved to Guadalajara. There I met lots of people and made lots of friends because I was a teacher at an English institute which had many students. However, 9 years later I moved with my hubby and kids to Monterrey. The people here are fairly open, but since I don’t have a job here, I barely know anyone. It’s been hard; however, I happened to meet my best friend here online (at a Moms internet group).
    Loved your post; I’ll keep up with your blog.


  13. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I love your header – that’s a great way to ‘hi’ your friends 🙂

    I’m surprised if people are moving less, though you’re talking America. I don’t like moving. The place I live now – East of Australia, my son & me moved here from West of Australia 2 years ago & I haven’t picked up on the friendship front, alas, alas. Nope, tired of moving!

  14. I appreciate and get what you wrote. I’ve lived in TN most of my life. I didn’t really appreciate living there (near my parents) until they approached their 70s, and I, my mid-40s. I’ve lived in a number of states and countries, and the challenge of making good friends appears universal. Sadly, maybe from the perspective of emotional bankruptcy, we sold or donated most of everything to explore the world. At the end of the day, we have those memories, but lack the bonds with others who’ve shared these experiences. I guess, by retreating to be near my parents in TN, I’m settling for what’s comfortable. Perhaps I’ll try to join clubs and organizations once I return to TN in a couple of months. Always an area of “hick or click,” even moving back to what’s familiar presents obstacles to making friends. It requires more dedication and energy than I’ve experienced in return. Sorry for the bummer story, but moving around and exploring is exhilarating as long as you don’t look back and don’t long for what might have been. If you’re willing to make the leap of faith to relo to MA, be willing to stay long enough to try, with earnest, and not just dismiss it when the going gets tough and when the homesickness of “what might have been” tugs at your heart. In spite of my whinging, I sincerely wish you all the success the move can offer. Just stick to a place for a while and try, really try, to make and keep friends. Without them, you and your spouse will be like a childless couple – no one to share with.

  15. Maybe people are all moving out of the country…there’s definitely no shortage of Americans moving to China!

  16. I tried to decode the initials “MWF” and “BFF” but could not. Perhaps they are colloquial and to a foreigner (Greek) like myself, do not make any sense. However, I would suggest that somewhere in your blog (or ad) you provide the full words the initials stand for. Good luck with your book.

  17. As an English Language Teacher in Asia, I chuckled at the N.Y. Times piece. All my colleagues have flung themselves all over the world and that’s happened like never before. Granted it’s a small number.

    Also, in many countries moving doesn’t have this romantic aura. There’s something to be said for prioritizing relationships and a tie to a place. Who just wants to be a migrant worker no matter whether it’s in a field or a cubicle?

  18. writingforjoy

    Love the article. It leaves me reflecting on the fact that even though I haven’t transplanted from my state in the last 20 years, I have changed churches and social groups. I have moved less than 20 miles at a time or only changed from one church to another less than five miles from each other. I feel every time we change any kind of social group, we have had to start completely over with friendships just as if we moved from the state like when I was young. The friends that I have left behind are wrapped up in their own busy moments or functions, and I no longer hear from them. The new possible friends are already involved in long time relationships that they have formed without me and I often am left feeling like an intruder.

    You don’t have to necessarily move from one state to the next, to feel you have lost everyone. There are so many opportunities to feel alone. I often look for the faces of others that are feeling as lost and alone as I and reach out to them. Those friendships have been my most amazing reward!

    Blessings to you~ Shaey

  19. Dear Rachel,
    I really enjoyed your article, with solid statistical reference which makes even more euthentic and reliable. Just only begin to wonder what could be the pushing factor out of California, the total emmigrants out of California to others states such Texas, Arizona, Washington, Nevada sums up to 191,063, compared to only 36,582 Americans who moved from Texas to California. The outgoing is more than 5 (FIVE) times the incoming to California, though per my very distant knowledge, California is the central hub of the global Entertainment industry (Los Angels in California is the place where best music artists are born, found, producing, recording, composing, also in California there is Hollywood that produces the highest quality movies in the whole world)…. As the youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, I admire California state than any other US state since it collected compilation of all that so enticing to me.

    Rachel, I would cherish to have a copy of your book, or even maybe become your distributor of your bestselling material on this Southern Tip of Hemisphere, my country is LESOTHO, right in the middle of South Africa. Though we are surrounded by adversely ugly economic conditions and political system, fortunately through the grace of Almighty we still surviving.

    I do make the blogs about the brutality, cruelity, ruthless mercilessness and heartless human slaughter or barbaric killings of innocent, defenceless and vulnerable people by the fellow citizens in this piece of the world, also the miost unfortunate part the reluctance of the Government or State Authorities to act to protect the lives of those persecuted for rightenousness sake.
    My blogs are

    It will be my cordially humblest pleasure to get compassionate audience across the globe to read my blog, and begin to inform the world about the silent and neglected brutality done unto those who could not reach the New York Times, CNN, BBC, Algezeera, CCTV, almost of the most influencial global News Agencies or Media Houses that report of the extreme brutality in AFRICAN, and the bad governance

  20. Liana

    Wow – so glad I came across your blog. I actually moved overseas a couple months ago and am major need of finding girlfriends! Definitely going to dive into your blog!

  21. Wow – so glad I came across your blog. I actually moved overseas a couple months ago and am major need of finding girlfriends! Definitely going to dive into your blog!

  22. I just discover your blog via WordPress ad, & I enjoy it.
    I live in France (so far away from Chicago indeed!!), but the need for a Best Friend may be the same all over the world. I moved so many times, a true “transplant”, but I had actually no idea my loneliness was shared by others, no idea that some people would plan strategies in order to find new BF! 🙂 Perhaps it’s a matter of European way of life? I
    Hope to come back soon here & read more about human nature, warmly

    • We have moved many times and once lived in England where to combat the loneliness I joined some local art classes. I would suggest you do the same thing – perhaps a French cooking class? Joining that art class was the best thing I could have done to meet people and learn a new skill I still enjoy today! At first, the “locals” viewed me with less than welcoming eyes but after they got to know me I was accepted wholeheartedly into their group and we spent many enjoyable times together on art outings, visiting each others homes and once took a trip together to northern Ireland. I am still friends with a few of them today, twenty some years later. Perhaps, for you, the language may be a slight barrier to quickly making friends while living in France but, believe me, while I thought I was speaking English to the Brits I was really speaking American!

  23. I have just discovered your blog Rachel, after reading an excellent WordPress article about your success. Fantastic. Many congratulations. I am just starting to blog! I am a classical pianist so my blog is all about the piano and music education. I will definitely incorporate your advice when building my audience and now I am off to buy your book……. 🙂

  24. I am from MI and can totally see how 75% of the people are from there. It does seem to create a more closed off society. And I agree that transplants stick together. In meeting new people too there is nothing that rushes along the friendship process than Midwest pride found in another region – like didn’t you meet someone in the book who had gone to the same summer camp with you in NY? Instant friends!

  25. Your moving statistics are interesting and, at one point in my married life, we did move from California to Texas. During the last 28 years we have moved 12 times and 5 of those moves were to Texas. So, we’re happy to be back in Houston for the third time. My children consider Texas (Dallas) to be “home” and my husband and I think life in Texas is, to be plain and simple, downright easy. Flip flops, shorts and a hoodie for winter.

  26. I completely identify with how hard it is to make friends after moving to a different state, especially when the two places are completely different from each other. Over seven years ago my family moved from the Dallas, Texas area to Illinois. We went from living in a suburban neighborhood to residing in the country near a podunk town that’s equal distance between St. Louis, Missouri and Springfield, Illinois. It seems like everyone in this town grew up here and families have been going to the same church for five generations. When natives say they’re “not from around here” it means they grew up in the small town ten minutes up the interstate. This makes me feel like an alien more than a transplant. I was in my first year of high school when we moved, and going from a thriving homeschool community to a place where homeschooling is nearly unheard of was a drastic change. My choice to remain homeschooled after we moved didn’t help on the friend-making front, not even with the youth group kids at church, but I thought it would be better to complete my education at home rather than attend the local high school I had heard not so great things about. I soon got involved in a national Christian youth organization and now have friends not just in Illinois but all over the country. I still do not have any “close” friends that live nearby, mainly because everyone in my age group is currently away at college out of the state, but I’m ok with that. Moving and making new friends is hard, especially when the natives aren’t too friendly and fellow aliens are difficult to find.

  27. Wow! it’s amazing how your blog totally connects to the issues I have faced for three years moving to this new city as a transplant who hasn’t connected with the native born-and-grew-up-here folks. In fact, I moved here because my sort-of-but-strained-at-times-but-for-the-most-part-BFF moved out here and so we transplants have stuck together. Then, she got up and moved to a town ‘near-by’ which means 2.5 hours by Greyhound, and thus our e-friendship strengthened. It forced me to make friends with both, but transplants being my main staple. And now that it’s been over a year, and I’m settling into my life, she’s moving back to this city again. Except now, I’ve cluttered it with all sorts of commitments, and I can’t make that much room for her again. Ah…

    Thank you for sharing.. 😀 I feel less alone on this issue. 😀

  28. My husband and I moved only 20 miles across town ten years ago. I forgot how hard it was to make new friends in a new community. the answer for me came when we joined a church and attended one of their adult Sunday School classes. Many had been transplants at one time themselves and built socials around getting to know each other — like dinners for 8. And they make it a point to talk with newcomers to the class. Today, they are some of our dearest friends who not only worship together but also go out of their way to help each other (and others) wherever needed.

  29. I love your idea of trying to find a new best friend and letting the world know how you went about it. I will have to check out your book, is it online to buy?

    We have moved 12 times in my 27 years of marriage (most of it was due to being in the military). Growing up I had a very best friend and we remained close for a while. As you can imagine, the many moves and both of our lives getting busy, we drifted apart.

    Throughout these moves, I did find that I would connect with others that were transplants as well, since they too were looking to make friends. It was much easier to find friends when the children were younger since their activities took you to places that had other mothers. I found that once the kids are in high school you are basically on your own, not many parents show up at these things anymore (not meant as a dig).

    After all these years I have not found another best friend. I made many friends but with all the moves that is the best you can do. I did enjoy moving because it allowed me to see many different states and a couple of countries but I did miss having that best friend.

    Now I live in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It will be interesting to see who all I meet here. This country has 90 percent expats. My next door neighbor is from England and another down the street is from Austria. I will need to find ways to connect. I will not be working, at least for a while, since my daughter, her husband and my grand baby came with us. This will be my time to enjoy having her here before they move on.

    So, your book will be interesting to see what all you found out.

  30. This is good wisdom…the transplants are willing to work as hard as the other transplants! When I lived in LA for a brief time, I tried to get folded in with a school clique (they had graduated already) to which the only person I sort of knew in LA belonged. She wanted to pull me and my husband in, but the clique just wasn’t into taking in a new members. They were a circle of friends and my husband and I would have turned them into a Q. Their leader, an alpha female, didn’t want that and so we were sorta outa luck on that front. Those two years we spent in LA, when we had no real friends, but did make some as time passed, were so so hard. I was writing a novel about it, and I wrote so many letter to my BFF who had moved to Texas, back home, and was falling back into her life there. I need to go out and pick up your book and read it. I’m sure it would be inspiring. Even though I now live in my hometown, and have for a long time, I have always been fascinated by how women develop friendships in adulthood. It changes drastically when people start having kids too. That’s another ball game. Literally, you spend all your time being friends with other moms while you are a spectator on your kid’s lives. So weird. My daughter is 16 now and I’ve lost the making friends through my daughter and her activity thing…I am now finding connections through my blog. OK, I’m rambling…but this is such a great topic. Happy to have found you.

  31. You have clearly touched on a topic that addresses the needs of all of us.
    I like the tone you use in your blog. The personal elements are especially compelling to read. Thanks.

  32. ABN

    Well, I’m so glad I read this through NEWS. I had NO IDEA so many other people have a hard time making friends due to moving around the U.S. I actually feel relieved and no so internally focused on “what is wrong with me?” I have moved several times and am now back in the state I grew up (after being gone 20 years) but I don’t fit in with the locals anymore. Some of my favorite interests (gardening, travel, healthy eating) are things few people really “get into” where I live now. Lots of people will ‘talk the talk’ of these topics for a minute or two but no-one really pursues them. This of course, makes me dream of the previous places I’ve lived and want to go back although the grass wasn’t always greener when it came to making friends from a move. I will say out of all the places I’ve lived, Northern CA is by far the friendliest, most upbeat culture in my opinion.

    Although I like social contact and female outings with a variety of people, many times I’m not stimulated and feel I spend the entire time asking women about themselves and what is going on in their life. Of course, most never reciprocate (which is o.k. as it’s not a duty). I have found having a thoughtful, good listener personality is kinda tough when it comes to making friends…seems people love to talk about themselves and then their time is up.

  33. I moved from sunny northern CA to sunny and humid FL and I love it. I know I’m a rarity though. Almost everyone here is from somewhere else, passing through or here only half the year making it tougher to find the “locals”! I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog for ideas on finding those new friends who have been elusive thus far. As for moving less which is not true for me personally, it seems the housing market has quite a bit to do with it.

  34. Christine

    I was just thinking about this part of friend-making the other day. Being a Northern California transplant to NYC, it’s been SO much more difficult to make friends than I ever imagined. From college, to living abroad in London to moving to the little big city of San Francisco, I always seemed to make friends rather easily and naturally. Almost 3 years into my stay in NYC, I’m still struggling with meeting friends, the kind of friendship that feels natural. It feels like everyone who I meet here is from here with family and friends already in place. I met my boyfriend of almost 3 years pretty much days after I moved, so maybe that had something to do with not putting myself out there as much in the beginning, but I’ve always been ready for more friends. Not having family around or a social circle of comfortable friends has definitely taken it’s toll on my happiness here in NYC. Plus you can definitely start to feel that the friendships you have back home start to change due to the distance. I’ve started to wonder if you can have both good friends and love – it feels like in my life so far I’ve only ever had one or the other. I think it’s something about my age/place in life too that has affected my ability to make friends. Once I was in a serious relationship, my old party days of hitting the town with my girls and having crazy/fun nights seemed less and less like something I wanted to do. I felt most the girls I’d meet were single and ready to mingle, so essentially in a different place than me. Narrowing down my search to women in their late 20s/early 30s in relationships seemed to cut down the pool of friends. I’d love to meet other transplants in the NYC/NJ area, so let me know if you’re out there! No one can really understand what it’s like to be a fish out of water until it’s you. Thanks Rachel for writing this blog! I’m reading the book now and love it. I went to your book signing in NYC a few months back and plan to pass the book around to my mom and friends back home once I’m done.

  35. Tina

    Very interesting that you included New Orleans as your main example. I moved to NOLA last October with my husband for career reasons. I’m having the hardest time making friends here, in fact even my coworkers exclude me because I’m not a native. As a result I’ve made the decision I want to move back to my previous home town, Tampa, FL, ASAP. I’m just so miserable in NOLA.

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