City life in the 21st century can be a lonely experience. We're surrounded by millions of other people, but the combination of work and traffic and more work and worse traffic can make it hard to actually make new friends. We can communicate with people on Facebook or Twitter or a host of other sites, but that's often not enough. Sometimes we crave IRL contact and conversations where we don't have to ask, “Is that sarcasm?” Sometimes, we want to see a real smile instead of the emoji version.
But there's no shortage of things to do if you want to interact with your fellow Angelenos. Try the 10 suggestions below when you need to get out and mingle.
Eavesdrop on the Metro.
Driving in Los Angeles can be an isolating experience. You're in your car with little more than the radio for company, and every person surrounding you on the street is doing something annoying while you spend an hour commuting a distance that should only take 20 minutes. On the Metro, the trip is a little different. You probably won't make friends, but you'll likely overhear a few conversations that will make you chuckle, especially if you're riding right after the high schools let out. (Teen drama hasn't changed, it just revolves around Instagram now.) You'll absolutely get off at your stop feeling more connected to the people who call Los Angeles home. Plus, if you're riding the always jam-packed Orange Line at rush hour, you'll have a new appreciation for the time you spend alone. Personal space is a luxury.
Make like a misfit 20th-century teen and head to the record store.
Buying music online is convenient, but going to a record store is a social experience that can't be beat. Growing up in the Valley in the '90s, you were bound to spend time hanging around San Fernando Valley spots such as Tempo, Roundhouse and Record Trader, or heading out to Hollywood to visit Vinyl Fetish. After years of frequent shopping, you could get to know the store staffs, sometimes spending more time chatting about upcoming shows and releases than digging through the crates. While these stores mentioned are gone now, there are plenty of new record shops that have popped up recently. When record shopping, think small. Amoeba is fun, but it's more like Tower was back in the old days. Find a mom-and-pop store near you and give yourself an hour to browse, chat and buy. Westsiders might want to dig at Record Surplus. Long Beach folks should head to Fingerprints. If you're around Highland Park and love electronic music, check out Mount Analog.
Dance alone, make some friends.
An Avalon-style mega-club or bottle service–style joint isn't going to cut it if you're going to a club looking for social interaction. Instead, try genre-specific DJ nights that go down in the Los Angeles area. Whether you're into goth or hip-hop, there is a party somewhere that suits your musical tastes. The good thing about nights like these is that they are often more about the music than the scene. There is no shame in dancing alone. In fact, if you're the first person on the floor, the DJ will appreciate it. Moreover, you'll automatically have something in common with the people you meet. These aren't pick-up joints. You can talk to people without constantly wondering about their motives. The scenes that develop around parties like these can be very tight-knit, but also accepting of newcomers and there's a good chance that you'll make friends for life. Industrial music fans will want to look out for Das Bunker's parties. House lovers should hit up Marques Wyatt's events.
Learn a new skill at your local library.
Books are beautiful, but LAPL also hosts a myriad of events across town. You can can take classes in subjects from yoga to computers. Some libraries have knitting groups. Others offer film screenings. For young people looking for interaction, the West Valley branch has a chess club. LAPL's calendar is packed with things to do with a new group of people. It's also in need of volunteers to do things like tutor adults in reading and writing.
Gossip with your local bartenders.
This seems like an obvious tip, but if you're new to a neighborhood, check out the local watering holes. Bartenders, and bar owners, can be a good source of information on what's going on in your neck of Los Angeles. They are also really good at sharing stories that will make you laugh into your beer. It's easy to get through life in L.A. without knowing the people who live around you, but there's always time to change that. Live in the Cypress Park-Lincoln Heights area? Check out Footsie's. If you're in the Studio City area, try Oyster House. Bellflower folks may want to head to New Wave Bar for '80s tunes and drinks.
Gallery hop. Stand in a line.
Gallery openings are usually free, often have an open bar and always have conversation starters around the room. They are designed to get people socializing with each other. If you love art and want to meet others with a similar passion, hit up these events. In neighborhoods where there are a lot of galleries, like Chinatown, there will be multiple openings on the same night, giving you the chance to explore and people with similar interests. Many gallery openings are casually run. You simply walk in and check out the scene. For bigger shows at pop culture art spots like Gallery1988 and iam8bit, there may be a line. While lines are normally awful, the boredom will force you to strike up a conversation with your neighbor about that limited edition print you want. For an art experience that's a little more unusual, check out the events at Human Resources. If you're tastes lean towards pop culture influences, check out Gallery1988. If art toys are your thing, make sure to hit up an opening at TAG.
Social shop across town.
Sometimes stores in Los Angeles host events that are designed to bring together their clientele for social purposes. One example is Fairytale Boutique in Little Tokyo. The clothing shop specializes in Japanese street fashion. Once every few months, they host Fashion Walks, where their stylish shoppers walk around the neighborhood together and pose for photos. For fans of Harajuku-style fashion, it's an opportunity to dress up and meet others who are similarly enamored by brands like Baby the Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty. Another example is Giant Robot in West Los Angeles, who hosts Game Night parties, where people can come and check out the latest indie video games. Check out the calendars at the stores you frequent to find out when they are hosting events. Book stores and record shops may host signing events. Comic book stores and game shops may host D&D nights. Arcades might have tournament dates.
Put on your best geek T-shirt and hit up the comic book shop.
Like the mighty record store, comic book shops are about more than the items on the shelves. You talk with the staff about anything from new releases to the latest controversies in the geek world. You'll find fellow comic book readers ready to share their own recommendations or groan with you over Marvel's recent universe-ending decision. If you're near in the center of the San Fernando Valley, try Galaxy of Comics. Near Sunset Junction? Check out Secret Headquarters. South Bay folks might want to head down to Stuart Ng Books. Remember, an unusual geeky T-shirt will start a conversation. The more obscure the reference, the better.
Go see a band that no one else knows.
Look for the smaller shows that take place on weeknights. Typically, these will be easier on the budget as the covers are often lower than the weekends (and, sometimes, there is no cover). Plus, depending on the neighborhood, you might actually find street parking. More importantly, weeknight shows often get the smallest crowds. Instead of being packed inside the venue, you can grab a seat at the bar and chat up the few others. You might also have the chance to talk to the artists after the show. If you're at the southern end of the county, hit up Alex's Bar. For Angelenos who are a little young for your average club, try all-ages venues such as the Smell and Pehrspace.
Unleash your inner fan at a convention
Los Angeles has a diverse array of fan conventions. There are general pop culture events, such as Stan Lee's Comikaze, and smaller, more specific cons, such as the Doctor Who extravaganza Gallifrey One, or the LGBT-centric Bent-Con. Although these events are often packed with people, there are still lots of ways to meet new people. Conventions typically host panel sessions, where small groups fill a room to discuss anything from a new TV show to diversity in media. Cosplay gatherings bring together fans dressed in costumes based on specific themes — like DC Comics or Sailor Moon — for a massive photo shoot. That's a great chance to strike up a conversation and, hopefully, a new friendship. The exhibit halls, while frequently crowded, present a good opportunity to talk to artists and writers whose work you enjoy. Like music scenes, the convention world is home to lots of different fan communities who bond over a common interest and form strong friendships.
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