You’ve lived in LA one year. How do you know all these people?”
I’m asked this question often. I answer with one word: Community.
“But there is no community in LA,” people tell me. To which I say: Really?
I knew maybe 10 people when I moved here a year ago. Fast forward to today. I’ve hosted dinners for hundreds of people. I’ve been invited to speak at events all over the city.
I’ve made more friends in one year than I did in 10 years living in Manhattan.
How did I do this? Isn’t LA supposed to be a place where it’s hard to make friends? A city where people worship at the altar of fame and social media but struggle to make real human connection?
It turns out there are wonderful communities in LA. You just need to know where to look.
Here’s what worked for me.
Go Neighborhood Shopping
I’ll admit: I was worried about moving across the country. I knew a few people in LA but wasn’t super plugged-in.
LA is not the easiest city to adjust to. The city can seem like a sprawling tangle of highways and strip malls. I worried I’d feel isolated and lonely.
New York City is like a river, beating you relentlessly downstream. You need to be a strong swimmer to keep your head above water.
LA is more like a lake. If you don’t have a paddle, you can find yourself drifting aimlessly for months or years. Succeeding in LA is all about finding a part of the lake that suits your lifestyle.
I used Airbnb for “neighborhood shopping.” I stayed in Airbnbs all over LA: Silver Lake, West Hollywood, Venice.
I spent nights at my cousins’ home in Santa Monica. I grew to love the quaint shops and restaurants on Montana Avenue.
I visited friends in Venice. Alma took me on a sunrise hike up Los Liones and brunch at Superba. Justine took me to Rose Cafe and Mystic Journey Bookstore on Abbott Kinney.
It was July 2017. I remember thinking: Wow…I can see myself living here!
Be Nice to Your Airbnb Hosts
My first month in LA I found myself in a Hollywood Hills mansion with panoramic views overlooking the city. I was speaking to a group of 100 high-powered entrepreneurs, executives, performers, and artists.
I’d been invited by Simon, my old Airbnb host. We’d become good friends. When I moved to LA he connected me with his friend Craig, the host and creator of this monthly gathering.
The event was like a TED salon meets Hollywood pool party. With its lush buffet spreads, green juice stations and jaw-dropping views, it felt like a modern LA version of “The Great Gatsby.”
I met Drew, a former New Yorker who was CEO of a fast-growing digital marketing biz. We hit it off instantly.
Our group’s icebreaker exercise: What’s one thing that would make this year amazing for you? I said I was new to LA and wanted to check out Magic Castle, the legendary Hollywood mansion dedicated to the magical arts.
Within minutes I was being introduced to Ryan, a longtime Magic Castle member. He offered to bring me there as his guest. I felt like a kid who’d just scored one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.
After the main speakers were done presenting, there was a “lightning round” where anyone could go up and speak for 3 minutes (the only rule: No pitching). I signed up for a slot. I spoke about my work and trends I was seeing in health tech.
I acknowledged my friend Simon, the guy who’d invited me: “Always be nice to your Airbnb host!”
Share Your Story
Before I moved here I published a blog post titled “Why I’m Moving to LA.” I wrote it partly to validate my decision to move to SoCal, and partly to create the ultimate marketing brochure for how great life can be in LA.
The article went viral (100k+ views).
People I hadn’t seen in years reached out to me. They gave me helpful tips and offered to introduce me to LA-based friends. I met Ronen, founder and CEO of Cross Campus, a fast-growing chain of co-working sites around LA.
I kept writing. I shared my reflections on e-scooters, biohacking and other SoCal trends.
My writing opened doors for me. People took notice and started inviting me to things.
Meeting local community leaders turbo-charged my new life in LA, personally and professionally. Many of these connections were a direct result of my writing.
I realized: Writing on the internet is modern networking. It’s shareable, long-lasting, and infinitely scalable.
Smile and Say Hello
Living in New York City is like drinking from a firehose. Social opportunities fly at you from all directions. You need to be good at saying no, or you’ll get dragged in a million directions.
LA is different. It can be harder to find communities and plant roots. You need to go out of your way to hang out with people, build community and make friends.
I made an effort to strike up conversations with people in my building. At Whole Foods. Soho House, Equinox, WeWork.
I found it was easy to meet people simply by smiling and saying “Hi! I’m Daniel. I just moved here from New York.”
They’d typically reply in one of 3 ways:
“Oh really, why’d you move?”
“How do you like LA?”
“Cool, I used to live in New York, too!”
Each week I discovered new communities:
Mountain Gate, a monthly speaker series and dinner party with young professionals. I met the leaders of Apex Protection Project, a non-profit devoted to wolf rescue and rehabilitation.
Trybe, a group that organized big Shabbat dinners at gorgeous homes around LA. The events had music, meditation, and home-cooked family-style dinners. I loved the warm & cozy family vibe.
Summit, a group I’d been hearing about constantly since moving to LA. I attended a Summit Mountain Weekend at beautiful Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah. The snow-dusted mountain and rustic lodges served as a canvas for expansive conversations with thought leaders, artists and entrepreneurs. We bonded over aprés ski at Skylodge, 9000 feet up.
REALITY, a tech fellowship in Israel run by a global community of change-makers dedicated to tikkun olam, repairing the world. It’s no exaggeration to say being part of this community has changed my life.
The best communities help you venture outside your comfort zone and experience something new. There’s a sense of adventure. An element of unpredictability.
A good community challenges you. It makes you feel you’re part of something bigger than yourself, a greater cause. It gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.
Use Instagram for Networking
I wanted to connect with LA’s booming health and wellness industry. So I reached out to health influencers on Instagram. They invited me to Kitchen Table dinners with holistic nutritionists. Cryotherapy at Upgrade Labs. Health food tastings at Erewhon.
I learned more about the paleo diet and keto-friendly meals than I’d thought possible. I tried raw, vegan pizza. (Verdict: Don’t.)
I reached out to LA tech leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn. I learned about local tech meetups. Global Shapers talks. Founders House at Techweek LA.
Make in LA, a local tech accelerator, invited me to be a hardware startup mentor.
USC Keck School of Medicine invited me to give a talk on careers in biomedical consulting.
The more I shared my work online, the more in-person events and opportunities I found myself discovering.
Let Your Freak Flag Fly
LA culture is less conformist than Boston and New York. It’s less rooted in history and tradition. More eccentric and adventurous.
You can be as weird as you want in LA, truly.
I reframed my approach to new things. Instead of asking “Why,” I asked “Why not?”
I tried everything:
Kundalini Yoga at RA MA Institute. Kirtans at Bhakti Yoga Shala.
Acro-yoga and silks on Santa Monica beach.
MindTravel “silent” piano-to-headphones meditation.
Alcohol-free events with The Shine, We Deepen, Daybreaker.
SoFar Sounds concerts overlooking the Venice canals.
Composers Breakfast Club of Malibu.
Santa Monica twilight concert series.
Music, dance, performance — these things have brought us together in ceremonies for all of human history. The arts make a group cohere around a unified idea. We hear a heavy drumming rhythm, and people start moving in unison. We come together as a tribe.
Find Your Tribe
Finding and participating in these communities has nourished me, sustained me, inspired me. These communities have made me feel at home in LA.
Living in NYC I struggled to find community. People seemed to be always scurrying between work and family obligations, power lunches and first dates. I met new people but didn’t often form the close, intimate relationships of my college years.
The key ingredient for the formation of friendships is repeated spontaneous contact. That’s why we make friends in school — because we’re forced into regular contact with the same people. It is the natural soil out of which friendship grows.
I found one of the keys to LA survival is creating your own small-town vibe within the big city. Find a small community where you run into familiar faces.
I run into friends every week at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, aka the happiest place on Earth.
It’s nice to live in an extended community, to have people to rely on beyond family. It’s nice to have bustling shared spaces where you can run into people you know without planning it beforehand.
Build Your Own Communities
I caught up with my friend Shankar. We’d both recently moved to LA. We’d discovered a side of LA that shattered the stereotypes — a growing community of founders, artists, designers, teachers and social impact entrepreneurs. We saw the possibilities for a “new LA.”
We decided to create our own dinner series. For our kickoff event we invited a diverse mix of technology leaders, startup founders and creative professionals. Our purpose was to start a conversation about pressing issues affecting LA and how we can shape the city’s future direction.
There was one twist: We asked our guests to check their phones at the door. All it took was a shoebox, post-it notes and a sharpie. For 3 hours no one sent texts or checked Instagram.
What happens when you gather people on a Friday night with no screens? People connect in a different way. They let themselves be vulnerable. Strangers become friends.
Pay It Forward
Now that I’ve lived in LA for a bit, I try to share my lessons with other newcomers to the city.
I tell them it’s easy to meet new people at co-working spaces like WeWork and Cross Campus. There’s a great mix of entrepreneurs, artists, and other professionals. They have regular events & happy hours. Or you can just go up to someone and ask what they’re working on.
Search for local interest groups on Meetup and Facebook. Book clubs, movie discussion forums, hiking or biking meetups: These are all awesome places to meet people.
Airbnb Experiences are a great way to explore and meet people. I signed up for a group hike in Griffith Park to view famous Hollywood movie locations. I’ve used Airbnb for surfing lessons, art walks, cooking classes.
Your Airbnb host can be a great resource for local tips & connections (look for ones with the highest ratings). They may even invite you to join them at social gatherings and introduce you to their friends.
In neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Echo Park there’s more of a small-town vibe. It’s easy to meet people at cafes and ask for local tips and places to check out.
People are more approachable during the day, when the sun is shining. Don’t be afraid to put down your phone and talk to a stranger. That’s how people met before the internet!