Making Friends in Miami
Miami presents its own special set of social challenges, there's also some unique opportunities.
From the Miami Relocation Guide.
The population of Miami was once described to me by a former resident as “Putting everyone you hate in one city, making it really hot, and then forcing them all to sit in traffic.” Essentially, everyone here hates everyone and the heat just makes it worse. This may be a bit of an overstatement from someone who had obviously had enough of the place, but it would still not be inaccurate to say that Dade County is not exactly known for its hospitable population. It would seem a daunting task, then, for someone new to the area to try and create some sort of social life when everyone they meet will dislike them for having a nerve to breathe their air. After all, it’s not Yourami, it’s Miami.
Meeting people is difficult for working folks no matter where you live. And while Miami definitely presents its own special set of social challenges, there are also some unique opportunities our city offers. The population here is extremely transient, which means that there are new people looking for new friends all the time. It is not some old, established city where families have known each other for generations, so your ability to create a good social life, while difficult, still depends on you.
NOT THE WORK FRIENDS YOU MIGHT HAVE EXPECTED
If you are a typical white-collar worker, much of your social life may revolve around work. The problem, of course, comes when you can’t stand your coworkers and want nothing to do with them as soon as you pull your car out of the parking lot. Or maybe they just don’t want anything to do with you. Either way, the people you meet working in an office, or a similar-type environment, while possibly fun, will not change much from day to day. This is it may be advantageous for you to get a job bartending or waiting tables a couple nights a week.
Yes, I know when you graduated college or got your MBA you swore you’d never do it again, but if you want to meet new people the service industry is a great place to be. The average term of employment is about three months, and your coworkers are generally very laid back and open to meeting new people. Since most of them moved here within the last calendar year anyway. And if you’ve ever worked in a bar or restaurant you know that there is nothing a server or bartender loves better than getting some drinks with their coworkers after a long shift. In addition to a steady stream of new work friends, you have new customers coming in every day. Chances are you will hate most of them like every other waiter in Miami, but sometimes if offers an excellent opportunity to make a new acquaintance.
This city’s over-abundance of service industry jobs makes it easy to find decent employment in this sector, even if you are only doing it as a social outlet and the $150 you walk with at the end of the night is used for the sole purpose of buying drinks afterwards. For tips on getting a job in this industry, check out our employment guide.
EVEN IF YOU CAN’T CATCH YOU WILL HAVE FUN
Like many other cities, Miami offers a variety of sports leagues in which you can involve yourself to meet other people. The great thing about South Florida is that we have them all year round. So if you move here in the dead of winter you can pick right up on a softball team and have met a dozen or so new people right off the bat. The Miami Sports and Social Club offers teams in a variety of sports, from Softball to Dodgeball at all levels of competitiveness. If you are the hyper-competitive type who doesn’t like lounging around with a bunch of beer-leaguers, there is a division for you. Similarly, if you are the type who was the last one picked every time in Grade School but you still want to hang out and have fun, there are divisions that are really just more of an excuse to go to the bar afterward than play any actual “games.”
If you don’t know anyone who is on a team, don’t worry. You can sign up as a free agent and be assigned a team who will be happy to have you. Most leagues are co-rec and are set up so that the ladies are included in every aspect of the game. The TMSSC also offers several parties, mixers, weekends and trips for its members that range from a bowling night to a camping trip in the upper keys. And, again, you can do these things all year round thanks to our fantastic weather.
If real organized sports are still a little too competitive for you, Miami also plays host to several different divisions of the World Adult Kickball Association. Yes, that’s right, kickball. The same game you played at 9 years old on the playground is now a weekend recreational league of young (and not-so-young) professionals drinking beer and kicking around the big red ball. Leagues play on Thursday or Friday night or Sunday afternoon and usually feature a sponsoring bar that most of the league will go to afterwards. Each league also has a mid-season party which typically features free beer and pizza. I know many relationships and friendships that have started in kickball clothes (everyone gets a brightly colored T-Shirt) and if nothing less it is something mildly athletic to do with your weekends. For more information, visit http://www.kickball.com and search in the Florida Divisions. Miami’s are Grove, Coastal, and Fuego. Yes, Fuego.
Also, thanks to our unique geographic location, there area variety of recreational clubs you can join to meet people. Scuba Diving, Triathlons, Biking, Hiking, Boating and even skydiving have large clubs here that have outings and activities all year round. And while the humidity does make some of them rather difficult you never have to deal with any of those pesky rises in elevation that can hamper your stellar times.
YOU’RE NOT CLUMSY, YOU’RE “CHARMING”
If you are not of Hispanic origin, you may be slightly intimidated at the prospect of taking a salsa dancing class. Especially if you are not of Hispanic origin and dance like it. But much like sports, there are classes for people of all ability levels and everyone there is probably equally as nervous as you are. Learning Salsa can be a great social tool for you in many ways: First, in your class you will no doubt meet a good number of people and probably get to dance with them. And even if you’re not very good, nobody is going to care. If there is one thing I have learned about Salsa instructors it’s that they appreciate anyone making the effort (and paying them to do it) to learn, and just hope that you try your best to improve.
Second, once you actually learn how to do it, Miami has more Salsa Clubs than most countries in Latin America. So if you are comfortable with Hispanic culture, you can go out to any of these clubs and meet all sorts of people. Since salsa dancing actually takes some skill and is a little more graceful than the dry-humping done on the dance floors of most American clubs, a Salsa partner can actually gain a respect for you if you know what you are doing. Or, if you don’t. you may still seem like that charming gringo (or gringa) who at least tried. And can be taught.
KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSE AND YOUR FRIENDS CLOSER
While it is often easy to meet people here in Miami, you must always remember that this town is American Mecca of shady and underhanded people. Many come from countries where corruption is a way of life, and those who don’t came here to escape something. So when someone seems a little TOO eager to be your friend, it is probably not because of your overwhelmingly magnetic personality. It is probably because they are trying to screw you. Either literally or figuratively.
If you come from a place where people are generally nice, you must learn to abandon your inherent trust of human beings and assume everyone is crooked until they prove otherwise. This may sound a bit jaded to some, but it is the best and only way to make sure the new people you meet here in South Florida actually are looking to be friends and not looking for creative ways to break into your house. It may be difficult, but the best advice is that if someone gives you a feeling that they are a little, off, in this town they most likely are. In addition to this large number of less-than-scrupulous individuals, you may also find a good number of people who enjoy partaking in illegal substances.
One common media perception of Miami that actually has a glimmer of truth to it is that there are a lot of people here on drugs. This is especially true if you are making friends in the aforementioned service industry, but in this town it is not at all uncommon to be out with a group of lawyers, accountants or even doctors and have a bag of cocaine lying around. You may choose weather or not you want to be friends with such people, but eliminating recreational drug users from your list of potential friends will severely limit your opportunities. The best thing to do is try and separate the drug users from the drug addicts. For instance if someone offers you a line at their house one night when you are pre-drinking to go out, this is not necessarily a red flag. If he is offering you a line when you go into his office to ask a question about a presentation you are working on, this may be someone to avoid.
This is not to say that everyone in Miami is an untrustworthy drug addict. It is a mere precaution to those of you who may not be quite so familiar with the permissive and underhanded lifestyle that is South Florida. There are good people everywhere, and the trick in Miami is to figure out who they are and make sure you keep them around. Whether you like to meet people playing sports, working, dancing, drinking or any other activity you enjoy, you should not let our reputation for surly residents scare you. Every city is what you make of it, and in Miami if you can find people with similar interests chances are you will discover we are not all as bad as we are made out to be.
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