It’s Hard to Make Friends in Chattanooga


I’ve had two experiences moving to new cities as an adult.


Fresh out of college and newly married, my husband and I got back from our honeymoon, spent one day in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and then drove out to Nashville to our new apartment. Our dads had actually moved all of our stuff there while we were on our honeymoon. (BEST DADS EVER.) And, knowing no one and nothing, both aged 22, we started adult life.

I found it pretty easy to make friends in Nashville as a newlywed.

It seemed like everyone there was a transplant; being a native Nashvillian is rare. At work, through Vanderbilt (where my husband was doing his graduate work) and at church, we met people and connected. We spent a lot of time with our church friends, even as they had kids. We would frequent the Bluegrass Inn with a couple and their toddler daughter pretty often! Our first Christmas in Nashville, unable to travel to our far-away homes for the holidays, a woman I had worked with just two months invited us to their home to celebrate on Christmas Day.

Our closest friends lived a good 45-minute drive from our condo, but we still traveled back and forth. Nashville is spread out, and we just accepted that sometimes it would take us an hour’s drive to get somewhere. Oh well. With church, our work/school, and a supper club, we felt very connected and supported.


So in January 2010, after living apart for four months, I finally joined my husband in Chattanooga. By that point we had one daughter who was 14-months-old – and within two months I would be pregnant again. My husband had met some people through his new job at Baylor, but I found myself kind of lost as a new stay-at-home parent. (And then as a very sick, pregnant, new SAHM.)

It took us months to find a church that felt like a good fit. Meanwhile, the only friends I really had were our backyard neighbors, a couple in their 70s. I tried a MOPS group and a Mom’s Club. I did a Bible study with some other women.

And so I kept kind of busy, but I didn’t feel connected. 

Even when we joined a church, I didn’t feel like I belonged or had anyone I could really call when I was going crazy, wanted to hang out or grab a coffee, or desperately needed a friend to watch my kid for an hour.

At this church we quickly discovered that half of the people there were related in some way or another. These two went to youth group together, and his brother married her sister, and then HER brother married someone else and they all still went to the church. (Untangling this web was like a month’s-long logic problem.)

It’s something I’ve found more and more: a lot of people in Chattanooga grew up here. Their families still live here. Their friends from high school live here. They don’t really NEED new friends.

I think the mountains and roads in Chattanooga also cause issues when it comes to making connections. Want to get from Ooltewah to Soddy Daisy? It doesn’t look that far on a map, but it will take you an hour. And people don’t venture that far from their homes quite as often. I’m used to getting where I want to go in 15-20 minutes, and anything farther seems a nuisance. (How many people in Hixson DESPISE crossing the river? So many.)

Not to be Debbie Downer, I eventually did find myself in groups of good friends. It’s just taken a whole lot of work and reaching out and some feelings of rejection. I refuse to stop putting myself out there for friendship. It’s worth it. Brynn shared some great advice on how to make friendships as a mom

Be brave. Reach out – even to someone who grew up here and seems to have all the friends she needs already. Because maybe she needs you, too. 

So is this a Chattanooga thing? Or is it all in my head?


  1. I think it’s also a season of life thing. I don’t find the city, itself, to be problematic for making friends. I find my schedule and the needs of my kids to be problematic for me making friends. There isn’t much time left over on any given day for doing what I want to do (and I’ve only got 2, so I know you feel this even more than I do!).

    Now I feel like the Debbie Downer! But just sharing my honest thoughts. This is a really tough season of life for nurturing the friendships you already have, let alone for forming new ones. Would love to hear advice anyone has for how to make it happen!

  2. I don’t know if It is hard to make friends in Chattanooga or if it’s just me. I prefer to go to work and come home and keep minimum hobbies or interest that take me outside my home. I haven’t really made too many connections in Chattanooga however I’d say I’m to blame for it. Everyone here is really nice and helpful but getting them to hang out seems much harder. I’m 26 and I moved here in 2014. I still only have one friend from Soddy Daisy who likes to actually hang. I have always heard it’s difficult to get settled into a new town unless you have kids because your kid makes friends left and right snd before you know it you are traveling here and there for play dates. We will see what happens when I have my first baby in October.

  3. This is so so true!!! Not in your head at all. Everyone here tends to be related to each other or knew each other from way back when. They don’t need other friendships. It has been very hard for us to feel like this is home because we haven’t put down roots here. When you can’t seem to connect with anyone it makes it kind of hard to put down roots.

  4. Yes! I totally agree. I’ve been here 8 years and it’s only been in the past year and a half that I’ve finally been able to really get connect.

  5. I just moved here, literally, today! I am hoping to make friends with moms from my girls’ school and preschool. We are on signal Mountain. I would love to meet some new people and build some friendships!

Comments are closed.