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How to Make Friends in the City: Grow Vegetables Together

In East London’s Nomadic Community Garden, Bangladeshi families tend beds of eggplant, squash, and other seasonal vegetables alongside their non-Bangladeshi neighbors. The Garden is a gathering place in a densely populated neighborhood known as “Banglatown,” where different communities often struggle to get to know each other. With an event space, a public park, and more than 100 mobile garden beds, it’s one of the largest inner-city outdoor growing spaces in England—a hub that director James Wheale hopes can heal urban alienation by bringing people together.

Forming meaningful friendships can be difficult in cities, partly because many don’t have enough public spaces where people experience the “repeated spontaneous contact” required for making friends, according to Vox’s David Roberts. He cites sociologist Rebecca G. Adams’ three key ingredients for building strong relationships: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.” But public spaces where “people regularly mingle [while] doing errands, walking their dogs, [and] playing in parks” can be difficult to find as urban land is commercialized.

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