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Making friends in a new city

Josephine Walsh

Picture this: you move to a new city and want to make friends.

Luckily, your workplace has an active social calendar and is filled with lovely, like-minded colleagues. You already know a handful of people who welcome you with open arms into their social circle. You envision chuckling with your freshly-minted mates at after-work drinks, arranging group movie nights, and becoming a surrogate mother to your new bestie’s adorable terrier.

Except, what if:

  1. You’re not working, or in a workplace where people don’t really socialise
  2. You know zero people
  3. All of the above

When I moved to Canada earlier this year, I felt like I’d been thrown back into the dating pool. I realised how much my broader social network had led me to meeting people, and how tricky it is to make connections completely from scratch.

I was that nervous chick chatting with their yoga instructor after class, worried that she might think I was hitting on her when I really just wanted to find someone to enjoy brunch with. I’ve also spent an exorbitant amount of time extolling the virtues of Australian coffee culture to random baristas, just for the sake of talking to someone other than the host of the podcast I’m listening to (discussions which are disappointingly one-sided).

Whilst I’ll leave the mechanics of striking up a conversation with a complete stranger entirely up to you, here are some sure-fire ways to put yourself in the friend zone.

Your answer is always yes

Colleagues ducking out for lunch in the city? Neighbour invites you around for a catch up? A friend connects you to another new arrival who wants to see the latest Thor movie? Yes, you’d love to tag along.

Don’t turn down the chance to socialise, network and meet people, even if you’re not in the mood to go out or don’t have an interest in said event. You never know who you’ll meet, and you might surprise yourself by discovering an unexpected passion.

There is never a shortage of events in Canberra, and you’re sure to find something that floats your boat in the What’s On section of HerCanberra.

Jump online to find out who’s out there

Meetup is an impressive online resource which lists communities and events in your city. There is a huge diversity of Canberra-based groups that connect people with shared interests in anything from jogging to Jane Austen, breweries to bookclubs, and stacks more.

Facebook also offers a plethora of Canberra-based groups, and the ‘What’s On in Canberra’ Facebook Page is another great way to find out what’s happening. Keen Instagrammer? Igers Canberra host semi-regular Instameets as a fun way to explore and photograph the city (be sure to register as places are usually limited and book up fast).

Also, don’t be disappointed or disheartened if your first attempt at joining a group doesn’t yield the bosom-buddy you’d hoped for. I joined a bookclub in Ottawa and only went once because the reading list didn’t align with my taste. But, I had a fun evening out where I met some lovely women, and I’m open to going again if there’s a book that piques my interest.

Get on your hobby horse

Always wanted to try your hand at pottery? Nurtured a lifelong dream of doing a photography course? Or maybe you’re kicking yourself that you missed the Italian Film Festival for like, the seventh year in a row.

If you’ve had a slow-burning desire to try your hand at something, now is the time to do it. I took up life-drawing in Canberra last year, which not only acted as mental yoga for my brain but also introduced me to some very talented Canberra creatives. Similarly, learning French this year got me out of my comfort zone and into a café with a classmate who also didn’t understand le future proche.

Jose French textbook

Check out Eventbrite to find workshops, classes and retreats in Canberra that will fuel your creative fire and hopefully add a few friends to your network.

Take care of your body

Whether it’s joining a gym, signing up to an introductory offer at a barre studio, or giving bootcamp a try, finding an active pursuit will put you in a healthy environment and good mental headspace to meet people. Tell the instructor you’ve just moved to the city and ask if they can introduce you to other newbies, and find out if they organise informal social events like post-boxing coffee.

Jose puppy_feature

I joined a yoga studio in my first week in Ottawa and thanks to my Aussie accent managed to befriend the owner, who has an adorable Yorkshire terrier and lovely husband who we’ve since gone camping with. I’m secretly stoked to being one step closer to becoming a surrogate dog mama.

You’ll find a staggering number of fitness activities and reviews on the HerCanberra ACTIVE directory.

Find a local place to unwind alone

Whether you’re a stickler for good coffee, keen to find a cosy nook where you can read, or love to finish the day with a glass of pinot and a cheeseboard, finding a local where you’re happy in your own company is essential when you move to a different city.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive to making friends, I think it’s really important to find a public place where you feel comfortable being by yourself. I find that spending time alone when I’m around others is good for my mental health and helps me to feel connected to people.

Sure, you might not become besties with your barista, but it’s always nice when the staff at your favourite joint remember your name, ask how your day was, and have your double-shot macchiato ready within two minutes of your arrival.

My favourite Canberra places to fly solo are Mocan and Green Grout, Monster at HotelHotel, Bar Rochford and ONA Manuka – the staff at these places are all lovely, the spaces are cosy and you won’t stick out like a sore thumb because you’re dining alone. And, you might just meet someone else who’s also reading Big Little Lies that you can bond with.

Remember, making friends can take time. You’re not going to gel with everyone you pluck up the courage to introduce yourself to, and some friendships might fizzle. But, if you strike a balance between being proactive in meeting people and not putting too much pressure on yourself, you’re sure to make meaningful connections. A simple hello can lead to a million things.

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Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh is a digital communications specialist who also runs her own blog, mapleandmabel.com. She has a passion for museums and the arts, a deep love of travel and more shoes than sense. Having worked in museums for the past seven years, she loves finding new ways to connect people with their cultural institutions. She loves meeting new people, hunting for a decent espresso, and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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