Four steps to landing on your feet in a new town
When I arrived here, it surprised me to learn that Vancouverites sometimes refer to their home as a no-fun city. Growing up in Alberta, it seemed Vancouver was the place everyone wanted to live ... if only they could afford the rent. But I soon realized it was destined to be no fun for me if I didn't find a way to get involved in my community and make instant friends. Who cares if there's activity all around you when you're clueless about where to go - and have no one to go there with?
Step One: ParticipAction
If I were a Spice Girl, I'd be Klutzy, not Sporty. Still, team sports are a great way to meet people and have an instant group of drinking buddies, so I dusted off my sneakers and hunted down opportunities to play volleyball, the one sport I showed a glimmer of aptitude for way back in high school.
Once you pick your sport, a good place to start is community centres, which offer a range of activities for any level. Check out the "Parks and Recreation Guide" option in the drop-down menu at www.city.vancouver.bc.ca to browse the variety of programs offered.
Vancouver Sport offers leagues and tournaments in a variety of sports, including volleyball, basketball, and ultimate (you know, the Frisbee game). You can register as an individual and they will hook you up with teammates, and there are socializing opportunities through casual post-game beers as well as organized events. There are lots of other leagues out there - find the sport that interests you under "Sports/Athletic Clubs & Organizations" in the Yellow Pages.
Step Two: Do Unto Others
Volunteering in your community lets you work with others toward a common goal - always a bonus when trying to meet kindred spirits. Try the Go Volunteer website or call Volunteer Vancouver at 604-875-9144 to find a match for your skills and interests.
Step Three: Sign Me Up
I had a boss who complained that he took courses like soap making and cooking to meet women, but after a quick glance around the room, often realized he was stuck in a class he didn't care about with women he wouldn't consider dating. But why not take a class you're actually interested in, where you will be surrounded by like-minded people doing something you enjoy?
The Vancouver School Board's Continuing Education and the city's Parks and Recreation Guide both offer general interest courses. Other organized ways to meet people include Toastmasters or Newcomers Clubs.
Step Four: All By Myself
Yes, it's intimidating, but even a shy person can suck it up and do things solo. Some people thrive on exploring a new city on their own. If you're not one of them, take baby steps - take a book to a park, stop in at a library reading, look through the Georgia Straight's listing for events - just get out there and smile. It's hard to meet people if you're sitting at home wishing you had someone to do things with.
The key to making connections in a new city is to first make the connection between your interests and the possibilities out there. You don't have to be a pro to enjoy a recreational sport league, but you might not want to sign up for basketball if your fondest memory of the game is being picked last in gym class 20 years ago. Love reading? Volunteer to read to an isolated senior, or join a book club through your local bookstore. Have a talent for basketweaving? Improve those skills through a continuing education course. Just leave the soap making classes to those who really want to make soap.
(Originally published February 2003)