Is Canberra an unfriendly place to live?

Dazzlar 27 July 2009 85

Before we moved here we were told that “Canberra is a funny place, no one is friendly there” by quite a few people.

I wonder why there is that perception in the rest of Australia.

We got these responses from a varying group of people, some that had lived here, some that had only visited, people that had held positions at the highest points in Federal Government etc.

I was also told that “Canberrans are weird” and when asked in what way they couldn’t elaborate they just said “it was just a feeling”!

I can understand that people have a problem with government and yeah Canberra gets bagged for that but the people?


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85 Responses to Is Canberra an unfriendly place to live?
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Why Why 3:38 pm 06 Sep 16

Thank you rommeldog56. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

Yes, I need to join groups. What’s limited me is the time spent looking for work in between frequent trips interstate to complete renovations. Difficult to belong to a group or job when only here 50% of the time. The last renovation was completed Jan 4th this year, so I’ve been here almost full time since then. I should also say I am not young anymore, having turned 60 in July. Most of the comments from those that found assimilation easy are from the younger group- say 20’s and 30’s. I think it’s harder when one is older.
I’ve met many nice people here, but, alas, I only get to see them perhaps 3 or 4 times a year. The time in between (which is most of the time) is when I find it lonely and difficult.
I have just applied for another job. To date I have heard nothing back. It’s been a fortnight. Of the 12 jobs I’ve applied for, only 1 had the courtesy to respond with “Your application has been unsuccessful”. Even though political rhetoric states the opposite, I am sure my age is a very limiting factor, despite my years of experience and (I’m told- so it’s not ego speaking) my impressive resume.
Oh well, I guess I’ll keep on keeping on because that’s what people have to do. Cheers and thanks again rommeldog56 (BTW, love the moniker 🙂 )

rommeldog56 rommeldog56 10:07 pm 05 Sep 16

Why said :

My husband got a contract here and I moved to be with him after renovating and selling our home interstate. I’ve been here about 1.5 years. We don’t have children and I currently don’t have a job. I have never felt so isolated and alone in my life. We live in an area surrounded by embassies, so it’s not very welcoming nor friendly. I am desperately unhappy here. EVERYONE I have spoken to about this says the same thing: that Canberra is a beastly difficult place to assimilate to- especially if no job, no children and no groups. Everything is so expensive and because Canberra is just far enough from Sydney, all services are exorbitant…because, well, they can. Council rates here are three times what my husband pays for his house in a posh part of Sydney.
I hope we don’t retire here because I’ll me in a mental home if I have to stay here against my will for much longer.

Firstly, welcome. Sorry to hear that u are struggling – it can be difficult, Canberra is quite clique-oriented re getting to know people, but I suppose its no alone in that. Being in an Embassy area may not be ideal either but there are bound to be some residents groups in your area that u could join. Sports groups ? Volunteer groups ? Some of the larger clubs also have special interest groups. Google will help. But even if not in your area, is quite easy to drive or bus to where groups might meet. Sorry if this sounds like Its telling you the obvious.

In my view, Canberra used to be more friendly than it is now. U only have to look at some of the posts on here about the impact of and the non acknowledgement of the ACT Labor/Greens Govt’s 10% avg pa increase in Annual Rates on the elderly, the disabled, the aged, self funded retirees and other vulnerable groups to see the cold, non compassionate underbelly of this place. But, there are many, many great people here still (who probably don’t post on RiotACT). I wish u luck in your quest – sorry I can not be more specific with suggestions.

Why Why 12:46 pm 05 Sep 16

My husband got a contract here and I moved to be with him after renovating and selling our home interstate. I’ve been here about 1.5 years. We don’t have children and I currently don’t have a job. I have never felt so isolated and alone in my life. We live in an area surrounded by embassies, so it’s not very welcoming nor friendly. I am desperately unhappy here. EVERYONE I have spoken to about this says the same thing: that Canberra is a beastly difficult place to assimilate to- especially if no job, no children and no groups. Everything is so expensive and because Canberra is just far enough from Sydney, all services are exorbitant…because, well, they can. Council rates here are three times what my husband pays for his house in a posh part of Sydney.
I hope we don’t retire here because I’ll me in a mental home if I have to stay here against my will for much longer.

farnarkler farnarkler 10:23 pm 29 Aug 11

A few thoughts;

– Most of us who’ve lived here for a long time have friends from school and work. Some groups are more cliquey.
– Sometimes you’re going to meet people who’ll say, nicely or not, they’ve got enough friends and don’t want any more.
– A lot of women complain about the lack of decent blokes here yet have the princess syndrome so they wouldn’t be seen with a tradie or a bloke who’s at a lower APS level. (this isn’t one of mine but I hear it a lot)
– Speed dating can be a good way of meeting people. A mate of mine is forever bumping into women he met speed dating. Always seems to happen at the casino nightclub.
– Those that are really unfriendly are probably not worth wanting to know.

KB1971 KB1971 9:34 pm 29 Aug 11

JessP said :

I think the major divide in Canberra is simple – those who were born here and those who were not! I work with lots of people who were born here who have big friendship groups….and the blow ins (me included) who do not.

Yes an no, I was not born here & my wife who was gets cranky because she cannot take me anywhere without me seeing someone I know.

I am having my birthday this weekend and I had to cut the list to 30 people as there is not enough room in the camping spot for more. I have a coue of circles of friends, my close mares that I have known for ever, my mountain bike riding mates (they are from all walks of life & god know what they think of me bu they keep turning up for rides 🙂 ) & some Canadian friends that are here temporarily who are from a different background again but we still share some common interests.

Quite often I find the people who say Canberra is clicky are not really accepting Canberra for what it is.

JessP JessP 6:46 pm 29 Aug 11

I think the major divide in Canberra is simple – those who were born here and those who were not! I work with lots of people who were born here who have big friendship groups….and the blow ins (me included) who do not.

fragge fragge 5:11 pm 29 Aug 11

Mmmm I don’t think individually many Canberrans would identify themselves as “unfriendly”, but previous posts are right – Canberra is clique-oriented. On top of this, we also have two socio-economic crossroads (semi-related) between public service/non public service, and the lib/labor division. These divisions create opposing personality traits, fostering the kind of stand-off, defensive behaviours mentioned by others here (these relate further to basic human psychology and are irrelevant to making friends). I think, with regards to “out-of-towners”, that people naturally associate with those they relate to or can benefit from in some way. Since most Canberrans (at least in my age bracket of 20-30) already have their friendship-groups established, they find it difficult to relate to somebody that strikes up conversations with complete strangers. This is an immediate “red flag” against the rapidly forming pseudo-personality of Person A (the stranger) in Person B (the Canberran)’s eyes, and jades the rest of the interaction between Persons A & B until the inevitable awkward segue out of the conversation. If this hypothetical conversation happened during night-time, a time most city-dwellers associate with increased danger, the “red flag”, under the right circumstances, could be a giant glowing “WARNING”.

Some possible ways to mitigate this effect are to reduce the possible threat factors you give off (ie: relate to the individual as quickly as possible to establish a tangible connection upon which further communication can be built) and to pick very carefully whom you try to meet (at least in a night/city surrounding) because sometimes, people just really don’t want to be bothered when they’re out with friends.

taysui taysui 1:15 pm 07 Apr 11

I am female, early 30s. Must admit that for a city, Canberra is friendly – but only, and i stress ONLY in the daytime. And only for more casual encounters (which i think someone else has already pointed out). I’ve struck lots of random conversations with complete strangers on buses, bus stops, supermarket queues to a larger degree than in any other place i’ve lived/visited. I’ve also had friendly neighbours (although i must admit that i haven’t been able to get close enough to anyone to call them a friend).
NIGHTTIME on the other hand… completely different story. Finding myself in civic on a sat night after being stood up by a friend (who for the record is not a canberran), i figured i was out already may as well go check it what was going on. Decided on retro at the casino. My experience with retros elsewhere in the world has been good. Who couldn’t be friendly in a place that plays daggy old music and has a diverse age range? Turns out i was wrong. Apart from some pity from a nice bouncer (not a canberran), i stood around for almost 2 hours alone. I know i’d been noticed by others and it was obvious i was by myself. I wasn’t being surly as i came in with a positive attitude. I don’t think i was acting strange or unapproachable. Not only was i passively ignored but when i crossed the dance floor to request a song form the DJ, a guy who was dancing alone temporarily isolated from his group actually deliberately turned his back on me as i got closer. This happened again same scenario but with a completely different guy some time later. Like they were afraid i’d try to crack onto them or something (as if). And once i was standing near a group of guys who were actively trying to pick up girls and succeeding in some instances, and about 1 minute after i started standing there they moved away. For the record they were near comfy tables i was not after any of them. Being a naturally optimistic person who doesn’t like to give up easily, I decided to be proactive and talk to some people. One girl carried on a half hearted conversation with me before finding an excuse to leave. One guy was friendly enough but soon after, his friend did a bizarre dance move designed to edge me out of the group. When i ran into the guy again and started talking, another friend dragged him away from me. Like i wasn’t good enough for them. I eventually got rescued by a lovely middle aged couple (again not canberrans, from Queanbeyan) and had a reasonably good time yet feeling mildly deflated.
I’ve been out in other places alone (including places reputed to be unfriendly e.g. Sydney) and have always found people my age (20s 30s) of either gender willing to at least talk to me and keep me company if i so desired. If i struck conversation with the opposite sex they didn’t automatically assume i was after them and if they did and they weren’t attracted to me they would still remain polite.
Back to Canberra, I’ve also been out alone for trivia nights at least 4 times and been left totally alone. A one person trivia group (who’s managed to beat larger teams, ha!) Also a few bars and the only people who would talk to me were compassionate bar staff.
If you’re after friendly pubs in Canberra stay away from civic (except the phoenix – quite friendly for the centre of town). Bikie bars are pretty friendly too. Stay away from civic until you’ve made some friends!!!
Anyone else had this experience? Perhaps we should start a ‘friendly Canberra nightlife’ movement or some such thing. Come on Canberra i know you’re not all bad!

Lin Lin 10:55 am 08 Feb 11

There are groups here, but after living here for 14 years (having come from overseas) I still struggle with the uniformity of Canberra. I miss the subcultures that you find in other cities of this size (and bigger).

dundle dundle 10:35 am 08 Feb 11

Jamika said :

However, Canberrans are certainly ‘weird’ (and not in a gothic-emo kind of weird, either). I put it down to some deep conservatism that lives here. It’s certainly one of the most straight-laced towns I have ever lived in.

For real? Conservative how? Canberra is very liberal, politically and otherwise. If it’s “straight-laced” it’s probably just because a smaller city just won’t have such a variety of unusual sub-cultures forming, purely for the numbers not being enough.

dundle dundle 10:32 am 08 Feb 11

eyeLikeCarrots said :

My unfortunate experience of Canberra so far is that meeting women who dont fall into the category or ‘career builder’ or ‘I’m not interested if your aint driving an Audi’ has been very difficult.

30 year old, quiet/geek type looking for a date.. apply here

As a Canberra woman I can say that’s a complete lie and you must be doing something very wrong if you’ve got that impression. Where are you meeting these people?

Then again, the fact you dismissively refer to a large number of women as “career builders” makes me wonder about you. What exactly does somebody have to do to be a career builder? I’d say Canberra has fewer “career builders” than other places as the opportunities are always going to be bigger in a bigger city. Canberrra also has a significant percentage of people here are employed in the public service, which is huge on work/balance, making you work fewer hours. It also earns you less money at the higher levels than private industry. As a result I find most employees here incredibly laid back, not lazy when it comes to work or promotions but appreciative of their flextime. I suspect you’re dismissing all women with half-decent jobs into the “career builders” category – antiquated sexist opinions could be why you can’t find a date.

cleo cleo 12:43 am 08 Feb 11

I think most Canberra people are incestuous, they appear not to want to mix with others but rather stick to a certain group, if you are born and bred here well thumbs up, that means you have friends that you have grown up with.
They don’t like outsiders coming in, sounds like their inbred, makes it so uninteresting and boring.

Jamika Jamika 11:34 pm 07 Feb 11

I would say Canberrans are probably more polite than they are friendly. People here seem to be kind of cold in a way, but formal and polite. It is rare to encounter any real rudeness here and when they (i.e. Canberrans) encounter it from an interstate visitor, they seem to respond to it with a quiet bemusement. However, Canberrans are certainly ‘weird’ (and not in a gothic-emo kind of weird, either). I put it down to some deep conservatism that lives here. It’s certainly one of the most straight-laced towns I have ever lived in. But for all that, the place has its charms. And don’t forget, there is a large number of people from interstate who are just as bewildered as you. If you can’t infiltrate the Canberra clique, you can always hang with the blow-ins.

peterepete peterepete 11:21 pm 07 Feb 11

It’s the Canberra chip they put in after 5 years

CanberraBrunette CanberraBrunette 8:12 pm 07 Feb 11

Unfortunately, I’m a born and bred Canberran and even I have trouble making friends. I lost touch with nearly all my school friends for different reasons, some friends are now married with kids so they have no time for singles anymore, and no matter what clubs I join, any of those friendships don’t seem to last!

I especially find it hard with other females… Canberra girls can be very snobby.

Have you tried dance groups? I hope by now that you’ve managed to meet some friendly people!

I also have to agree on Canberra drivers… they seem to get worse each day. 🙁

awake awake 3:01 pm 05 Jul 10

Hmm…

I’ve lived in Canberra from 94 – 2000, then in Melbourne for six years, travelled the world for a year, and an now back in the Berra… here’s my take (complete with generalisations)

I’ve been lucky to find a good group of friends in Canberra… we do things together now and then, i have different pockets of friends. I’ve had to let a few go due to their dodgy ways, but for the most part it’s been fine.

However, i find meeting new people outside of the usual group to be somewhat challenging. Guys are generally fine, as i guy myself i usually get along with other guys, there’s the occassional dickhead, which i ignore and don’t associate with, but for the most part it’s been AOK.

Girls are another story. Don’t get me wrong, i have some wonderful girl friends in Canberra, but attempting to meet a girl for dating out and about is like pulling teeth. I don’t bother trying anymore! I’m usually happy to strike up conversation with anyone, however i’ve found doing this with girls (on the town, nightclubs, etc) just puts them on the defensive. Which is wierd for me, because i like talking to people, i’m wanting to get to know someone before i get involved with them, but from what i can gather i’m instantly pigeon-holed… into what hole is beyond me, considering that don’t know me from a bar of soap.

It’s funny, these pre-conceptions occur quite often. As mentioned, i’m interested in people and like to find out what they’re about, so coming across people who have seemingly made up their mind about me (was the tone of my hello not to your liking?) is a wierd thing.

On the flip side, i’ve talked to heaps of girls (friends, cousins, family, etc..) who say it’s hard to meet a decent guy in Canberra. So i have no clue whats really going on…

About the road… you guys are a territory of speeders. I don’t have much of a problem with it on the open road, i tend to stick to the speed limit, but when i’m doing the right thing for roadworks, school zones, etc… and someone is up my arse, its enough to piss me off. Where the hell are these people in such a hurry to get to? Overall, i thought victorian drivers were the worst… now i put canberra drivers in the same class for completely different reasons. There’s a bunch of unneeded aggression on the roads here, and people need to slow down and not get upset when other drivers arn’t doing the speed limit you think should exist (rather then the speed limit that’s actually on the signs, remember those?)

Canberra is a wierd bunch of social groups. I sometimes think it’s like a big office party. Being from the country originally, i’m fairly open, and like to speak my mind. Depending on the social group i’m in, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. People seem to go out with other people they work with… which is like bringing work out with you. I see a LOT of people holding back because of work – social connections.

Don’t understand the ‘up market’ crowd. Never known any, don’t go out to kingston / manuka much so it’s all foreign to me. As for women who only touch guys who have money, cars, etc… who wants that? No thanks, next please!

Overall, yep Canberra is a wierd place with wierd people (myself included). However, i’ve found it to be friendly, once you’re in a ‘trusted circle’. Outside of that circle it can be alien and isolating. It helps to be open to new people and encourage them by inviting them to a party… we’re all in this, so lets make some effort.

Mark Mark 8:32 pm 26 Jun 10

I don’t know if I would say that Canberra is *unfriendly*…more that it is a fairly introverted and quiet city. I’m planning to move to Melbourne later (but I’m going to buy in Canberra first, soon, and rent in Melbourne) because I prefer a diverse range of people, places and experiences. It is a little insular and sheltered here. Really, Canberra is a glorified town/large version of suburbia…with a main town road that is currently being ‘rehabilitated’.

If you want to meet people whilst here, why not join the SES or volunteer for community organisations? You may find that you need to start conversations here because people can be a little shy, and you do need to get things going initially.

Canberra devotees love it here though…of course they’re the ones that think driving a BMW, walking up and down Civic together, and wearing expensive (but still rather unfashionable) clothes is the ultimate in life.

SheepGroper SheepGroper 9:26 am 29 Jul 09

Possum said :

The first encounter with my next-door neighbour was one of “don’t you dare let your dog touch my pristine lawn of weeds, and don’t let your visitors park on my pavement!”

My first encounter with one neighbour was when he bleated at Old Bob, my first sheep. My first encounter with another neighbour was when she asked if she could take photos of her rugrats with the sheep, Old Bob and the two lambs. Maybe you chose the wrong kind of pet?

Thumper Thumper 8:24 am 29 Jul 09

Possum, there are a thousand things you can do. However, you have to make an effort.

Join a sporting club. How about SES, RFS or St Johns? Archaeological or history societies? What about friends of the Gardens? Work mates? Book clubs? Film clubs? Even some of the RA people get together now and then for breakfast or lunch or whatever. There has to be something out there that you are interested in?

Make an effort. Not all people are cold, heartless, snobbish bastards.

I am, but that’s probably because I’ve lived in canberra for a while 😉

misshelly misshelly 5:14 am 29 Jul 09

Possum said :

I live on the southside in a quiet cul-de-sac. The suburb is “middle range” so it’s not as if I am surrounded by students, or academics, or PS, or old, or young or any one particular group – they seem to be a varied mix. And not having children means I have no contact through schools or sporting groups. Even when I did have a dog I received, at best, a nod of acknowledgement, occasionally. Yes, the clubs seem to be “off-limits” to the likes of me.
To make a very general comment I would say that Canberrans don’t like “intruders” on their patch. Sad….

Walk around the lake (Tuggers)! I can’t get around it ever without stopping to chat a few times! 🙂

I don’t have children either but have a (motorsport) interest which has meant a massive amount of new friends, some who I now count amongst my closest friends.

It seems as if you’re expecting things to come to you…. be passionate about something, there must be something you’re interested in?

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