The start of the year typically sees an influx of people move to the capital for work or university.
I relocated from Brisbane to Canberra nearly two years ago for work. I had been au pairing in Europe in the 12 months prior to the move and was in serious need of earning a proper wage after draining all my savings on travel. At the time, there weren’t so many jobs in Brisbane so I applied for a job in Canberra on a whim, and much to my surprise, got the job. I didn’t give the move a second thought even though I’d never been to Canberra and I didn’t know a soul there. Given I’d lived overseas for a year away from family and friends and in a country where I barely spoke the language, I thought, “how hard can it be, at least everyone speaks English there.”
The first few weeks were fine as I got used to the job and explored in and around Canberra – happy to just have a car again. Then the novelty of a new city wore off, and loneliness set in at about the same time the weather started to cool down. I realised I had to make some friends but didn’t know where to start. I’d never been in this situation before. Many of my Brisbane friends asked me shortly after the move: “How do you make friends down there? Do you sit in a pub and wait for people to come talk to you?” It was a good question.
Making friends starting from scratch as an adult can be hard especially when you’re a little shy. My colleagues were a good start but I wanted to branch out and have a social circle outside of work. I soon figured out that Canberra is extremely transient which makes finding good friends planning to stay in Canberra for a while very difficult.
Team sports were one option I thought of to make friends, but then through a colleague who had been in a similar situation, I came across the Meetup website. I’d never heard of it before – but it’s used worldwide and has events for all ages. I looked into it and found groups for all sorts of interests – fitness, coffee, road trips and trivia among many others. I joined a couple of groups with no expectations and waited to see what events would come up. The first meet up I went to was a Saturday morning bootcamp. It was incredibly daunting walking up to a group of people I’d never met before and introducing myself but soon found out they were very welcoming and had all been in a similar situation.
I had a great start to finding new friends, but admittedly it had its up and downs. In my first year of Canberra I travelled a lot for work so it was hard to maintain friendships.
But last year, I made a more concerted effort to make friends through Meetup and it worked. I’ve now gone to a number of Meetups such as brunches, dinners, hikes and markets, and made a great groups of friends – many of which I think I’ll be friends with years to come even if we probably end up living in different parts of the country.
For those of you who are new to Canberra, it can be a bit out of your comfort zone for some people, but Meetup is a great way to get to know Canberra and make friends. It certainly saved me from taking the easy way out and leaving Canberra after a couple of months, to realising Canberra is a great place to progress my career and it’s not as bad as people think once you make some friends.
Meetup is at www.meetup.com Just sign up, enter your interests and get ready to make some new friends.
What are your suggestions for making friends in Canberra?