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Making friends when you’re new to Canberra

By Lisa Martin - 15 January 2015 11

crowd-alone-friends-stock

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?

What’s Your opinion?


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11 Responses to
Making friends when you’re new to Canberra
Raging Tempest 2:02 pm 18 Jun 15

Jen said :

Great article, Im in the exact same position now. Moved from Brisbane to Canberra but Im originally from Sweden. Been here a couple of months and definitely starting to want to get more social life on. Will definitely look into meetup! My partner is australian and his friends are all great, but I miss my girl friends from back home and Brisbane so would love to meet some friendly girls for coffee, shopping or working out!

Have you checked out he Scandinavian Australian Association? There is a midsommar gathering in the senate rose gardens on sat 20th at midday. Come along!

rubaiyat 12:04 pm 18 Jun 15

I found hanging around in the lobby of Federal Parliament with notes sticking up out of my top pocket worked a treat. 😉

Jen 10:52 am 18 Jun 15

Great article, Im in the exact same position now. Moved from Brisbane to Canberra but Im originally from Sweden. Been here a couple of months and definitely starting to want to get more social life on. Will definitely look into meetup! My partner is australian and his friends are all great, but I miss my girl friends from back home and Brisbane so would love to meet some friendly girls for coffee, shopping or working out!

fps_grandma 12:23 am 17 Jan 15

Mess said :

fps_grandma said :

3) “No nightlife” or not enough goods and services outlets
While this may not be true back when Private Bin and ICBM were around however this excuse is becoming increasingly valid. Organisers and investors may not justify establishing more local goods and services outlets for a population of less than half a million. There needs to be a rapid and significant social, cultural and economic shift if there is to be a greater retention of people and therefore jobs to sustain these goods and services outlets.

You’re kidding right? If anything Canberra’s nightlife and entertainment is growing daily. Look at places like Hopscotch, Bent Spoke, Honky Tonks, Tounge and Groove, Parlour, A – Baker, Lucky’s, and Molly’s, just to name a few, that have all opened up in the last few years.

We also have events such as the Multi-cultural festival, Enlighten, You are here festival, The Forage and Groovin’ the Moo as well as sporting events like the Asian Cup, PM’s XI, World cup cricket, International one day matches, Raiders and Brumbies games.

If anything there is too much going on, I struggle to keep up with the multitude of events and things to do every weekend.

But if you want to stay at home and moan about how Canberra is so boring, go right ahead. I’ll be out enjoying myself.

I’ve actually been to just about every place you’ve mentioned repeatedly.

Let me rephrase my point:
The venues you mentioned are mostly bars.
There is a significant difference between a bar and a dance nightclub. At a nightclub not only is alcohol served but a DJ is present to play music primarily of the dance genre accompanied by various patterns of ambient lighting but they are both no longer around.

Mollys does not have a nightclub atmosphere as it is a Prohibition Era themed bar.
Meche, ICBM and Tongue and Groove fit the precise definition of a nightclub however the former two are no longer in operation.

The bar scene is growing which is great but there are overwhelmingly more bars and (overpriced) restaurants than nightclubs.

This means there is an excess of certain types of venues and entertainment and therefore less balance and variety.
Variety.

Pork Hunt 9:43 pm 16 Jan 15

tooltime said :

Couldn’t agree more Mess,

Civic is livelier & has way more diversity for social stuff now. I love Honky Tonks!

Cliche warning! Seriously people, make a effort. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can’t know enough people. The world doesn’t owe you a social life( or a relationship, for that matter). It’s a numbers game, so keep putting yourself out there.

I was a bit introverted and shy too years ago when I moved here as a farm boy from the bush, but the interweb now has made it so easy you can plan a social gathering before you even arrive in a new place. And don’t be too quick to dismiss a particular group either – give it a few goes and eventually people you could hang out with will show. They may be a bit cliquey & not replace your best mates, but Canberra is small enough for people to know people via six Kevin Bacons.

Things that have worked for me when I moved around ( for nearly a decade) were: LandCare & Rural Fire Service, 4WD & Bushwalking Clubs, Sports Clubs, Debating & Toastmasters, University Clubs, things to do with your kids school, bootccamps, cycling groups. Do a short course at TAFE – I found my wife behind a pottery wheel! What have you got to lose?

The use of cliches should be avoided like the plague…

tooltime 4:24 pm 16 Jan 15

Couldn’t agree more Mess,

Civic is livelier & has way more diversity for social stuff now. I love Honky Tonks!

Cliche warning! Seriously people, make a effort. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can’t know enough people. The world doesn’t owe you a social life( or a relationship, for that matter). It’s a numbers game, so keep putting yourself out there.

I was a bit introverted and shy too years ago when I moved here as a farm boy from the bush, but the interweb now has made it so easy you can plan a social gathering before you even arrive in a new place. And don’t be too quick to dismiss a particular group either – give it a few goes and eventually people you could hang out with will show. They may be a bit cliquey & not replace your best mates, but Canberra is small enough for people to know people via six Kevin Bacons.

Things that have worked for me when I moved around ( for nearly a decade) were: LandCare & Rural Fire Service, 4WD & Bushwalking Clubs, Sports Clubs, Debating & Toastmasters, University Clubs, things to do with your kids school, bootccamps, cycling groups. Do a short course at TAFE – I found my wife behind a pottery wheel! What have you got to lose?

scouserdog 3:06 pm 16 Jan 15

For me work and volunteering has always been the best way to make friends in Canberra who have the same interests and values. I find animal rescue groups particularly good for this and also working with refugees.

Mess 2:20 pm 16 Jan 15

fps_grandma said :

3) “No nightlife” or not enough goods and services outlets
While this may not be true back when Private Bin and ICBM were around however this excuse is becoming increasingly valid. Organisers and investors may not justify establishing more local goods and services outlets for a population of less than half a million. There needs to be a rapid and significant social, cultural and economic shift if there is to be a greater retention of people and therefore jobs to sustain these goods and services outlets.

You’re kidding right? If anything Canberra’s nightlife and entertainment is growing daily. Look at places like Hopscotch, Bent Spoke, Honky Tonks, Tounge and Groove, Parlour, A – Baker, Lucky’s, and Molly’s, just to name a few, that have all opened up in the last few years.

We also have events such as the Multi-cultural festival, Enlighten, You are here festival, The Forage and Groovin’ the Moo as well as sporting events like the Asian Cup, PM’s XI, World cup cricket, International one day matches, Raiders and Brumbies games.

If anything there is too much going on, I struggle to keep up with the multitude of events and things to do every weekend.

But if you want to stay at home and moan about how Canberra is so boring, go right ahead. I’ll be out enjoying myself.

Morgo 10:42 am 16 Jan 15

Hah, yup Lisa that happens. My better half and I thought it would be as easy making friends in CBR as it had been in Sydney when we migrated. Didn’t work out that way-we didn’t have good introductions to our first PS jobs and couldn’t meet people outside of work, so 2 years after coming to CBR we took a year out to explore where else in Australia would be better to live in!

As it happens we decided the outdoors, 4 seasons, location, cost of living & job opportunities that CBR offers was best for us at our time of life so we ended up back here, but with a determination to try harder. We did the same as you, found Meetup (we have made some good friends, but yes be prepared to meet a lot of people you’re not going to keep in touch with!), and joined the Rural Fire Service. It’s turned out really well – 2 years after coming back it feels like home and we have a nice balanced and varied life.

I didn’t believe what people told me before I arrived, that it is cliquey and hard to make friends. That is true, but it’s not something people who live here consciously do I think. It’s not difficult to do meet people, you just have to work harder to become friends than other places especially if, like me, you’re not naturally gregarious or bold. Don’t get me wrong, people are really friendly, it’s just that you should be prepared to be the one who suggests you meet again if you find someone you get on with.

So yeah, find social networks, volunteer, study something, join a sporting/hobby group where you will meet people who have something in common, and talk to your neighbours, colleagues and well, anyone really.

fps_grandma 9:34 am 16 Jan 15

Why is leaving Canberra such a problem? Here are a few top reasons cited by those who have left Canberra

1) Career
People leave other places to go to Canberra for work. They leave Canberra to go to other places for work too. It goes both ways. It’s apparently such a big deal in Canberra.

2) Cold weather
“No more freezing Canberra winters” is quite a common Facebook comment from Canberra leavers on how their new place is faring. At home you have a choice of either spending money on gas and/or electricity for heating or wear extra clothes. While the former option is not a real problem if you can financially sustain it but there are the strugglers who try to get by. There is also the cost of living and petrol but that could open another can of worms.
I know people who would never move to Canberra because cold weather and sometimes low humidity could potentially exacerbate health problems this way.

3) “No nightlife” or not enough goods and services outlets
While this may not be true back when Private Bin and ICBM were around however this excuse is becoming increasingly valid. Organisers and investors may not justify establishing more local goods and services outlets for a population of less than half a million. There needs to be a rapid and significant social, cultural and economic shift if there is to be a greater retention of people and therefore jobs to sustain these goods and services outlets.

There are those who sit there, watch and let things come to them and there are those dynamic individuals who make things happen.

Meetups are great however more often than not there are more attendees than hosts. Try hosting some and have people not turn up at all even if they RSVP Yes. It’s frustrating and has caused previous organisers to just give up all together. You will meet some fantastic people and make good friends in Meetup however there is a chance you will meet very odd individuals.

Alexandra Craig 11:04 am 15 Jan 15

I was in the exact same position about four years ago. Got a job, it started in two weeks, so I packed up my stuff and moved. Did not know one other person. It took me a little while because I was working in an environment where I was the youngest person (19) by about 5-6 years, so most people had different interests and whatnot to me. I kind of just held out, and eventually started meeting people outside work, then I met my partner through friends, then I met all his friends, and the cycle repeats.

I was always encouraged by people ‘go join a hobby group, go join a team sport’ etc, but I kind of just refused to do that and crossed my fingers that everything would fall into place and it did 🙂

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