Starting a life in a new country is both exciting and challenging. Many newcomers leave behind their support systems – colleagues, friends and family – when they move to Canada, making the entire process of setting in more difficult than it actually is. In such times, a strong network of local friends can be very helpful.
Making friends and building your network in Canada as a newcomer can seem intimidating or nerve-wracking. People who have lived in Canada for a while may already have their friend circle and hence, won’t necessarily be actively looking for more. So, sometimes, you have to take the initiative and reach out to them. In this article, we will share a few ways to meet new people so you can settle in smoothly and adapt to Canadian life.
1. Attend conferences and networking events
Attending various industry-specific conferences and networking events is a good way to broaden your professional network locally and meet professionals and industry leaders from your field of work. Websites like Eventbrite and Meetup can be useful in finding events near you.
Similar to networking events, sites like LinkedIn and Ten Thousand Coffees are great tools to connect with industry professionals directly for coffee chats or informational interviews.
|Resources to help you learn more about networking in Canada|
Tip: Business contacts can sometimes turn into friendships. But it’s recommended not to approach individuals at a professional networking event with the intention of friendship.
Giving back to the community (or volunteering) is usually well-regarded and valued in Canadian society. It can help you gain Canadian experience and learn the local culture and serves as a good way to meet like-minded people, build your network, and make friends.
Tip: To discover the importance of volunteering in Canada, and learn how to find volunteering opportunities, read The benefits of volunteering as a newcomer in Canada.
3. Join online neighbourhood groups
Many neighbourhoods, condos, and communities in cities across Canada have their own Facebook groups. Try using the Facebook search tool to locate one close to you and join it. These groups are a great forum to meet other people in your neighbourhood and find social events and gatherings.
Nextdoor is another website that connects people living in the same neighbourhood. Users are required to submit their real names and street address to the website. Posts made to the website are visible only to other Nextdoor members living in the same neighbourhood. The site is popularly used to find local recommendations, buy or sell items, report on news and share information on upcoming events in the neighbourhood.
4. Meet other kids’ parents at your children’s school
If you’ve moved to Canada with kids, you can meet other parents at your child’s school – strike up a conversation with them at the school gate, volunteer for school fundraising events, and/or offer to be involved in the parent-teacher association, school social committees, after-school activities or sports schedules.
Another great way to meet people and introduce yourself is to host a small get-together for your kids’ friends and their parents. Most people in Canada lead busy lives, so don’t be upset if someone declines your invitation.
Note that it’s not often that Canadians invite you into their homes. Most of the socializing happens outdoors, in parks, bars, or at restaurants – which may be different from what you’re used to back home.
5. Join a local sports team, social club, or shared interests groups
Joining interest- or activity-specific clubs or groups is a good way to meet like-minded individuals that could become friends, especially since you already have a shared passion. From fitness to sports, hiking, music, biking, and community activism, there are a variety of groups that you can explore based on your personal interests. Every Canadian city has listings of clubs and societies that you can reach out to. Most of these groups post their events on sites like Meetup, Facebook, or Reddit, so they’re easy to find.
If you like reading, visit the local library and look for some book clubs or book readings that you can attend. Signing up for dance or fitness classes in or around your neighbourhood are also great options to meet people with similar interests. If you’re into sports, no matter where you are in Canada, you’ll find a variety of recreational sports leagues ranging from soccer, basketball, and swimming, to tennis, volleyball, and everything in between, that you can join – even if you aren’t an expert.
6. Use dating and networking apps
In recent times dating apps are not limited to only dating. Many join dating apps to find new friends or people with similar interests. Apps like Bumble offer a dedicated version of the app – Bumble BFF for finding friends. They also have another version called Bumble Biz, which is geared toward professional networking. Shapr is another popular app that you can use to find like-minded individuals.
Tip: If you’re joining a dating app to find friends, create a profile that clearly states your intentions.
7. Connect at places of worship
Places of worship are good forums to meet members from the same faith and grow your social circle. Most places of worship have community-serving organizations and task or activity groups that you can volunteer to be a part of. For instance, if you belong to a church, and are interested in singing, you can join the choir. If you wish to help out with other activities, you can join their social planning or fundraising committees and use that as an opportunity to meet new people.
8. Visit parks
Canada is an outdoorsy country and people are very friendly. Don’t be shy to talk to a stranger and exchange pleasantries. Chatting about the weather is a popular ice-breaker. If you have a dog, bringing your dog to the local dog park is a great way to meet other dog-parents. Shared interests always work as great conversation starters.
Tip: When meeting someone for the first time, be sure to introduce yourself early in the conversation. Mentioning the fact that you’re new to the town or the city can be a nice ice-breaker. And if you hit it off, offer your phone number of email, and invite them for coffee. Don’t rush into giving anyone your home address or inviting them home.
Some of the approaches outlined here may be out of your comfort zone as in your home country; you may have not considered trying them out to build your network. However, with a little help from technology, it can be very easy to find and meet people close to where you live.
As you venture out on the journey to grow your social and professional network in Canada, remember that meaningful connections take time to develop. Keeping in touch regularly, helping out in times of need, and connecting on shared interests and activities will help you deepen the bond and, eventually, develop a strong relationship.
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