One phrase: Show up.
When you move to another country, it’s a given that everything will become unfamiliar. But, give it time. I’ve been in Canada for 5 years now and I only really started to have friends around 2-3 years ago. Before that, it was a blur of acquaintances and coworkers that stop communicating after you or they leave the job.
In my first few jobs, I noticed that people bonded over attending the same university. Now, I’m in university, I notice that people bond over attending the same program or the same classes. Because you’re a newcomer, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll meet someone at work who went to the same university.
So, I did a few things to (1) socialize and (2) practice my spoken English:
I volunteered for a couple of film festivals. Growing up, I used to watch international films on Saturday nights. There was this one TV channel that would feature them late at night. They were really obscure in my home country. It was quite difficult to discuss “Farewell My Concubine,” “Postmen In The Mountains,” and “Not One Less” with people I knew. I continued watching what I used to call “offbeat” films in university (back in the Philippines). I met a few people who shared my enthusiasm for these things. I even found a personal bootlegger to get me weird films for a lower price because we both knew no one would buy those. That’s how I learnt about “Volver,” “Where Is The Friend’s Home?,” and “Welcome” (2009). In Canada, volunteering was a nice way to talk to people from different walks of life who had the same love for film. I also enjoyed the freebies that came with volunteering.
Whenever I got invited to a party, I showed up. I didn’t care if the only person I knew in that party was the person who invited me. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin that being a wallflower is not something I find negative at all. Sometimes, people do approach and make small talk. You don’t have to force rapport. If it’s there, it’s there and you’ve made yourself a new friend. If it’s not there, that’s perfectly fine too.
I enrolled in some hobby classes. The Toronto District School Board has this program called Learn 4 Life and it has seasonal evening classes. It can be anywhere from basic French to sewing. Community Centres have sports facilities that may be free to use. The Art Gallery of Ontario has art classes too. Or, go to Meetup or Eventbrite to find your niche.
Some nights, especially in your first couple of years, will be lonely. But, if you put yourself out there, you’ll find your tribe… or tribes. Sometimes, you won’t even need a tribe to just do what you want to do. Grab a pint at a local pub because you can. I go there for the Irish music. I often go to art galleries and museums alone because I enjoy looking at artworks in silence.
The opportunities are there, you just have to show up.
I used to feel homesick a lot. I still do, from time to time. It’s still very important to keep in touch with your friends from your home country. But, I’m sure you have room for new friends and new experiences. You have a new home here in Canada, so start feeling comfortable.
In the next part of this series, I’ll write about future plans; because everyone needs to have at least one.