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Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the interpretation of facts and data.

How to make friends in Victoria: Advice from those who’ve done it

We asked, you answered. Here’s some reader tips for finding your circle.

By Nina Grossman
January 21, 2023
Latest News
Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the interpretation of facts and data.

How to make friends in Victoria: Advice from those who’ve done it

We asked, you answered. Here’s some reader tips for finding your circle.

By Nina Grossman
Jan 21, 2023
Photo : Colin Smith / Capital Daily
Photo : Colin Smith / Capital Daily
Latest News
Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the interpretation of facts and data.

How to make friends in Victoria: Advice from those who’ve done it

We asked, you answered. Here’s some reader tips for finding your circle.

By Nina Grossman
January 21, 2023
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How to make friends in Victoria: Advice from those who’ve done it
Photo : Colin Smith / Capital Daily

I’ve left Facebook marketplace transactions with many things: a falling-apart mid-century dresser, a winter coat, maybe a plant or two.

But Capital Daily subscriber Ingrid Kuhrt left a recent Facebook sale with something far more valuable: A close friend.

In an email, Kuhrt described responding to a Facebook Marketplace ad for some artwork for sale in Oak Bay. But when she got there, Kuhrt said she and the woman had an immediate connection, and what was supposed to be a two-minute transaction turned into a 45 minute hang out session.

“[We] hit it off immediately and we were falling over ourselves trying to share our endless common likes. And the shared enthusiasm was to boot!,” she wrote.

The pair haven’t met in person since, but Kuhrt said they exchange messages daily, sharing recipes, news articles, pages from books or updates on knitting projects.

“It's such a vibrant dynamic friendship. And we're both recently retired nurses!!”

Kuhrt’s story was one of dozens sent to Capital Daily in response to a callout in our newsletter earlier this week, asking for tips and stories about making friends in Greater Victoria.

It’s a topic Capital Daily covered back in 2021, when pandemic restrictions were making it even harder to meet new people. But since then, the region has continued to welcome plenty of newcomers, according to data from Statistics Canada. Earlier this month Capital Daily reported that Greater Victoria welcomed 3,654 immigrants between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. Most (3,569) of those newcomers came from other parts of Canada and more than 1,300 moved to the region from elsewhere in BC.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you move to, or how long you’ve lived somewhere. Making friends and combating loneliness can be challenging at any age, for any person.

Loneliness is a well-known threat to our mental and physical health. Studies have linked chronic loneliness to higher risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality as well as depression, alcohol abuse, personality disorders, sleep issues and Alzheimer's disease, among other health consequences.

Fortunately, our readers provided positive, practical advice for making new connections. But if there’s one takeaway here, it’s that the experience of loneliness, and the desire for connection, is universal. Read on.

Chat with strangers

Put the phone away
When I moved here 18 years ago, I did not know anyone. I have found that by being friendly and, yes, perhaps chatting with the person at a bus stop or on the bus is great. Chatting with store merchants and other shoppers is an inviting way to meet people and at the very least learn something new, whether it’s about Victoria or some interesting factoid.

Putting away our phones when we are out, in my opinion, leaves us more receptive to conversation and eye contact.
-Janice James

Smile and hello goes a long way
Victoria has always been a little bit cliquey, but friendly. I have always found that just using my spidey sense when meeting people for the first time and doing all the things that have worked for you is the easiest. I never consciously set out to meet friends. Just saying “Good morning” to someone as you walk down the street and seeing them smile and reply back is rewarding enough. If something develops then that is so cool.
-Kim Skelly

Forge friendships with Meetups

Pick an interest, any interest!
The best way I've found is to join Meetups. There's a Meetup for every age group and interest: kayaking, hiking, crafting, beer-tasting, pickleball -- you name it. Also, you can join your neighbourhood/community association and meet people.
-PJ Perdue

Put in 100%
I moved to Victoria in 2017. I actually found the Meetup app was really helpful for making friends! Even though I didn’t click with a lot of the people at the group hangouts, there was always one or two I’d want to keep in touch with. I threw myself 100% into making friends. Never turned down an invite unless I had no choice (work schedule, appointments, etc.) I now have such a solid friend group that sometimes the difficulty is finding time to connect with all of them within a month. No loneliness here!
-Laura Robin

Hobbies, interests and jobs

Geocaching connection
Making friends in Victoria? Sure, easy when you know how. I chat with everyone I see, AND we began Geocaching about 18 years ago and found a wealth of great friends in the caching community.
-Anne Lowan

Music and books
I moved here almost 20 years ago from Santa Fe, NM. The impending invasion of Iraq just put me over the top. I knew only  two people here (a couple). I joined kayaking, cycling and hiking groups - and was  already a member of Slow Food - so met lots of great folks through those activities. And, I am a big music lover so I met new friends through that as well. I always laugh and say that all the women I know here belong to a garden club, choir, and/or a book club. I belong to none of the above, but these are also great ways to meet people. I, in turn, always try to reach out to newcomers because I know how it felt to be one.
-Whitney Laughlin

It is so tough initially to break into circles in Victoria, but I found once I started to meet the right people who I have a lot in common with, and they began to introduce me to their friends, it started to snowball. After meeting a few incredible friends through coworking at theDock: Centre for Social Impact, the change in support I have felt from my community in Victoria is night and day. It has been incredible meeting fun and inspiring people who are also interested in making a positive impact in our communities! Through coworking at theDock, I met the Executive Director of SUPPLY Victoria and was inspired to start volunteering. And WOW—it has been incredible meeting so many creative people with a shared interest in environmental sustainability and reuse!  

Anyway, to those who are having a hard time breaking into social circles where they feel they belong in Victoria, patience pays off. There are so many incredible people in this city—in my opinion, the best way to meet people is to make the effort to find spaces in Victoria where people with your shared interests hang out!
-Robyn Welsh

Commitment and regularity
When I moved here ten years ago, I was warned again and again how hard it is to make friends in Victoria specifically.  I've lived in Calgary, Winnipeg and Halifax as an adult, so I have some experience starting over without a friend network in a new city.

Victoria was the first city I moved to with a "thing."  I was a new performer and  writer so my first night in town, I went to the local open mic night and performed.  It was intentional: it wasn't that I was good, it was that I wanted to introduce myself and it worked.  The community was welcoming and invited me out for drinks with them afterwards (it was an open invitation, I wasn't special, but I jumped at it).  This was the key, I learned: putting myself out there and saying yes to opportunities when they arose.  By performing that first night and not waiting to get the lay of the land, I was vulnerable and had a common interest to talk to these new people about.

I've found that whenever I put myself in a scenario with commitment and regularity (showing up weekly for an extended period of time), I'll walk away with a new connection.  It's been the case with volunteering, taking classes, joining a new gym or studio.  Maybe not a best friend, but A Something.  Most people are rad even if you're not compatible as best friends.  Most people, especially when you're lonely, have redeeming qualities to be grateful for when you're looking for connection.  And I've found that it's way more likely to walk away from an evening or event with a new connection when I go places alone.  People are much more likely to engage with you if you're on your own versus in a friend group.
-Pam Stewart

Volunteering and pickleball
I'm sharing my experience as I too moved to Victoria in 2018, alone, with knowing only one person upon arrival. I was 62 and newly retired.  So, no job and a new community but with a strong desire to build a life which would represent my next life chapter.  
I had always met people at my workplace, so I decided to try to get some part-time work.  I attended a small entrepreneurial presentation hosted by the city. It is there I discovered Destination Greater Victoria, and through them I was able to check off one of my four 'next chapter aspirations' (The others were health & exercise, education, and create a social network).  Four years later, minus 1.5  years off due to the pandemic, I'm still at it. Due to picking up and becoming addicted to the game of pickleball my participation isn't what it once was, but I do try to put in as many shifts as I can.

I also joined a newcomers group which consists of, in this case, women who have recently arrived and are looking to get out and discover the city and make friends. I also joined 'Meetups' as a way to exercise in a social atmosphere. It's been a slow process, and there have been some bumps in the road, but otherwise a very satisfying journey…one  that isn't over.

Step out of your comfort zone
My wife and I moved to Victoria last August after living in Whitehorse for eight years. We didn’t know anyone either, except for an older couple (family friends) in Sidney, so we were basically starting from scratch too.

Over the years I’ve found two good ways of quickly making friends in new places; joining a sports team and volunteering. I also joined an OTF gym and it’s pretty easy to chat with people there. You may have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, but you get to meet like-minded people without too much effort!

Making new friends and meeting new people (past a certain age) can be really hard! Introverts, for example, have to work much harder at it. But if you put some effort and energy into it, you’ll ultimately reap the rewards.
-Myles Dolphin

Volunteering, YMCA and strata council
One of the advantages of being retired is that it does offer the opportunity to get involved in volunteer opportunities that either fit in with one’s skill set or the opportunity to venture into previously unexplored initiatives. For me it was a bit of a stretch to put up my hand and say ‘Yes, I can do that.’ at a few places that I decided to get involved with but I did it. This resulted in interaction with more people and gradually I began to develop social contacts that shared my interests. Also helpful was getting involved at the [YMCA] for aquafit and joining some of the aquafitters for post-pool coffee, joining a walking group, taking continuing studies classes at UVic and volunteering for my condo’s strata council.

Although I am aware of meet up groups on social media that’s not the way I would choose to meet people, being on Facebook etc. has never appealed to me.
-Louise Klaassen

It’s not easy
I do think it’s 10 times harder to make friends from scratch when you are older - let’s say, over 50? People that age are very much more set in their ways, and breaking into existing friend circles is doubly hard. Add to that a tendency to introversion on my part, and here I am, 5.5  years later, and still can’t say I have a really close female friend on the island. I’m not complaining though - this was the best move I ever made.

Intentionality and work required
I grew up in Victoria but was away from here for over 35 years. After moving back here, I was looking after or looking out for aging parents for five years. I have found Victoria is a difficult place to integrate socially. We moved here after we retired so we also traveled to therapy which meant it was difficult to volunteer because we were very unreliable. However, here are my thoughts:
-If you’re working, try to get to know people who you work with.
-Don’t be shy about initiating conversations with neighbourhood residence, those in the park down the road, etc.
-If you have young kids or a dog, those are natural gateways or entryways into meeting and talking to people.
-If you’re not working, try to get involved in one of the newcomers to Victoria organizations
-Find as many recreational activities as you can that you can enjoy at the price you can afford and actively seek out others.
-When you meet people, take the initiative and invite them over for dinner or coffee or suggest you meet them at a restaurant for dinner or lunch or coffee or go for a bike ride together or a hike together, etc.

People who have always lived in Victoria and have had their careers and their families here also have a lot of long-term relationships and friends here so they are not very available for friendships. Therefore, look for people who have moved to Victoria within the last few years and you will find that they also are looking for friendships.

Finding friendships after you moved to Victoria is not easy and takes intentionality and work, so people need to be prepared for that or they will be frustrated and lonely.Hope these ideas will be helpful for someone else.
-Sharon Macauley

Make the effort

Put yourself out there
How to make friends in Victoria? Number one is get off your “social media” and actually get out and socialize. There are so many amazing people in Victoria and it is still a very friendly city.

Join walking or running groups, volunteer, if you are into gaming go to in-person games that many stores offer, join arts and crafts groups, join the newcomers clubs, look into Meetup  groups that share your interests, invite people from work out for coffee or lunchtime walks. Start a beach clean up group, join environmental groups, or get involved in local politics. Just go to the council meetings and chat with people.

I came here in 1979 and have made so many great friends. This is a warm and welcoming city……I know this is still true because one of the entrepreneurs at the Capital Daily Festival said so…and his other panel members said they had trouble getting work done sometimes because so many friendly people stopped to chat with them. I was laughing to myself thinking, in today’s world how many lonely people would want that problem?

You won’t have people come and knock on your door to ask you out to socialize if you don’t put yourself out there. Life goes by so fast. Don’t waste it locked away or staring at your phone when you are on the bus. Make small talk. It’s a dying art…but you can do it.

Organizations are crying for volunteers. I help out at several things…including the Lights of Wonder. I have done this since I was in my 20’s…and I brought my children with me to some things. I had my boys helping out feeding the homeless at the Philippine Bayanihan Centre when they were very young. I was invited by a coworker. We are not Filipino….but so what?
-Barb MacDonald

With files from Jolene Rudisuela

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Nina Grossman
Newsletter Editor

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