Relationships — Establishing New Networks

After moving to London, Ontario last year, I’m faced with establishing a new social network, not an online network, as, thankfully, this network moved with me,  but a network of real people.

Previous to this move, my husband and I lived in the greater Toronto area for 26 years. After such a long time in one place, relationships were easy to take for granted.  Friendships evolved from participating in bridge groups, book clubs, meet-ups, and volunteer activities.  My husband and I belonged to a large gym and athletic club that hosted social events every month. We also socialized with former work colleagues who lived in the greater Toronto area. Because we attended the same church for years, participated in neighbourhood events, and loyally shopped in nearby stores, we developed many relationships that provided a sense of belonging.

Although we had lived in London when we were younger, moving back presented a bit of a culture shock. The network of relationships that gave comfort while living in Markham suddenly changed.  Casual connections with people at the post office, hair salon, dry cleaning shop, florist, and grocery store were gone.

The geographical distance from Markham to London is just over 200 kilometres — but it’s a change of lifestyle, habits, and expectations. I can’t imagine what it would be like to move to a new country, with a different language, and completely different customs!

In 2017, I’ve made it a priority to connect with others and establish a new network. I’m determined to feel comfortable in my new community and relate with real people. However, finding new friends, as a senior, isn’t easy.  There is no workplace where meeting people is part of the day.  I’m not about to hang out at bars or clubs. Nor do I intend to sit in front of a screen and rely on a tech-dependent lifestyle while hibernating at home.

Networks - photo Networks - photo courtesy of daria shevtsova
Networks – photo courtesy of daria shevtsova

Meeting New People

I began my quest by doing a walking exploration of the city. Walking is one of the best ways to explore any community.  Last fall I started walking in nearby parks where I often encountered friendly people who gave advice about possibilities for exploration.

One recommendation was to walk in the environmentally significant natural areas in the city.  One of the 10 designated natural areas has an entrance just steps away from our house with an interesting hiking trail along the Thames river including several kilometres of marked  paths. After finding this trail, and meeting wild life enthusiasts walking with cameras and binoculars. I’ve resolved to explore all the designated natural habitats within the city once winter ends. Hiking doesn’t give many opportunities to meet others but I’ve found that people on the trail are always willing to strike up a conversation to point out a bald eagle or warn of a coyote that’s been spotted during their walk.

I also found ideas about historic sites for walking from the local tourism site. Many of these sites contain buildings that are also museums.  All were catalogued by a Masters student at Western University who developed a walking guide of historic sites.  Learning something about the history of the place where I live, gives perspective about the culture and the lives of those who lived in this community.

Joining a local gym has opened new possibilities for meeting others. The morning aqua fit classes and yoga classes are filled mostly with retired people who make fitness part of their daily routine. I hired a personal trainer to help develop a routine in the women’s weight room using the slightly smaller ‘ladies’ machines and dumb bells. To my delight, I’ve met a couple of women who have similar backgrounds to mine and who attend at similar times for strength training.

Recently I joined the London Newcomers Group. Newcomers groups are founded with the idea that people new to a city can meet together around common interests.  The London club is for women although some events include spouses and partners.  Breakfast and lunch meetings are held at restaurants.  The club has several interest groups including bridge groups, book clubs, day trips, wine tastings, and pub nights. Based on the premise that all members are interested in developing new social networks, the club offers a unique way for learning about what’s going on.

Just as in Markham, there’s a bookclub at my local library.  The atmosphere at first meeting was strange to me as the informal ‘rules’ were unclear.  Interestingly, the librarian leading the group changed last month. The new leader asked for guidance from members regarding expectations.  Hearing these ‘informal’ rules explained by the longstanding members helped with understanding how the club operates.   I’ll attend a few more meetings before I judge whether or not this is the bookclub for me.

My local library has proven itself a storehouse of valuable leads about the community. Each time I visit I see posters advertising lectures, forums, concerts, and art exhibits.  There are more activities than I have time to attend. Through the library, I’ve become loosely involved with a writers’ group and have also participated in a series of photography classes.

Attending cultural events is a way to meet people who have similar interests.  Health permitting, I’ve gone to everything I’m invited to attend including activities in which I have only a passing interest. One of my neighbours suggested a London Singers concert.  Both my husband and I enjoyed the music so much that we attended a second concert by the same group.   Meeting a couple with whom we had lost contact many years ago was a nice surprise during an intermission!

Because we lived in London many years ago, it’s been interesting to re-connect with former neighbours, friends, and colleagues. I’ve enjoyed several lunch and dinner meetings with people whose lives had previously intertwined with mine. It’s fun to have conversations that were left off many years ago suddenly resume as though years had not intervened.

Wherever I go, I make it a point to talk to people I meet. Although I’m an introvert by nature, I’m trying the ‘fearlessly friendly’ approach. This involves stepping outside my comfort zone and taking risks. I look for opportunities to open conversation and reach out to people I encounter. Most respond with friendliness.

Moving gives new opportunities to start over and pursue new directions.  It’s difficult yet energizing. Making new friends takes effort. I remind myself that it took time to cultivate friendships before we moved. Connections with people happen by chance and evolve over time. Some become meaningful; others stay at a casual level.

Thanks for reading my post.  Please leave your comments about experiences with making new connections after a move.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive an email when I write a new post.

4 Comment

  1. Oh, Jeanette, I wish I had your energy and positive attitude. As you know, I too moved back to an area where I had lived previously (years ago) after I sold my home (finally) last summer. But I have only been here two months, and I have not succeeded in meeting people with whom I might become friends. I joined a bridge club that meets weekly, and attended a few history-themed events. I walk my dog 6 times a day in the condo community where I now live, and have met other dog walkers, but no one that I could see myself becoming friends with (just too different). I’m beginning to despair that I will be able to find friends soon. After living alone for most of the last 24 years, I may not have the skills to create new relationships. You’ve already done many things to help yourself find people with similar interests and stages of life. I admire your resourcefulness.

    1. Hi Rin — Oh, please don’t despair. Two months means that it’s still early days in your new home. You know that friendships take time to evolve. Sometimes it’s a chance encounter that leads to common interests and the bond that becomes friendship. I hope you keep trying new things. Have you explored a Newcomers Club? Newcomers clubs seem to be in most communities in North America. I’ve found the club here has more activities that I can try. You’re lucky to have found a bridge group as I’m still searching for new bridge buddies. Meanwhile, keep up your spirits and do some nesting in your new place!
      Be well,
      Jeanette aka postworksavvy

  2. Michael Goodmurphy says: Reply

    Jeanette
    All great ideas to re-integrate into the community. You will be busy doing all that you have mentioned. The one thing that you might consider is finding a church, as you mentioned that this was part of your life in Markham. In 2002-2003 I was on a work exchange in Scotland. We connected with a local church and we still have friends in that church to this day. When we return for holidays we visit the church and have been invited to some homes and even went for a sail on the Clyde. It’s a thought if you aren’t already checking it out.
    Michael

    1. Hi Michael,
      We’ve checked out a couple of churches including Metropolitan where we attended when we lived here previously. We are often at the cottage on the weekends. Connecting with church community is on the list…….so much to do, so little time!
      Be well,
      Jeanette

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