Hey, Vancouverites: Your New Year’s Resolution Should Be to Make More Friends
Here's how you (yes, you!) can combat Vancouver's reputation as Canada's unfriendliest city.
January 6, 2017
We can all agree today that Vancouver is a cold city (hard to argue when people are literally skating on the streets), but for some, Vancouver’s alleged unfriendliness means there’s a chill in the air year ‘round.
There have been countless think pieces over the past few years on the subject of Vancity’s “difficult social atmosphere.” The mayor even launched a special engagement task force to help combat a widespread feeling of isolation. But not everyone believes that Vancouver is unique in its unfriendliness. Dating coach and matchmaker Sheree Morgan suggests that it may just be a problem with city life, period: “All the bigger cities have the same complaint. Everyone has a problem with it. If you’re looking at the cities in the middle of Canada, though, it’s a different story.”
Confidence coach Suzanne Fetting suggests that this may be a result of our digital dependancy more than our physical location. “Everything’s virtual, people aren’t really connecting in real life,” she explains. “They go on apps and Facebook trying to meet people, and then in real life, they’re hunched over at cafes looking at their phones with headphones in.”
Whatever the reason for our discomfort with human interaction, breaking the habit is an excellent resolution. “In general, a resolution to make more friends is good one,” says Amori Yee Mikami, PhD, associate professor of psychology at UBC. “More and more research is showing how positive even casual relationships can be beneficial for health and well-being.”
Want to do your part to warm up Vancouver? Here’s how to be a friendlier citizen in 2017.
How to Make Friends in Vancouver
Put down your phone.
It’s hard to make a connection when you’re absorbed in crafting the perfect Snapchat story. So take out the headphones, put your device away and actually look up, make some eye contact and smile at people when you’re out and about. “Think about when a guy says, ‘I got into a fight because he looked at me the wrong way’. The eyes tells you so much about our state of mind,” says Fetting. (Not recommended: looking at people the wrong way.)
Take baby steps.
Practice random acts of friendliness, and just say “hi” to people that you pass, Morgan recommends. But don’t worry about whether or not they actually respond: the point is to just practice making the first move and create opportunities for interaction throughout your day.
Get in the zone before you go on the friend prowl.
Friend-making is mostly a mental game: if you’re not in the mood to mingle, it’s hard to fake it…so don’t try. “If you’re overtired, don’t go out looking to meet people,” Morgan advises.
Do some “friendspreading.”
This is a fun new word we just made up to express open, friendly body language. (It’s like manspreading but not a scourge of public transit, get it?) “Confident body language is so important,”says Fetting. “The way you’re taking up space is key. In a group dynamic if there’s people stepping away, that’s giving off a signal, ‘Don’t talk to me’. Slouching says, ‘I’m insecure’. So hold your head high, look around the room: it gives off an energy that says, ‘I’m here to have a good time.'”
Keep expectations low.
Reality check: not everyone’s going to be your best friend. And that’s okay. “Everybody you talk to doesn’t have to be your lifelong BFF. Even little interactions still can have a very positive effect.” Mikami notes. But even if someone is your friendship soulmate, don’t assume that sparks will fly from the first exchange. “It’s like with online dating, how everyone thinks they should have a connection in the first five seconds. That’s not realistic. You’re throwing away a lot of people,” says Morgan. “Enter into a conversation as it’s just a conversation and see what happens from there.”
Be brave and make a move.
Look, we get it: it’s awkward putting yourself out there. But someone has to be the one to suggest grabbing a coffee. So during a conversation with a potential friend, be alert for those moments of shared interests or intruiging information: that’s your chance to make a suggestion for another meeting. “The key is to be the one that suggests, ‘Hey, we both like yoga, why don’t we connect on Facebook and go do a class together?'” says Fetting. “And don’t take it personally if they decline.”
Take a pre-existing relationship to the next level.
Maybe your new friend is in your life already. “Think about somebody at work that you see in a work context or in a gym class,” suggests Mikami. “If there’s somebody you think you like and have things in common with, ask if they want to do something based on a shared interest.”
Ignore what your parents told you and talk to strangers.
If you’re sharing a space with someone—hanging in a grocery line together, browsing at Aritzia, waiting for the B-Line—you’ve got something to talk about. “The easiest way to start a conversation is to talk about the environment you’re in,” says Fetting. “I’ve met great friends at the cash register. I met a boyfriend by commenting on the expired apples in the produce section at the supermarket.” Keep it light and bright, she recommends—comment on the ridiculous tabloid covers, and save your views on Brexit for down the road. Another trick to get the convo going: ask open-ended questions or throw in a compliment. “People are more likely to connect with someone who shows an interest in them,” Fetting says.
Join a pre-existing #squad.
Whether you join a team or a club, or find a crew on Meetup.com, putting yourself in situations with people who have similar interests is a highly effective friendship incubator. Plus, it’s likely that the other people in your Vancouver Veggie Hikers group are also looking for some new pals. Or head out to an event with a social atmosphere, like a sports game or concert. “It’s easy to connect when people are out and having a great time and are engaged already,” Fetting notes.
If all else fails: get a dog (or a Pikachu).
The good ol’ dog park does more than just provide a playground for Fido. “People who have dogs find that a neat way to strike up casual conversation in the dog park,” says Mikami. Or a digital pet can do the same trick. “I’m a Pokemon Go player and it’s easy to have a brief or casual interaction with other players: where are the rare Pokemon, or how you’re doing in the game,” she adds.