A VANCOUVER PRIMER: MAKING FRIENDS

“A Vancouver Primer” is a series of articles tailored for the new or prospective Vancouverite in mind.

As I moved to Vancouver by myself a little over two years ago, one of my top priorities was obviously to make new friends.  It wasn’t easy…  In the first few months following my arrival, I came to find out that Vancouver is intensely “private.”  Maybe the fact that I’m somewhat introverted didn’t help, but most people I’ve talked to since then would agree that it’s “cold” in Vancouver!

Here’s an anecdote to explain my point: it’s St-Valentine’s season (2007) and I’ve had it with on-line dating and its virtual hopes turning quickly into real disappointments.  I decide to try an actual live, organized, paying event which consists of some performance in a club followed by — so the description said — a mixing and mingling session with all the eligible bachelorettes and bachelors.  So the so-so show begins and, I don’t mind — what I’m really interested in is the mingling afterwards.  About 90 minutes later, the show ends and to my astonishment, most people immediately left!  “Hey!  Where did all the mingling go?!!!”  The organizers didn’t even attempt to keep the crowd in and lead them to the next step.  Introverted me actually had to take matters into my own hands and improvise the mingling session myself.  Although I had some interesting discussions with the few that stayed, no lasting contact was made — and that’s OK.

Oddly enough, that failed evening proved to be a blessing in disguise: during the uninspiring performance, I casually started to chat with my neighbour and complained to her about how difficult it was to meet people in Vancouver.  She said there were much better options out there for me to try and gave me a list of websites to look over.  As soon as I got back home, I skimmed through her short list and stopped looking when I got to a site called Meetup.  

Although I’d never heard of Meetup prior to that fateful evening, I was surprised to see how popular it was (as of this writing, nearly 600 Meetup groups exist within 25 miles of downtown Vancouver!).  With so many groups to choose from, chances are it will be just a few clicks before you find a few that match your interests.  Most of those groups are free to join.

Once you’ve joined a group, all you have to do is wait for the event notifications to come flooding your e-mail inbox. I guess it’s a necessary evil, especially if you’re new in town.  A word of advice if you’re part of a popular group: be quick!  If a group has over 1,000 members and there are only 20 spots to fill for an event, you can imagine how fast these could go!  It’s not uncommon for an event to be full within an hour in those cases.  But, never fear, if there are no spots left, I can almost guarantee you that a few will become available a day or two before the event as some people realize that “Oh, I won’t be able to make it after all.”  You just have to be a little proactive in checking the group’s calendar from time to time.  A recent feature on the Meetup site that I haven’t had the chance to experiment with yet is their “Waiting List.”  This sounds like it should render the need to checkup on those available spots unnecessary.

Another great thing I can tell you about Meetup is that you don’t necessarily need a car to go to those events.  I don’t have one myself and yet I’ve heard some born-and-bred Vancouverites tell me that I have probably seen more of Vancouver and its surroundings in two years than they have in their whole life (I managed to go to 25+ hiking spots and other places thanks to carpooling, in 2007)!  If you’re polite enough, you should have no trouble finding someone to carpool with (tipping the driver is obviously expected).  And here’s another tip for you: don’t wait for people offering to carpool to contact you first — ask them yourself!!!  It might seem obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how often I see members leaving their coordinates in their RSVP to an event, waiting for a carpooler to “serve” them… :s

Oh, and since I’ve heard the comment a few times before, might I add that Meetup is not necessarily for single people only…  Many of them are, yes, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never felt like the events I’ve been to were a cover for a dating game. It’s all about the activity and the “prospects” are no more than a nice distraction — the activity might be dating, though (dating groups are a-plenty on Meetup)… :p  But I don’t think even the knitting group could keep you 100% safe from the clutches of love (if you’re single); after all, you will be meeting people that have interests similar to yours. ;)

Whether you’re in it for friendship or love, before you know it you’ll be making new friends.  My own experience with Meetup has been amazing!  I have attended many many events of all kinds — many of which I probably never would have thought of myself — and people have been overwhelmingly friendly, upbeat, and fun.  I now have a nice circle of “personal” friends, but they all started as “Meetup” friends (except one).  As a result, I don’t see my Meetup buddies as often as I used to anymore (too busy with the personal friends and the overall busyness of life), but I owe it to Meetup for making my social life exciting and, dare I say, even finding me a lovely wife (not from the knitting group :p ).

Thanks to Meetup, Vancouver rocks! :)

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THE 2007 VANCOUVER SUN RUN

Vancouver Sun Run 2007, Start Line
Ready, Set, Go!

The Vancouver Sun Run was happening this morning.  It’s the biggest running event in Canada.  54,317 people signed up for either a 10km run or a shorter, 2.5km run.  Although I didn’t sign up for the event, I still managed to have some fun being part of the vibrant atmosphere surrounding it and watching the participants run along with big smiles — and yes, sometimes exhausted looks — on their faces.

Vancouver Sun Run 2007, Smile
Happy to be there

Vancouver Sun Run 2007, Runners #1
9.9km to go…

Vancouver Sun Run 2007, Runners #2
Beautiful setting for a run

Vancouver Sun Run 2007, Pacific Spirit
Promoting a lesser-known run for next month.

SAINT PATRICK’S DAY PARADE, THE DAY AFTER…

I went to see “Saint Paddy’s Day” parade this morning. I’d never been to one before and didn’t really know what to expect other than some celtic music and dancing.

I don’t know what the parades look like in other cities but here, it started with the police wailing their sirens and performing a street-level, simplistic version of the Snowbirds, doing some formations and criss-crossings for about 10 minutes. I don’t know what’s the connection with Ireland on that one, but anyway…

st_paddys
[top left] Scottish-Irish Bagpipes? / [top-right] Scottish-Irish McDonald? No, he’s 100% Irish! / [bottom] Irish dancing (sorry for the foggy lens :( )

Then the parade really started rolling. Bagpipes and percussions started the fanfare with a marching band colored in the Irish tradition and the mayor of Vancouver, Sam Sullivan, following right along in a horse-led wagon from Stanley Park.

45 minutes and 4-5 bagpipe-led marching bands later, it seemed to me that they all learned the same song… In-between the marching bands were a few Irish related groups interspersed with some not so Irish ones, shamelessly taking advantage of the parade to advertise their stuff (like “WorkSafe BC”), passing flyers to spectators. A not so Irish participant that I thought was really funny though was the guy carrying a dirty shovel, in charge of picking up after the horses… lol

The most interesting part occured during the last 20 minutes or so when a few troops of Irish dancers performed. But by that time, my camera’s filter lens decided to fog up and gave me so-so pictures (see attached) of what could have been the most interesting ones. Oh well… I’ll have to see what went wrong there.

All in all, it was “ok”, but apart from the dancers, it lacked in enthusiasm as far as I’m concerned.