One of the biggest adjustments of moving here (besides the weather thing and having to call it a stop light not a robot) is the pervading sense of ‘rootlessness’. I’ve written about this before, but I sometimes feel stuck between two worlds and I know I’m not alone in this feeling because I have spoken to other immigrants, as well as people from other parts of the country about it. It is very strange having to rebuild your network and find your place within your new community. It must be stranger still if you can’t speak the language or if you are painfully shy (Canucks, including The Husband may say I can’t speak the language, but you’d have to admit I’m definitely not shy).
What has been interesting for me is realising that it is not just my friends and family that I miss desperately – that immediate and infinitely valuable safety net of nearest and dearest – but that I miss having a Network with a capital N. This was nowhere more apparent than in my job search. Back home, I know people. Seriously. My people could speak to your people. I could have used my network (the old school tie so to speak– oh yes, we wore them) to find work, hear about different opportunities, scout out different industries – you get the idea. So as much as being in a new place makes you have to adjust to different brands of shampoo, strange pronunciations and a lack of decent butternut, it also makes you adjust to the fact that you are to all intents and purposes … alone. That network of people you spent building up through school, varsity, work, is suddenly not there, and you have to start all over again.
It is, therefore, not just having people to hang out with that feels strange, it’s not having People to do business with. I am finding out though, as I begin the slow task of building a Network, that often the two become synonymous – someone you have made a connection with in a business setting can become a friend, and sometimes a friend can lead to business (though I am hesitant to recommend this as I strongly believe friends and money don’t mix – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts). It is just weird to think how we take for granted the connections we make just through something like high school or a random job, and how it’s the usual case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
I firmly believe that we all thrive when we have a rich community of people – like-minded souls that energise us and motivate us and who push us to be the best we can be. I also think that (and I’ve touched on this in another blog post)that the more we have social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the more disconnected we can become because we have the illusion of being permanently ‘plugged in’ and connected. Though I won’t knock them for allowing me to keep in touch with the South African Diaspora. There is hope, however.
Although Vancouver is a really tough place to make friends (again, I am backed up by informal polls), there are ways to meet people and create a network. As Charivarius commented on a previous post, you can always volunteer. I now do (quick promo here) – for a society called Wired Woman. This has lead to fantastic networking opportunities and the chance to connect with really interesting people and form new friendships. There are also plenty of other events and networking opportunities for various interest groups and industries, and there’s always MeetUp.com.
So if you’re feeling lonely and disconnected, remember you have to reach out and start trying to build those friendships and that Network. They won’t come to you. It is hard in the beginning, but it’s all easier with practice. It can make such a difference when you start to feel like you belong somewhere and although it’s not easy, it’s worth every awkward moment and Orange Mocha Frappaccino.