Making friends in a new neighbourhood
July 10, 2006 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a brainstorm about tips for a shy, semi-square kind of guy to make friends with locals in a cool neighbourhood.

I recently moved in the Plateau Mont-Royal in Montreal, Canada from Griffintown, a remote no-man's land on the edge of Old-Montreal. I would like to immerse myself in the hood and make friends with locals, but so far I find most residents seem to have large networks of cool friends and are not particularly outgoing to lone strangers. I also am not very used to the european Dolce Vita vibe of the hood, though I am very much attracted to it, and I wonder if my american (as in North American) semi-squareness isn't clashing with the local sensibilities. To put it another way, it seems like everyone around here has so much more "soul" than I do, and I am intimidated by this.

Thus, my challenge in the next year will be be to develop an active social life in the neighbourhood, and I would like to hear suggestions on how to realize this.

About me: I am 27, was born and raised as a lone child by a single mother in the northern suburb, and was pretty much a loner as a kid, teenager and well, as an adult too. I know the basics of social interaction (Carnegie, etc) and I am pleasant and interesting in short interactions, but I have always found it difficult to develop solid, long-term friendships.

I am a native french speaker and am not affected by the language barrier.

I moved in with a roommate who is very much like me, and new to the hood too. We've been bar-hopping this week but were not successful in making contacts so far.

I am looking to make friends with people 20-35 (or +) with extensive social life. I feel like this is the kind of people I need to meet at this point in my life, to help me get a real life, not a substitute from TV, movies or the workplace (which is outside the hood, but I am contemplating getting a job here).

So far on my own, I have considered:

- Getting a second job in a café or bar, though I have no experience in the service industry area.

- Hanging out in coffeeshops, but being shy, I don't find it easy to initiate contacts, and besides most people seem content in their own world.

- I have been looking for community activities, haven't found anything striking my interests. Perhaps I need to find hood-specific ressources (do you know of any?).

Would like to hear more thoughts from you! Thanks in advance.
posted by jchgf to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Bars in cool neighborhoods are not always the best place to meet neighbors. Everyone likes the bars in the cool neighborhoods, even if they're not lucky enough to live in said cool neighborhood, so you're just as likely to be surrounded by a room full of people from outside the area.

It seems like the majority of neighbors I met when I moved to my area are people I either started chatting with at the local grocery or coffee shop, or people who live by me that I see every day while walking to the train. Things that people will be more apt to do where they live.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:33 PM on July 10, 2006

Look for the dive bars in the neighborhood, on the side streets, on weekdays. That's where the locals will be. Find a park that has a pick-up game of something you can play.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:44 PM on July 10, 2006

Find a community organization that needs volunteers and volunteer your time to help. There are never enough volunteers, so a new one is welcome. Your fellow volunteers will be happy to meet you and motivated to keep you involved and interested.
posted by richg at 3:02 PM on July 10, 2006

when i moved to a new place and knew nobody, i started a community website that dealt with some aspect of the local culture (music). i made a little money and a lot of friends. ymmv
posted by nitsuj at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2006

Pub Trivia.
posted by matildaben at 3:44 PM on July 10, 2006

Are there many people walking dogs around? Take interest in a dog and pet it. Then talk to the owner a little bit. Say you just moved there, and so on.

I pet dogs often. I'm just into the dogs when I do it, really, but I found that it would also be a good way to talk to humans in your neighborhood.
posted by redteam at 4:52 PM on July 10, 2006

Best answer: You sound cool to me. It's not true that they have more soul than you. I tend to romanticize people of different cultures too.

Try to dress the part. Shallow, but looks matter. Try to get an "in" with at least one "cool" person. This person can introduce you to more cool people. Are you and your roommate trying to find romantic companionship? Ask a cool person out for a date, or at least try to chat them up. Be very, very nice!

What do you think is the reason you aren't able to develop long-term friendships? I have a few very good solid, long-term friendships, but find it difficult in my old age to create new ones. It takes a lot of effort. I tend to feel like I don't want to bother anybody or inconvenience anyone. That is a mistake. You have to make the effort to call, and offer an invitation to hang out/go out, or just shoot the breeze. Keep the friendship alive!

You said that you are good in social interactions, but just a reminder to make people love you: listen intently, don't interrupt, ask them questions about themselves, show an interest in their answers, don't forget to give sincere compliments, and never offer advice, unless asked.

Oh yeah, be funny. A sense of humor is everything.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:07 PM on July 10, 2006 [3 favorites]

Ha! As soon as I read your intro, I thought: "The Plateau." (Actually, I thought: "Mile-End," but it's close enough.)

Sorry to repeat others' advice, but as a fellow Montrealer/square person I just have to chime in...

1) I second richg's suggestion: volunteer. I've heard of many people making lasting friendships while volunteering for places like Santropol, Head and Hands, and other local non-profits.

2) Don't worry about being cool, because I know lots of dorks who hang with the hipsters. I've discovered that if you're nice and are interested in what people say, most people will want to talk to you. And that's no matter how cool they seem. As you get closer to your 30's this will become more and more true.

3) Resaurant jobs are often good places to make social contacts, because restaurant workers often hang out during and after work to drink and smoke and otherwise pollute themselves.

Good luck!
posted by blisterpack at 7:50 PM on July 10, 2006

Best answer: It is a matter of amount of time, not quality of time. Keep going to the same place day after day, and eventually you will be part of the scene. Read "Surly you most be joking Doctor Fineman." He was a geek that could fit in anywhere by repeatedly showing up. Find a cool AA group and go every Tuesday.
posted by zackdog at 11:34 PM on July 10, 2006

Fineman Feynman
posted by Rash at 9:33 AM on July 11, 2006're_Joking,_Mr._Feynman!

Looks interesting. I hadn't heard of it before.
posted by evil holiday magic at 12:42 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, actually I'm on my way to pick up this book. Thanks Zackdog and Rash.
posted by jchgf at 1:04 PM on July 11, 2006

Best answer: Howdy neighbour. Great question.

I find that by walking through the same route and visiting the same restaurants, the same shops and the same terraces I've slowly been able to build up a network of peeps that I know. It helps when you have a girlfriend who also works in the area. But I'm telling ya these things take a long time, and the time has to be spent properly. I've been living in the McGill Ghetto/Plateau/Mile End area for ten years now and only in the past year or two have I been starting to get free drinks at the places I hang out, or running into people I know so often on the street that it makes my head feel bigger than it really is.

One piece of key advice is that Friday nights and Saturday nights should be spent at/with friends, or at house parties rather than out in bars/clubs. The majority of people in the bars/clubs on Fri/Sat are from the burbs. Go out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Thursdays to get to see the locals. Also, having friends who just like to hang out in the area isn't the same as friends who also live in the area. Which ones do you think you're more likely to run into by chance on the way home from work or while picking up groceries? And yes, having a job that makes you walk through the area definitely helps. Be patient, and in the meantime find the places you enjoy, and enjoy them. If ever you want to hook up my email is in my profile.
posted by furtive at 6:28 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

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