Socializing a challenge in Vancouver | Guest Shot | 24 Hours Vancouver

Apparently, 1 in 3 people find it hard to make friends in Vancouver, leaving a quarter of us feeling lonely.

A recent survey by the Vancouver Foundation also found that our neighbourhood connections are cordial but weak, and that 35% of us have no close friends outside of our own ethnic group, with 65% believing that most people prefer to be with others of the same ethnicity.

Known disparagingly as the “Vancouver Complex,” I find myself conflicted with this notion.

Isn’t this a problem in any big city? Having lived in many cities all over the world, in my view Vancouverites are some of the friendliest people I’ve met.

However, friendliness and closeness can mean two very different things.

I’m ashamed to say that I have one close Canadian friend having lived here for three years but, in my defense, I put it down to a simple clashing of cultures.

You may have heard, but rumour has it that Irish people like to drink. Unfortunately, I don’t think Canadians realize just how much we like to drink until they start to socialize with us. 99% of occasions revolve around booze in one form or another. Take Canada Day for instance. It was like St. Patrick’s Day X 2.

From experience, this cultural propensity for carrying on the party long after everyone else has gone home tends to put some locals off.

So the sad truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s much easier to gel and make real connections with your own people, even if you speak the same language as that of your adopted country.

Take, for example, the problem connecting with neighbours that we will have all experienced at one time or another. Listen, we don’t want to be your best friend – okay, if you’re hip then maybe we do! – but would it hurt to strike up a conversation in the elevator or at the dog park? We strangers don’t bite!

I’m sure many people reading this can relate to the particular sense of isolation that comes with being surrounded by people, even in a big city, but isn’t it all our own fault?

Surely making lasting connections depends on the right set of circumstances, the right timing and your own openness to those around you?

So if you’re lonely, get out there. Make yourself talk to people, if only to those in the elevator, the gym (or the pub, whatever your preference may be!), and you’ll feel better for it.

Just don’t call me Shirley!



  1. Hi Rachel, very interesting article in 24hrs, I totally concur and thats after spending 53 years in this country.

    The problem isn't limited to Vancouver, but perhaps has something to do with the Canadian culture and maybe is the Canadian culture vs the European Culture.

    What is your favourite Irish pub in Vancouver?

    Take care, Dave

  2. Very good and very true, same problem in Houston after spending nearly four years here.

  3. Awesome article Rach!!!

    Although I don’t think you realize how much some Canadians like to drink as well!! Lol

    Very well presented topic which definitely hits home for a newbie to town…Coal Harbour is the worst for friendly chatter around the condo…nightmare!

  4. Hi Rachel,

    I enjoyed your article very much! I am one of those that smiles and looks at people in the eye as I walk the street, and typically people look away. For women, I expect it is to indicate they are taken in case they think I am about to flirt, or they worry that I am some kind of creep. But every so often I get a smile back, especially from elderly people, but also young women. A nod of the head is often reciprocated by men, especially younger men.

    But I do feel I need to be friendlier and more conversant, so good on ya for writing the article. I guess I am a bit of a luddite as I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account .... Hmmm, I wonder if social networking is causing less people to smile and nod and say hello in person?