In an increasingly global society, we are all more likely to make new towns and cities home than ever before. Whether it’s for work, to study, to raise a family or for a different pace of life moving to a new place provides an opportunity to make new friends and networks.
Sometimes this comes easily and other times it can be difficult. We’ve spoken to Lisa who moved across the pond and back again, making friends along the way. Taken by the scenery of the sea, hills and mountains, she has now chosen to make Ayr home for her and her son. She reflects on her experiences, ‘Moving to a new place is different every time. This is in part because of the character of the place itself and the age I was when I moved.’
Making new Friends in a Foreign Country
Leaving her family home for the first time, Lisa moved to Amsterdam to study where she was immersed in a vibrant, diverse community that is used the constant influx of people. ‘Amsterdam was very open to newcomers. There is a large student population which helps. There were lots of opportunities to meet – in parks, cafes, museums and at festivals. Amsterdam attracts free-thinkers, artists and young people who are all looking to meet new people.’
The international character of Amsterdam lends itself to socialising and making new friends. This made it easy for Lisa to meet people in this city and despite its size, she felt a sense of community.
After her time in Amsterdam, Lisa moved to the snowy mountain town of Whistler, Canada. It had a comparably smaller permanent population of around 12,000 people but as a popular ski resort, it also had a rotating population of seasonal workers. Every six months a new group of people would move into the town to work and make friends. Lisa said, ‘This lent itself to a culture of people who wanted opportunities to connect. There were lots of places to go for coffee and food and of course to ski! Sports really help bringing people together.’
Although it was great for opportunities to connect eventually Lisa tired of the regular changes to her friendship group. She had made Whistler her permanent home but for many of her friends it was only ever a temporary arrangement. ‘This was the reason I decided to move on. It was devastating each time you had to say goodbye to people who had become close friends and after a while it was too difficult.’
Lisa then moved to Vancouver. She decided to go to university and that created a community of people to be with. Lisa remembers, ‘This was prior to social media so we kept in touch by going out for dinner and socialising together each week. It was accessible at the time because it was cheap, so everyone could come along.’
‘I also met people through the website and app Meetup. I joined a group to learn Spanish which evolved from learning together to friendship. We would socialise over pot-lucks. These were dinners where everybody brings one dish and we all eat together. Over time, my friends from University and the Spanish class merged and we all became a close network. We socialised regularly over food until eventually everyone went their separate ways.’
‘That would be the moment where I started to feel more isolated. Everybody that I knew was moving to different cities and countries. It was suddenly very different.
My own life circumstances changed too as I became a mother.’
I also met people through the website and app Meetup. I joined a group to learn Spanish which evolved from learning together to friendship. We would socialise over pot-lucks. These were dinners where everybody brings one dish and we all eat together. Over time, my friends from University and the Spanish class merged and we all became a close network. We socialised regularly over food until eventually everyone went their separate ways. That would be the moment where I started to feel more isolated. Everybody that I knew was moving to different cities and countries. It was suddenly very different.
Finding a Place in an Already Established Community
Now, Lisa has chosen to make the west coast of Scotland her home. Thinking about her first impressions of Ayr, Lisa recalls ‘I really liked it –the sea, hills and mountains close by. The high street seemed busy and bustling compared to other places we had visited.’
In comparison to the other cities and towns she has lived, people in Ayr have been in the town longer and there is less of a turnover of new people. ‘It is a bit more difficult to get settled and to find places to meet people. I don’t drink which is a barrier to socialising. It’s taken time to find places to meet people. It’s a slower process. I have been trying to make connections through volunteering and to meet people that way.’
A seasoned newcomer, Lisa knows it can take time to settle and to familiarise yourself with the culture of a place. Without an understanding of established social circles it can be hard to become part of a community. In every town, there are factions and divisions, that as a newcomer, can be difficult to navigate when you don’t know the history of a place.
I have joined groups because I want to make a positive contribution to my town. I’m the newcomer so I don’t have all the answers. Many people have good ideas and they want to create a stronger sense of community and I want to be part of it.
Bridging the Old and the New Ayr
Lisa is taking steps to make connections in her new home town, ‘I have joined groups because I want to make a positive contribution to my town. I’m the newcomer so I don’t have all the answers. Many people have good ideas and they want to create a stronger sense of community and I want to be part of it.’
‘There are places where people can go – the Women’s Hub, the Book and Bun, Riverside Studios as examples and I am sure many others. It’s an asset to the town that these places are here. Most of these places are fairly new, perhaps a year old or so and it’s a really nice development for the town.’
In many ways, Ayr is a traditional place, where families can look back on generations that have called the town home. However, as new people come to live in Ayr, they add their experiences and personalities to the character of the place. Hearing Lisa's story, perhaps it’s a chance to "see ousels as ithers see us!" as one well-known Ayrshire resident once said. Looking with the fresh eyes of a newcomer, Lisa sees the assets and opportunities that Ayr offers but also that it can be difficult to settle in. A simple "Hello" or a "Come and join in" can help to make Ayr a welcoming place for everyone.