Knowing Your Community

I talked to a friend last week who is seriously considering a move west in her search for new opportunities for both herself and her family. While I was genuine in my support and encouragement, I thought afterward how responsible I would feel if they did actually pack up and move. While a move from Welland to Edmonton has worked out well for us, it is definitely a challenge getting to know a new community before and after a relocation.

In our case I was fortunate to have worked in Edmonton on a consulting basis so before we moved I had an opportunity to get to know both the city and a number of colleagues. In making the difficult decision to relocate, we spent a lot of time searching online in order to learn more about the community. I also bought a large map of the city and a good friend shaded in the neighbourhoods where she thought we’d be happy living. That kind of locally grown expertise is important to find and tap into.  Another good friend of ours, who was originally from the west, gave us the gift of two tourist guide books. In addition to being fun reads, the books helped us learn more about the history and hotspots in our new community and gave us tips on what to eat, what to do and where to go. 

When you first move to a new community, the focus is by necessity placed on unpacking and getting settled. However, we also made getting Internet access a priority as it made locating the nearest Canadian Tire, grocery store and WalMart easier. Those early errand runs took longer than usual but they did help us get our bearings. However, we found that walking and bike riding was the best way to get a feel for our new neighbourhood. We located a great website at www.walkscore.com that promotes walkable neighbourhoods by showing you what’s within walking distance of your specific address. 

Subscribing to the local paper was one of the first things we did as it was key to providing information about our new community including local events and advertising for stores and restaurants.  We also looked for free magazines and flyers on local bulletin boards to learn more. The library and Cable TV also provided relevant information.

Additionally, there were a lot of other practical things to do that we hadn’t anticipated. Simple but complicated things like finding a new doctor, dentist, chiropractor, hairdresser, and favourite restaurant. Most ended up being the result of asking our new colleagues but sometimes it was just a guess that either worked or didn’t.

We also learned that one of the best ways to meet new people and get connected was through our leisure activities. For my husband that meant finding a new curling club almost as soon as we got here. He also connected with others at a kite festival. For me it was joining a local gym. Others I know have joined service clubs, volunteered, taken classes that interested them, or joined a sports league. For some the best way to meet friends was through their faith community.

While sometimes it may mean you have to stretch yourself and take the first step in inviting someone for coffee or over for dinner, ultimately a new community can be whatever you decide you want it to be. For my husband and I it was, and continues to be, a great adventure that requires us to work and explore together. That’s not to say it’s been all sunshine and rainbows because the truth is we always miss our family and friends in Niagara. As someone once said, “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to”.

Posted on 07-11-10


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