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Community Matters

I went to a seminar a friend of mine was running.  Well I thought he was a friend.  Now perhaps I should be honest and call him an acquaintance.  You see, he talked about the experience of moving to Perth from Sydney and finding that Perth people aren’t very friendly.  Specifically, he described how most of the people he met were courteous, but didn’t really make themselves available to make real friendships.  So most of his new friends ended up being other new arrivals in the city.  He concluded, I think rightly, that people in Perth are not unsocial, but rather that most people have a circle of friends that they maintain rather having time to develop new relationships.

The thing that struck me as most interesting about this, was that not too much earlier, I had met a colleague who had recently moved to Sydney from the USA.  He had found that it was difficult to make new friends in Sydney, where people seemed to mostly maintain their existing friendships rather than making new ones.  And I recently read a book which described a person from England moving to America and finding that it was hard to make friends there.

So it appears to me that the issue it not Perth, or Australia, or America, but the western world.  There are other cultures where newcomers are treated with a great deal of hospitality to give them the opportunity to start to develop some relationships and integrate into the local community.  But the western world generally does not operate that way.  And it could be argued that urbanization makes community harder all around the world.  But the more important question is, is it a problem? And if so, what can be done about it?  How can I integrate myself better into my community?  And how can I help others develop new friendships?

Photo Credit: “Portable Community Cannery, circa 1915”, © 1930 OSU Special Collections & Archives : Commons, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

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