British Columbia·Pretty Lonely

Least lonely Vancouverites have solutions to social isolation — with some strings attached

Some of Vancouver’s least lonely people have solutions to loneliness — but community connection doesn’t come without a cost.

Vancouver is pretty lonely but not for everyone

Social events like Diwali night at Surrey’s Laxmi Narayan temple Hindu temple are one of the ways people are brought together and create bonds. (Jennifer Wilson/CBC)

Some of Vancouver's least lonely people have solutions to loneliness — but community connection doesn't come without a cost.

South Asians have more friends than any other community in Metro Vancouver, according to the recent Vancouver Foundation Report on Social Isolation. They also tend to attend more events and hang out with neighbours and at community centres more.

"Bonding is the most important thing [but] where there is is bonding then naturally accountability will come," said H. Venkatachalam India's consulate general in Vancouver.

"It's a two-way relationship."

For Venkatachalam, community arises in part from social opportunities to establish a bond.

And that means attending social events like Diwali night in Surrey's Laxmi Narayan temple, he said, where hundreds of people in bright Punjabi suits and sarees gather to pray, eat and chit-chat.

"We have long conversations that last for hours but over here, people are like ‘I don’t want to take your time, I’ll let you go,’” said one woman at the Diwali festivities. “I’m like — What do you mean ‘let me go?’ I want to talk to you.” (Jennifer Wilson/CBC)

The cost of community

Creating community comes with strings, though, through more social obligations and a sense of interdependence.

"Bonding takes time," said Daljit Gill-Badesha, an early childhood co-ordinator.

"Investing in any relationship takes time to adapt to where you feel connected."

That means both giving and taking time, she explained over a cup of coffee in Surrey. 

For Gill-Badesha, accountability is at the heart of her Punjabi culture — but not in the way some may think.

It comes from love and not rules, she believes.

"Whenever you go from 'I' to 'we' … there is bonding and connection, and there is also responsibility and interdependence," Gill-Badesha said.

Too much space is lonely

That's a concept Kassian Asheshov understands all too well. The former Vancouverite recently moved to India.

Within weeks, he had an adopted family — including a "mom" he had to call regularly and check in with to stop her worrying about his safety.

"That wouldn't happen in Canada," Asheshov said.

"In Canada, yes, I would have my space and nobody would walk in. But then I had too much space, and it's a very lonely place."

This story is part of the radio and web series, Pretty Lonely, which looks into why many Metro Vancouver residents in their 20s and 30s experience social isolation.

The five-part radio series, which airs on CBC Radio Nov. 19-23, is produced by Jennifer Wilson, this year's recipient of Langara College's Read-Mercer Fellowship.

Tune into The Early Edition on 88.1 FM or 690 AM, weekdays 5:10-8:37 a.m., to hear the series.

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