How Play Can Help You Thrive in a New City

Settlement ISC Community, Daily Life, Newcomer Information, Updates

New in Calgary and looking to make new friends? PlayCity is for you!

PlayCity is a free app that connects you with others who are interested in the same activities – from a hiking buddy to a tennis partner! The PlayCity app is available for download both on Google Play and App Store.

Meet PlayCity’s CEO, Hafiz Mitha! Read his story below and learn how sport fueled connection and health and ultimately drove him to create PlayCity:

In 2014 I had my first experience living abroad. My company was expanding and my business partners had left to live in the Czech Republic and Thailand. When it was my turn to follow suit, I chose Southeast Asia; the weather, the beaches, and the food (not to mention the value of our dollar) made it a no-brainer for me. I was fortunate enough to have someone there – who had already lived in Thailand for over a year – to help me through the initial stages of resettlement. He helped me to get my phone set up, to find accommodations, and he provided some early social connection – things we all need.

As the weeks went on he became busy again with his own life; I was left to learn to live on my own in a new, foreign land. I would walk around, use the trains to explore further, and eventually joined a gym to help pass the time (and burn off all the rice and chicken I was eating). After about three weeks, I was feeling home sick and loneliness had started to creep in. I don’t think it matters where in the world you end up: if you are alone the novelty eventually wears off and depression is just around the corner.

Things began to turn around when a friend recommended a ball hockey league that was holding games at a local outdoor arena. I played hockey once or twice a week back home in Canada, but I hadn’t considered that playing hockey would be an option in Thailand. I was excited but I didn’t have a stick, gloves, or even proper shoes. After debating it for a couple of weeks, I decided that it was time to check it out nonetheless.

I still remember showing up to Thai Stix for the first time. I was met with friendly smiles and quickly learned that most of the players there were Canadian expats. They had a bucket of sticks, some shin pads to borrow, and pinnies to divide up the teams. We were set to play. 

My experience in Thailand changed after that day. I had an outlet that I enjoyed and people that I shared an interest with, people that would end up becoming good friends – some of whom I would travel and renew my visa with. My confidence grew: these new friends had all gone through the things I was encountering and struggling with, and were happy to provide assistance, tips, and even introductions. The rest of my time in Thailand was truly amazing and it was all because of the community that I had found, a community based on real shared interests – above and beyond entrepreneurship. My Thailand network went from one person to over ten in a span of a few weeks. Every time we played, we would chat and there were opportunities to connect with new people – over a beer and chats about hockey. The decision to go play hockey once completely elevated my experience of living somewhere new.

Later that year, I decided to sell my shares of the company that I had co-founded, and moved back home to Calgary. I was on a sabbatical of sorts, thinking about what my next move would be, and I couldn’t stop reliving my experiences with Thai Stix; I fixated on how a connection over a shared interest could change someone’s life so profoundly. After months of this stewing, I finally had my ‘aha’ moment. I was going to start a company that would help connect people through play. The idea was simple: use my experiences with sports and technology to enable people to find others who were interested in the same activities, and assist in creating real-life connections, based on a healthy mutual interest. PlayCity was born in 2016.

5 years later we have helped thousands of people connect with others who they most likely would not have met otherwise. Many of our app users are not from the city they are living in. Many of our community members do not speak english well. All of our app users are interested in meeting people and creating real connections based on a shared interest, over a healthy activity or sport.

We are proud to announce that PlayCity has partnered with Settlement Calgary as an additional resource for newcomers; we are here to help new Calgarians integrate into this city and live more enriched lives here. Whereas Settlement Calgary already does a wonderful job helping newcomers settle with resources related to housing, employment, finances, and healthcare, this new partnership with PlayCity offers newcomers an avenue to meaningful connection, community, and wellbeing as well.

Our goal is to impact the lives of all Calgarians and create diverse, active, and healthy friendships – using play as the medium to bring people from different backgrounds together. We are very excited to partner with Settlement Calgary and look forward to fostering new stories of connection and enrichment. Your new network might only be a game, a match, a run, or a hike away.

In a world that needs more connection, let’s get off of our phones, meet new people, and appreciate our differences. We are all so much more alike than we are different, and sometimes it just requires that one thing to remove barriers and help start the conversation. This is what we’ve designed our app to be. And as an added bonus, living a more active life carries with it plenty of health benefits as well.

Kudos to you if you are new to the country and are reading this. It takes massive strength and courage to do what you did. Your life here can be great, and we are here to help.

Download PlayCity for free at www.playcityapp.com – available on iOS and Android.

For information on Settlement Calgary and access to resources related to employment, finance, education and settling in Calgary, visit www.settlementcalgary.com