Moving to another city, or even a country can be exciting, overwhelming and exhausting!
In the past 4 years, I have lived in five cities (Istanbul, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles and Dublin) for a period of six months +. Each experience was stressful, intimidating and unfamiliar. Even the simplest tasks such as grocery shopping or opening a new bank account became something I had to learn how to do all over again.
During that time I found a few things that really helped me feel more comfortable in my new surroundings. Whether you’re moving away from home for college, starting a new job, or just need a fresh start in a new place – this post is for you!
1. Pack sentimental items
Living out of one suitcase has always been my goal as I tend to buy the basics that I need and get rid of almost everything when I leave. While I definitely think there’s something to be said about getting rid of the things you can live without, I do think it’s important to bring with you a few sentimental items, no matter how silly or small.
I carry around my South African Map which I put up in every apartment I stay in, it instantly adds coziness and familiarity that my new space was so desperately missing. Be sure to bring with you the things that make you feel most at home.
2. Network and make friends
Sometimes it’s nice to be able to speak to people who are going through the same things as you.
Put yourself out there, try to form a connection with people and stay on their radar, and hope that something comes of it! No matter the country I’m visiting, here’s how I find a community of expats to connect with:
- Reconnect with old friends by searching on Linkedin and Facebook to see if any of your old friends moved to your new city.
- Create an account on Meetup to find out about social events in your area.
- Search for Expats in ”city name” groups on Facebook.
- Join Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel, Women Who Travel and TravelMassive to meet other travel lovers.
- Volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about.
- Use dating apps like Bumble to make friends. While most people are swiping right for love, I swipe in hopes to meet locals who are willing to show me around, make sure you include this in your bio to not mislead people.
Don’t be afraid to reach out first! I’ve found that expat communities are incredibly helpful and welcoming.
3. Get lost in your neighborhood
Spend your first few weekends exploring and trying new local spots. Where’s your closest grocery store? Pharmacy? Nail salon? Perhaps you like to have a cup of coffee in the mornings – where’s the best spot to grab a cup before work? Where is the nearest subway or bus stop? What’s the best route to take to go on a run? Is there a park nearby? Learning all of these things will help make your new city feel more familiar, and a little less big.
4. Step out of your comfort zone
After reading The year of yes by Shonda Rhimes, I decided to be more spontaneous and do random things that might not sound appealing because I’m yet to TRY them.
For me, this was going to clubs, bars and pubs. In general, I love exploring and visiting galleries, parks and other points of interest during the day but I always stay home in the evenings as I don’t like nightlife. I try to avoid noisy places and drunk people.
But in the past few months, I’ve learned that you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy bars, so ditch the notion that certain things are for certain people and take full advantage of what the city offers.
5. Learn the history and culture
Visit the library or search online and learn the history of your new home. Pay close attention during social interactions, and don’t be afraid to ask about the culture of the area as well.
Consider a cross-cultural training program or class to familiarize yourself with the cultural variances, customs and taboos of your new home. Try all the different food and brands you are unfamiliar with.
Have you moved abroad? How did you make your new city feel like home?