Since I was 18, I’ve moved cities four times, excluding returning to live with family members in Washington state between moves. As a new adult, I first moved to Manhattan; two years later, I transplanted to Washington, DC. Next, I jettisoned to Ireland to live in Dublin. Now, my home is in Limerick, Ireland. With each of these moves, I was excited and decently well-prepared. In my case, I was changing cities to pursue a college education, but the lessons I’ve learned can help anyone settling in a new city for any reason. Allow me to share my wisdom with you. Beginning to lay your roots in your new city takes four initial, basic steps.
Step 1: Go for a walk
First things first: Get familiar with your surroundings. A day or two after you’ve settled into your new home, step outside your front door for a couple of hours. Taking a long walk accomplishes several things. The first is that it gives you an opportunity to take inventory of what is near your home. What grocery stores and markets are nearby? Are there any parks? Do any of the restaurants look enticing? In the coming weeks, you will discover your life or living quarters to be lacking a particular item or experience, and you will be equipped with an idea of where you can satisfy the need. Be sure to take note of public transport stops and terminals within walking distance, especially if you don’t have a car.
Another major function of taking a walk is that it gives you your first taste of the city’s—and your neighborhood’s—vibe. Manhattan, Washington, Dublin, and Limerick all march to different drummers, have different ebbs and flows during the day, and give off different energies. Understanding the rhythm of your new home can help you settle in and figure out what to expect from the people and streets around you. Is it a commuter city? Are you near much nightlife? Are there special markets on the weekend? Consider what will be available when.
Step 2: Find Things to Do
During your walk around, take note of the activities near your home and keep an eye out for signs and posters advertising meet-ups and rallies. Find out if the local bookstore has a book club, if a nearby club has salsa night, and where you can play laser tag. Check the internet where you can join local chapters of your political party or your closest appropriate faith center.
Being new to a city can leave you lonely, bored, and timid. Having activities to partake in will not only distract you, it will give you an outlet to express yourself and provide opportunities to have fun and learn new things. You can find local groups that share your own, pre-existing interests, but make sure to keep an open mind to new activities you find in your city.
Step 3: Meet New People
Finding things to do will inevitably introduce you to new people, who will certainly recommend more activities for you to try. Making new friends is overwhelming for some people, which is why I recommended finding things to do first. While you engage in the fun activities you found, be sure to introduce yourself to the people around you. (Also do this at work or school.)
Some people you meet will be uninterested, and that’s okay. Most people, however, will be open to conversation, especially if you mention that you’re new in town. People love to be helpful, so ask your new acquaintances for recommendations on places to eat, what to do on weekends, and where the cultural hotspots are. These are all perfect openers to beautiful friendships.
Having friends is what will really make your new city a home. You only need a few good ones to feel like you have a local family that you can count on, but try to be on good terms with everyone you meet. This is especially important with your neighbors because you never know when you’ll need to borrow a ladder or have someone feed your cat.
Step 4: Say Yes, Yes, Yes!
In order to make this new city your own, you have to grab it by both hands. Your new friends and acquaintances will not only recommend new experiences, they will invite you to join them on their own adventures. Say yes! Whenever you can, agree to partake in your new friends’ hijinks, and even rearrange your schedule to accommodate, if possible.
By saying yes, you will be exposing yourself to new experiences that you may not have ever considered. You will discover new pockets of the city and meet exciting new people. Not everything you try will be right for you, but you will surely be exposed to some great new hobbies and adventures. Not to mention that saying yes will make your new friends feel valued, strengthening your relationships with them.
Although this article is split into four steps, keep in mind that they are cyclical and iterative – you should take multiple long walks along different routes, meet new people at the adventures you’ve said yes to, and find new things to do through your new acquaintances and neighbors. Even once you’ve laid down your roots, keep exploring the city and seeking out new people. Make the city your own by continuing to experience everything it has to offer and befriending its occupants.
Rachel Whitbeck is the Director of Content at Petite2Queen. She is working towards her PhD in Sociology at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Rachel uses her experience in writing, editing, and research to develop content that appeals to and is reflective of the diverse millennial woman.