With any relocation—whether across the state or across the country—the to-do lists can seem endless, and taking the time and energy to explore your new city is often pushed to the bottom of priorities. But getting acclimated to your surroundings is one of the most important (and fun!) aspects of settling in somewhere new.
So, once the boxes are unpacked and you have your home somewhat organized, turn your attention to discovering the city just outside your door. Starting over can be a little overwhelming, and feeling at home in a new place doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and the right attitude, but with these eight tips, you’ll feel like a local in no time, and maybe even make some friends along the way.
1. Volunteer Your Time
One of the best ways to get to know your new city is to get involved in a local organization. Check out soup kitchens, libraries, animal shelters, after-school reading programs, community centers, and local hospitals for volunteer opportunities. Not only will you be making a difference, but you’ll be making connections too. Minimum time commitments vary by organization, but having a set time every week or month is a great way to start fostering relationships and feeling like part of a community.
2. Act Like a Tourist
Take a guided tour of your new city! Think hop-on, hop-off buses, segways, or boats. Maximize your time by seeing the highlight reel of your city just as a visitor would. Channeling your inner tourist may seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to feel like a local, but have faith. These tours are a clever way to get the lay of the land, highlighting areas for you to explore in more depth later. You’ll learn all about the history and heritage of the city, and be able to show off your newfound knowledge to future out-of-town houseguests.
3. Join a Local Class, Club, or Gym
Explore your new zip code by trying out groups and classes geared towards your interests and hobbies. Remember those activities you did before your life turned upside down in the move? Now’s the time to dive back into them. Take an art class, join a running club, find a yoga studio. This is where being a newbie really has its perks: You can take advantage of trial offers. Test out different locations around the city to find the right fit before locking in a membership plan.
4. Seek Out Small Businesses
It’s easy to frequent chain stores and restaurants; sometimes you just want what’s familiar. But seeking out smaller businesses—from independent coffee shops to farmers markets to family-run grocery stores—will give you a true sense of the local vibe. Don’t get stuck in a rut visiting the same spots around town. Use this time to sample all that is on offer. Shop local and eat local. The big-box chains will always be there if you absolutely need them.
5. Follow Local Social Media
Delay your digital detox and get scrolling. Join neighborhood Facebook groups for hyperlocal happenings. Search your city’s location on Instagram to find like-minded accounts or just fun things to do in the city in general. Subscribe to local papers and blogs to keep up on community news and events. Be sure to follow local personalities, venues, and publications on social media, too. That way you’ll always be in the loop about festivals, concerts, restaurant openings, scenic spots, and anything else exciting going on.
6. Switch Up Your Transportation
Ditch the car and opt for exploring your city by subway, bus, bike or ideally, by foot. Factor in some time to “get lost” (with a phone and access to a map as backup of course.) Wander around town taking side streets and exploring off the beaten path. Walking may not be the fastest way to reach your destination, but it is the fastest way to get to know your surroundings.
7. Go Outside
Visit local parks and community outdoor spaces, but don’t forget what’s just beyond your doorstep. Hang out in your yard—gardening, sipping your morning coffee, or simply just enjoying the weather—and greet passersby. Make a habit of walking around the neighborhood and introducing yourself to neighbors early on. The longer you leave it, the more awkward it can get. Being out in the open allows opportunities for more natural interactions.
8. Strike Up a Conversation
Putting yourself out there socially can feel daunting, but take every opportunity to meet people. Introduce yourself to neighbors. Utilize connections through friends, colleagues, or former classmates to get in touch with acquaintances in the vicinity. Make a deal with yourself that you will say yes to every invitation you receive, at least for the first few months. Use the neighborhood social media groups for advice on everything from the best take-out options to home maintenance. Whether online or IRL, making personal connections is by far the key to feeling at home in a new place.
One of the trickiest things about moving to a new place is getting over the initial feelings of alienation. But with a little effort on your part—and a lot of help from the Internet and social media—you’ll be out and about with new friends in no time.
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