NEW IN TOWN: 9 THINGS TO KEEP YOU SANE
There is no better time to move cities, countries or even continents than when you are young, single, and without commitments to anything. The world is your oyster! That all sounds great until you wake up in said new city: still young, single, and likely not making a fortune just yet. All of a sudden you realise how easy you had it back in college, when meeting people and making new friends was easier than deciding what to have for dinner. You also have a newfound appreciation for the basics: knowing your grocery store, fresh produce market, pharmacy, hairdresser, etc. As in, all those essentials you normally do not even think about and kind of just take for granted. How does one get the lay of the land, you might start wondering?
Having moved twice for school and twice since graduating, I learned that being new in town comes with many wonderful things as well plain daunting ones. It is also particularly scary and challenging when you are relocating not by choice and without any support system at the new place. But if there is a will, there is a way, so here is my survival guide for a newcomer: 9 things to try that will help you keep your head up (... provided you already have work and housing sorted).
1. GO ON A (FREE) WALKING TOUR
Free walking tours are not just an easy way to get a sneak peak of local culture when travelling on a budget but also a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with landmarks. And how about finding out interesting facts and anecdotes about your new home along the way? Since these tour guides are either native to the area or have lived there for a while, they sure can give you some non-tourist recommendations as well. Many free tours can be found with a Google search (e.g., Sandemans run tours in 18 European cities) or you can ask a local hostel.
2. MAKE A SPECIAL BUCKET LIST
Be it neighbourhood-, city- or country-specific, create a list of things you want to do in your new habitat. It will provide you with either a structure (if you are a planner type of person) or ideas for the future (if you are more on the spontaneous side). In my case, I enjoy writing bucket lists simply because they give me something to look forward to, as I explained in this blog post. From tasting unfamiliar dishes to learning how to build a snowman, the options are endless! There is a good chance you will get more done in a couple of months than a local in a year! #efficiency
3. TAKE ON A NEW HOBBY (AND STICK TO IT)
Many of us have that one thing we keep postponing and so it goes from one new year's resolution list to another, over and over again. Every other weekend we say "I will start on Monday", but somehow that day never arrives. But what is a better excuse to develop a new habit or pick up an interesting hobby than having a fresh start? Promise yourself to learn one new recipe once every 2 weeks and actually make it. Sign up for a gym class or take a language course and commit to it. Incorporating it into your new routine will be easier, and the sense of accomplishment will be a perfect stepping stone to appreciating your new environment. Remember, getting started is always the hardest part!
4. FIND YOUR COMMUNITY
It is often said that the people make the place. When you know virtually no one around (say, you work from home), think where people like you would normally hang around. Take MeetUp, for example. This is a global platform that aims to bring like-minded people together. All you need to do is register in the network and find an existing group that matches your interests. No relevant groups? Not to worry - just create a new one!
Another great way of learning the ins and outs is talking to bartenders. Those guys are usually chatty and full of knowledge, so take advantage of it. Plus, alcohol is the world's most renowned lubricant for socialising, so you can take it a step further and join a wine club? I actually did find one in Amsterdam. After all, who does not enjoy a glass of good Rioja?
Speaking of fun times, check out your local chapter of Hashers, "a drinking club with a running problem", as they refer to themselves. A match made in heaven! Hashing originated in Kuala Lumpur back in the 1930s, when a group of British colonial officers and other expats began meeting on a weekly basis to run and then have a drink afterwards. Nowadays, chapters all around the world hold regular runs that also end at a designated bar. It should be noted that Hashers welcome runners of all levels of skill, so you do not need to worry about your minutes per km, and membership is usually free of charge.
5. USE YOUR PHONE
You might have noticed that I use my phone quite a bit before and during my trips, and there are plenty more that can make your life easier in a new city. They include:
- Artsy (iOS only but there is a desktop version) will show current and permanent exhibitions;
- Adventurely will help you find a buddy for events and activities - the latter is only available in NYC at the moment, but I am sure they will eventually roll it out worldwide;
- Liana will connect you with expats and travellers speaking the same language or coming from the same country through a realtime geolocation network, so you will not get homesick;
- Nearify will remind you that there is life happening around you;
- Doctoralia will locate doctors and medical centres near you in select countries.
6. REACH OUT TO EXPATS
Seasoned expatriates are your ultimate experts at how to start life somewhere from scratch. Hey, they have already done what you are about to - they moved here from another city too! Even if you are relocating to or within your home country, foreigners can offer a completely different perspective to the place and think outside the (local) box. There are numerous city-specific blogs and Facebook groups you can join besides the many websites catered to foreign workers such as:
- InterNation is an expat community and an expat guide to a great many places around the planet;
- Expatistan calculates cost of living worldwide. This is a cool tool to get a general idea of how much your expenses will differ: for example, it predicts that living in Moscow would be about 46% cheaper than in Amsterdam;
- Just Landed is made up of country guides, forums, and other practical information
7. BECOME A PET SITTER
One of the brightest memories of my first weeks in Amsterdam has to do with befriending a puppy at a café close to my house. This cutest creature jumped on my lap as soon as I took my seat and we were inseparable for the next 20 minutes when his owner, unfortunately, had to go. We exchanged our contact information in case the dog needed a sitter (and because you clearly can't break a bond like that), which got me thinking that this is a perfect pastime for someone new to town. If you like animals and have taken care of a pet before, what can be better than enjoying nice walks in the 'hood - that counts as sightseeing - with your new furry friend? Check out pet-sitting services like Rover and Trusted Housesitters.
8. GET LOST
Literally or figuratively, getting lost is a big part of this adventure. I always found setting some time to just aimlessly wander around really pleasant and also practical: there is always a chance to come across a nice coffee place that you end up going back to all the time, an interesting exhibition that you did not even hear of, a flea market, a library, and so on and so forth! That's what I call building a relationship with your city. Getting lost could be really empowering too, in a way that you let go of responsibilities and stop being in control for a bit and just indulge in the moment.
9. TAKE YOUR TIME
Moving is not only about being physically present in a different place, finding your pace is just as big a part of the process. It is completely okay if you do not have everything figured out right way (no one ever does anyway). It is also fine if you need to give yourself a break. Go back to your comfort zone when need be. Reward yourself what you have already accomplished. The rest will follow!
Do you have a tip from your own experience? Share in the comments below!
Happy travels x