By Christine Hill
City living can be invigorating, exciting, and… incredibly terrifying! If you’re moving from a smaller town and you’ve never experienced the pace of city life, you might be in for a few doses of culture shock. When I first moved to the city, I knew for sure that the first thing I would encounter was a street-wise woman who’d dust the ash off of her cigarette and regard me with a cynical look. “Kid, this city will eat you alive,” she’d say.
Well, the story didn’t go exactly like that. Reason #1: I’ve been watching too many pulp fiction tv and need to come to terms with the fact that some cliches are false. Reason #2: I made a lot of preparations before my move that helped. So I’ve decided to share some tips that I received that helped a lot, and other things that I wish I’d known at the time. In any case, this quick guide to moving into a new city should be able to help all the other fresh-faced newbies out there to quickly navigate their new city with confidence and comfort.
#1 Pick a good neighborhood
Often, how comfortable you can get in your new city will depend on which area you live. Although it usually seems that the quality of the neighborhood can be quickly assessed simply by the rent rates, there are also really great places to live that don’t cost much, and places that are crappy that will overcharge you. In order to find a good place to live…
- Ask a local for insider tips as much as possible.
- Check out the police blotter for the city and check for concentrations of violent crime… and avoid!
- Use Google Earth. Even if you’re moving into the area blind, it’s a great way to look over the streets and see how well they’re cared for, how well lit they are, etc.
- If at all possible, trek the area on foot before you put down a deposit. Nothing can compare to the read that you’ll get it yourself when you tread the streets. City living will usually include more walking by foot that you’re used to in the suburbs, so walking around your area will be a common thing, and you want to make sure that it feels like home.
- Do your research ahead of time and find out where the low income groupings are, and how your new city handles housing.
#2 Learn how to get around
My personal lifesaver is Citymapper. It gives you step-by-step directions to anywhere that you need to go. You can choose whether you’re traveling by bike, foot, car, or public transit, and learn which route will get you there faster. It even accounts for train/bus schedules, and rush hour traffic. What I love about it the best is that it even tells you each stop on public transit so you can be confident that you won’t miss your stop. There are other apps available, too, that will help you quickly learn to chart your routes with confidence. Practice your most common routes at a few different hours of the day, because in a city, your route can alter differently depending on whether it’s 12 noon or 6 pm.
#3 Parking sucks
It just does. In any city. Be prepared to pay ridiculous rates everywhere you go. Consider parking when you’re looking for housing, and even when you start a new job. See if it will cost extra for you to get a pass. Here, again, apps can help. Best Parking can help you look for the best rates and distance from your destination, so you’re not left driving around in circles waiting for an $8-an-hour place to just open up.
#4 Pack light
Cut way back on your crap. City living usually means living in small spaces. You won’t have a lot of storage, and you definitely don’t need all those extra plates. Additionally, with the complications of parking and driving, just transporting all your stuff could be a horrific ordeal. Winnow down your possessions to the essentials, especially during your first approach.
#5 Find your favorite hangout
One of my favorite things about cities is how, because few people have the luxury of their own backyard, public spaces become your backyard. While you’re mapping your route to your most frequent destinations and getting to know your area, keep an eye out for your new favorite hangout. That might be at a library or museum, at a lovely park that’s nearby, or at a coffeeshop. Learn to make yourself at home there, and you’ll start to really feel like you belong to the city and neighborhood, instead of just holing yourself up in your room in a desperate attempt to establish a comfort zone.
#6 Make friends!
I know it’s never easy, and it’s especially challenging once you’re not in school anymore. But friends will save your life in a city. To meet new people, you’ll probably have to try out a few new techniques. Try some of these:
- Find places to volunteer.
- Reach out to new coworkers and invite them to lunch together or drinks after work.
- Join a club and explore your interests and hobbies.
- Follow up on contacts that friends from home give you. This might seem like a series of awkward blind dates, but most everyone depends on a connection or two from home when they move into a new city, and most people will be happy to help you settle in.
- Be positive and open, even if it makes you feel glaringly like an out-of-towner. It might be hard to believe, but you WILL find kindred spirits in the city.
- Meetup.com. That’s right, someone actually made a website for just this purpose! Choose your interests, and then make a group or join someone else’s.