So you just moved to a new city, and you have no idea where to start.
That sounds like me when I first stepped foot in San Francisco. If you are like me, you didn't grow up in this kind of environment. Whether you were on a small farm or living in a suburban town, nothing can truly compare to a big city. How will you ever find your place somewhere so different from your roots?
That's what I was asking myself, anyway. Good thing we have each other.
Here's everything you need to know about handling life in a new city:
1. Make a home.
First things first, arrange your new home to make it feel like, well, home.
I know this sounds silly, but I was so caught up in everything around me when I first moved to the city that I forgot to personalize my apartment. The walls remained blank for weeks, I didn't unpack my family photos for awhile and I didn't invest any time into setting up my furniture, except for the basics.
It never really felt like home, just somewhere I was sleeping. This made me extremely homesick, and I clung to the comfort of my childhood bedroom.
Take the time to hang up your posters, photos or household plants. Get those curtains you like, order the tapestry that makes you feel close to home again or just paint the walls (if your landlord will let you, of course). Sometimes, it doesn't take much to make things feel cozier.
For me, it was finding the right channel and playing "The Price Is Right" in the background as I cooked dinner.
If your apartment doesn't feel like your safe space, you will feel very lost in such a big place. It's important to have somewhere to go at the end of the day to unwind and really feel in your element. Even though it might not compare to the home you just came from, it definitely helps.
2. Find familiar places.
This might sound confusing. How can anything be familiar if I've never been here before? They don't have to look familiar, just feel familiar.
When I first moved to the city, I wasn't sure how to handle it. I had always loved being surrounded by nature, the trees, the grass and the plants. Unfortunately, most cities lack the whole nature aspect, and for me, that was hard to accept.
So, I started to wander around different neighborhoods and stumbled upon some lovely parks within the concrete jungle.
This felt familiar to me, and I really connected to the parks near my apartment. At last! Grass! It was something I felt like I hadn't seen in weeks.
You don't realize the smallest things you will miss when you leave more rural or suburban areas (like grass), until you are gone. It was comforting to come to the park and read a book under some shade, or draw the locals who sat down on the benches to pass time.
Whenever I felt lonely or overwhelmed by the madness that cities consist of, I would go to the areas that felt closer to home for me, and I'd feel better, calmer and happier.
3. Find your neighborhood hang.
This is the most important thing in my opinion. What's the local spot? Find your neighborhood bar. The locals near you will be hanging around here, and it begins to feel like a community.
In San Francisco, I started going to a pub up the street from me and became friends with all the bartenders, and eventually people my age who lived in the area as well.
Get out of your comfort zone and challenge someone to a game of pool, or just join in on someone's conversation. If you don't know pool, then learn it. It's a great way to talk to people without having to strike up random conversation. (If striking up random conversation isn't your thing, I could probably talk to anyone about whatever, but that's just me.)
Most of the time, they will most likely be better than you at the game and offer up some lessons. I learned a lot about my area just from hanging out around there. The other locals will tell you things about the area you wouldn't hear anywhere else. It's convenient to make friends who live steps away from you and frequent the same spot you enjoy hanging out at.
Plus, let's be real: You get mad discounts once you are in with the bartenders.
4. Make friends who are local.
This ties in with the above. Meeting friends who live in your area is a plus all around. You don't have to travel far to see them, and when you are in a new city, sometimes that is a stressful factor. It deterred me from doing a good bit at first because I was afraid of getting lost in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Let's be honest: That happened anyway.)
Nothing is more fun than experiencing the city through the eyes of the locals. You get to avoid all the touristy locations and experience, explore and immerse yourself in your new home with your very own guide.
The locals know all. They can tell you the best spots to hang, drink and eat. That hole in the wall you thought would give you food poisoning? Turns out, it's one of the top-rated sushi places in the city.
Although, I think the best part is, once you guys get friendly, all it takes is a quick call to get them to walk over. I had the pleasure of living within a few feet of my one of my best friends, and it was the most convenient thing of my life. Nothing beats walking to your friends house in pajamas in your mid-20s.
5. Learn the public transit systems.
Your life will be hell until you do. Driving in a city is a stress-driven nightmare. It's like a video game where you have to be aware of pedestrians, buses, bikers, other cars, motorcycles and depending on your city, trolleys. In most cities, drivers are the lowest on the food chain, with very angry pedestrians being first if you cross them.
Letting go of my car was really hard when I moved. I wanted to try to keep it, but the public transit got me where I needed to go, it was cheaper and it was easier to go out and party and not worry about a designated driver. If your city has smart public transportation, take advantage of it.
The amount of times I got lost on the trains and busses is unreal, but I ended up finding some real gems in the process. Once I learned public transit, it was easy to get around, and it made going out more fun.
6. Get in the swing of things.
Get in the swing of things with a routine. At first, I felt very overwhelmed and anxious in regard to what I would be doing.
Figure your schedule out. How long does it take you to get to work by car or public transit? What time are you going to be waking up and going to bed each night? How much free time do you have during the week versus the weekend? Finding a routine can relieve a ton of stress and anxiety when you are in a new place.
You should also learn the lingo the city uses. This sounds so lame, but when I got to San Francisco and locals heard me call it San Fran, they wanted to ring my neck. Apparently, it's not something “locals” do.
Once you have your routine down, be sure to explore tons, and maybe even pick up some yoga or meditation to help calm the anxieties the city brings. Even if you aren't generally an anxious person, the noise and commotion of the city will get to you from time to time.
7. Accept change.
Lastly, but most importantly, accept the change. If you compare your new home to your old one, you might not ever like it. That was my biggest mistake.
I would constantly point out what San Francisco was missing in comparison to what I was used to, instead of pointing out all it had to offer in respects to what I never had previously. Cities aren't your suburban or rural surroundings, and they never will be. That's why they're cities.
If you can adapt to the change and learn to love what your city has to offer, you'll wonder how you ever lived without this place to begin with.