Haasch: It takes strides to settle into a new place

Relocating, with practice, becomes easier and easier.

by Palmer Haasch

I hate moving. I’m an awful packer. I feel like it takes me weeks to organize a new living space, and I’m perpetually aware of the distance between me and my family and friends every time I relocate. Somehow, despite my general disdain for relocation, I’ve managed to do it four times within the past year – spending between three and four months in each new location before moving on to the next spot. Now in my fourth city of the year after relocating for a summer internship, I’ve reluctantly worked out some solid strategies for settling into a new city, even when it feels like I know less people than I did when I first moved onto campus as an out-of-state freshman. 

The cities that I’ve lived in over the past year have all been fairly large, and it’s been easy to feel lost in an urban sea of people. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as lonely as I did sitting alone in my apartment in a metropolis of 4 million people. So without further ado, here are my survival strategies for settling into a new city, no matter how temporarily you’re living there. 

The first: establish yourself as a regular. It really doesn’t matter if this is a coffee shop, restaurant, gym, whatever, as long as you show up there enough that someone will recognize your face. Task #1 for me in a new city is finding a coffee shop with a good study space as well as affordable (and, at minimum, decent) coffee, and then going there about as much as my budget can sustain. When you don’t know anyone in a new city, the value of having someone recognize you and call you by name can’t be understated. Plus, after making friends with the baristas, you may start to receive free drinks.

My second strategy: make friends with your coworkers. Whether you’re in an office, behind a coffee bar or testing out products, it’s important to form genuine connections that move past circumstantial acquaintanceship. Not only does this make work more fun, it gives you much-needed social interaction. Whenever I move, 95 percent of my social interaction happens at work. It becomes important for conversations to extend past water-cooler talk. Whether you’re chatting in the break room or over Slack, make an effort to get to know the people you’re working with and incite meaningful conversations.

Strategy three: Put yourself out there. This can take a lot of different forms. It may tie into work; jump into discussions even if you’re intimated – often the case with me – and initiate conversations with your coworkers. Putting yourself out there may also mean getting on apps like Tinder. Safety while using online dating apps is always crucial, but in my experience I’ve been able to chat and meet new people that have helped me experience a city in a new way. Above all, though, I recommend physically getting out. I spent the greater part of my first two weeks in Los Angeles holed up in my room because I was terrified by the sheer scale of the city. 

At the end of the day, the more that you stick your neck out the easier it gets. Relocating isn’t simple, but it’s absolutely a task that gets easier with practice. By the time I’m finally settled in, I usually find myself not wanting to leave.