How to Adjust to the City After a Big Move

It was always my dream to work in a big city. When I first moved from my small town in Oklahoma to work in New York City after I graduated from college, I experienced a real culture shock. I didn’t have my parents or my best friends within a reasonable distance if I needed someone to talk to. I cried a lot and wondered if I had made the right decision. But making the big move caused me to be more independent and opened up opportunities for my career had I not taken the chance.

Before you hop on the plane or drive off toward the skyscrapers, realize that it will be a major transition in your life. Moving to a big city is both exciting and nerve-racking, and if you’ve never lived in one before, it will be a big adjustment.  

Whether you’ve just graduated and accepted your dream job or packed up your possessions into a suitcase for a change of scenery, here are some tips on how to make a smooth transition to big city living:

Become familiar with your surroundings

It’s easy to get lost among the hustle and bustle of the city. One of the first things to do is become more familiar with your neighborhood as well as surrounding areas. If you’re in a city that primarily uses public transit such as New York City, Boston, or Chicago, figure out the subway and bus schedules so you know how to get around. Explore the cafes and restaurants close to where you live to get a sense of your cuisine options. And figure out where the closest grocery store or pharmacy is in case you need to make any late-night emergency trips.

Get used to crowded places

If you’re coming from a small town or smaller city, you’re probably used to open spaces and hardly seeing anyone when you’re taking a trip downtown. Unfortunately, in most big cities, personal space is a rarity. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think of it as a way of getting closer to new people. Who knows, you might meet a new friend on your commute back home.  

Go to events and make new friends

One of the biggest challenges when you move to a new place is making friends. Use apps like Meetup to find social gatherings related to your interests that are happening nearby such as book clubs, yoga classes, or even hiking groups.  

Get in touch with your college’s alumni network

If you went to college, there’s a chance they have an alumni network in the city you moved to. When I first relocated, I discovered our alumni chapter had a designated bar in New York City where they hosted events and sports watching parties. I was surprised at how many people I met who lived in the area that graduated from the same university! Reach out to your alumni chapter and ask about when the next gathering is. Not only is it a great way to meet people who went to the same school, it might ease any homesickness you feel in those few first months.

Make a budget

The cost of living in bigger cities is generally high. If you’re fresh out of college, chances are you’ll have to live frugally for a few months. Make a budget. Use apps like Mint or You Need a Budget to track your spending. Most people think if you’re living on a tight budget that means goodbye to your social life, but that isn’t necessarily true. Take advantage of free events such as an outdoor concert series in the park during the summer, or art exhibits at local galleries.

Accept the changes and stay positive

You will get homesick and you will be sad from time to time — especially in the first months — and that’s natural. Transitioning to a new place is difficult, and no one can tell you how long it should take you to adjust. Keep in touch with your friends and family back home to ease the transition and always remember to stay positive. Pay attention to the little things that make you smile each day. Take time to meditate if you need help calming your anxieties. Remind yourself that you moved to this city to pursue a dream of yours. Don’t be afraid to reach out and meet new people. This is a new adventure in your life. Enjoy the ride.

Originally published June 5, 2017.

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