Adjusting to your new city: Tips and Tricks

MovingMoving is really hard.  Whether it’s moving into a new home a few miles away or across the country… moving is just a lot of work and a big challenge. When I was a child we moved several times from town to town, then state to state, until we landed back in my native Colorado. I adjusted well and easily made new friends everywhere we went. However, as an adult I had absolutely zero desire to ever move from our nice city in Colorado because I had moved enough. Enter my husband… and his acceptance into UW Madison Graduate School and here we are! I moved here from Colorado several years ago. Six years to be exact… it’s almost too much for me to tell you how long I’ve been away from my native homeland!

I wish moving as an adult had been as seamless as it was for me as a child. Unfortunately, the move was really hard on me (to put it lightly). Not only had we moved across the country without knowing a soul, we were also newlyweds! Which, as you may know, is an adventure all on it’s own. My husband quickly thrived in his new environment, while I felt like I lost a little bit more of myself everyday. I never wanted to move, so I harbored a lot of negative feelings towards everything around me, which certainly didn’t help. I found it hard to make friends, since I was no longer in school. I worked with children as an ABA therapist, so I didn’t spend much time with co-workers, again, making it hard to meet people. We started going to a church, but didn’t really meet anyone there for about 2 years. I was depressed, lonely, and very, very discouraged.

Now that I’m out the other side, I look back now and realize there are several things I wish would’ve gone differently or I’d had someone say to me. Since Madison is a city with very many transplants, I want to offer a message of encouragement for anyone who might be struggling with adjusting to life in a new city and what to do if you run into one of these people.


1. It’s ok to miss home.

If only someone would have told me that. Almost everyone new that I met and confided in with my feelings of homesickness said things like “but Madison is so nice!” or “we have such beautiful summers here!” I know people were well intentioned, but when you are homesick and looking for some comfort your gut response (well-my gut response) was to shout THE SUMMERS ARE NICE EVERYWHERE!!! (except maybe Texas)

When I meet people who have just moved (which is often), I listen. “How do you like it?” or “How are you adjusting?” are good questions to ask. Then, just listen. Offer words of encouragement and advice if you think helpful, but trying to jolly people out of their emotions often makes them feel worse. And frequently, people are adjusting just fine and will not give you a sob story like I would have!

My point here is, it is ok and totally normal to miss where you have moved from. You knew everything there. Where the gas stations and grocery stores were, how people interacted, your favortie hole in the wall coffee shop. And how long it took to get from place to place.  It’s ok to miss home, that doesn’t mean that your new home isn’t a perfectly lovely place.

2. Make your new home yours

We lived in a dinky and dingy apartment when we first moved to Madison. It was really nothing special, but I added personal touches and made it into a place I was happy to come back to after work everyday. Put some time and effort into styling your new house to feel like home. Hanging photos really helped and a trip to Target went a long way!

3. Get involved

Get involved in something-anything-that will help you meet people and feel like yourself. Join a church, a gym, an art class-anything that will help you! Take your kids to playdates in the community-even your neighborhood park! Chances are you will meet someone who is new to the area also.

4. Reach out

This is a challenge, because often times making new friends feels a lot like dating and it’s hard to put yourself out there. When we moved we didn’t have kids, so that made things a bit harder, because I feel like children are a natural ice breaker. So use that to your advantage! Once you’ve started going to a swim class with your kids or the gym everyday, reach out to someone. Invite them over for your kids to play or ask another mom if she’d like to meet for coffee sometime.

If you meet a mom who is new to the area-ask her to do something! Chances are she’s dying to have adult conversation and make a new friend.

5. Find things that are familiar

If there was a restaurant chain you went to in your old city, try to find one in your new city! If you always shopped at a certain store, it’s a comfort to shop there when you’ve moved. These things sound a little basic and silly-but help a lot. When everything is different, it’s nice to find something familiar. Of course, certain areas of the country don’t always have the same stores and restaurants, but chances are you can find somewhere you feel a small sense of comfort.

6. Embrace your new surroundings

Seems contradicty to my last point, but it’s really complementary. It’s nice to go somewhere you are familiar, but it’s also exciting to explore new places. Most cities (Madison is no exception!) has many unique places to visit and events to attend. Exploring them is a great way to connect to your new city. If you are new here, add the UW Arboretum, State Street and Union Terrace to your short list of places to go.

7. Give it time

It took quite awhile for me to adjust to my new life and surroundings. In retrospect, I think I would have been far more successful at adapting if I had put more effort in early on. My best friend told me it took her 5 years to feel settled every time she moved and I would have to agree. I don’t think everyone will follow the same timeline, but just don’t get too down on yourself if after 6 months you aren’t as settled in as you thought you’d be.

If you’ve moved-what did you do to help yourself acclimate? Leave a comment below and share with us!

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