I’ve lived in London for nearly five years now and sometimes I still feel like I’ve only just arrived. It just takes one short stroll over Waterloo Bridge on a sunny day to give me goose bumps and remind me that I actually live here.
Moving is never easy. Moving cities or continents is even harder. As someone who grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone, London was a whole new ball game. I remember standing on the pavement watching the people pouring in and out of the station, like the life veins of the city, jostling and striding and all with somewhere to be and someone to see. Isn’t it amazing to think that each person has their own world, their own friends, their own heartaches and celebrations?
Since my big move, I like to think I’ve gathered a little bit of ‘moving cities’ wisdom. I’m all about sharing what we’ve learnt so others can learn alongside us, so here are some of my top tips for settling down in a brand new city:
1. Take your time
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a few months of unadulterated joy and excitement. You’re living in a whole new place, with new things to see and do and taste. You might even feel like a permanent tourist. But after a while that feeling does wear off and then you might have a few moments of ‘what have I done!?’ Don’t worry. This is totally normal. You haven’t made the worst decision of your life, far from it. You’re just getting used to a new place and pace. Don’t panic when these feelings creep up. We’ve all had them.
2. Say yes to some things, but not to everything
That’s what people will tell you to do – ‘say yes to everything! Go to every event, accept every invite, meet as many people as possible.’ And for some, this works. For others (like me, who happens to be slightly more introverted) it didn’t. That doesn’t mean you should say no to everything and head home straight after work every evening. That’s not the best approach either. It just means you should say yes with intention. Think about whether this is something you want to invest time in, be brave and push yourself a little out of your comfort zone, you never know what might be waiting on the other side. Don’t feel like you need to lower your standards or get involved in something you definitely wouldn’t usually get involved in just to make friends. It might take awhile to find them but your people are out there. Don’t compromise your values in the meantime.
3. Making friends
That brings me to the next point. There are plenty of ways to meet people. Get involved in local sports teams or book clubs, go for after-work drinks with your colleagues or join a sports class at your local gym. I made loads of friends at church – it’s like a little family just waiting to welcome you in. But I also used Instagram a lot. I kept my eyes open for anyone saying they were new to London, or moving soon, and I would drop them a DM and offer to have a coffee and answer any London-related questions. I’ve made such good friends that way. It’s a bit scary going on a friend blind date, but you can get to know quite a bit about someone from their Instagram profile, and I’ve not had a disaster date yet. So give it a try!
4. Figure out your ‘tourist in my city’ day
When you move somewhere new and exciting you are probably going to have visitors. There’s nothing I love more than showing people around London, but it’s helpful to have a plan of action. Early on in our London adventure we developed a ‘day in London’ plan that we have treated most of our guests to. In the summer it involves cycling in the park, seeing most of the big sites and scones with cream and jam to top it all off. In the winter it looks slightly different because no one wants to be out on a bike in the rain and cold. Having a plan for showing people your city from your point of view is always fun and will definitely have them wanting to come back. It also makes you feel like you’re a little more at home and helps you get to know your city a bit better. On that note, if you live in a small city flat, invest in a super comfy sleeper couch for your guests.
5. Get the right apps
You’ll probably find that your new city has city-specific apps that will help you find your way around and settle down quicker. For example, in London we tell all our friends to get Citymapper because it’s the best app for directions. You might also want to look for apps for your local grocery store that offers delivery, the best meal delivery app (like Uber Eats), public transport routes and schedules and ‘what’s happening in this city this weekend’ type apps.
6. Find your traditions and favourite places
Going for breakfast at my favourite cafes has certainly made me feel more at home. As soon as you find your favourite ‘spots’ you’ll feel like a small piece of the city belongs to you. Build your own little traditions – like brunch on a Sunday morning, and you’ll start to feel like you are doing life, not just visiting.
Moving cities is a big, wild adventure. It can be scary and it can be glorious. But it’s mainly what you make it, so take it slowly, get excited, get exploring and make it great.