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New to Town? Connecting with the Local Community

People move a lot in the US. They relocate for jobs. They move for educational opportunities. They move to be closer to (or farther from) families and friends. They move to escape personal crises. They move for the change in weather or climate, the changes in landscape. They move as they progress through life phases, such as when they retire and age. They move to avoid income taxes. No matter what the rationale for their moves, connecting to the local community can be quite challenging.

Moving can be anxiety-causing. One idea that is often helpful is to realize that wherever one is moving to, it’s someone else’s backyard. One rarely is moving out to the bush without amenities. Most towns with a certain minimum amount of population will have some of the following elements.

Getting a Lay of the Land

In this online age, many will “Google” a destination before heading there. They will check out the basic demographics. They will peruse the housing and rental costs. They will explore potential employers and / or universities. They will look at K-12 schools—for the children. They will explore the entertainment.

Every town or city has its own rhythms, its own centers for socializing, its own “movers and shakers,” and its own values. Some places live up to their public reputations, and others are very different. A new place offers the promise of new adventures.

Many connect with others online before arriving in town. Some may have large social networks. Or, that connection may be with a real estate agent. Or it may be with the future supervisor. Having connections with reliable individuals may be quite important in the resettlement.

A Home Base

For many, getting a place to live and work from is the most important element to address first. This transition may require several weeks’ stay at a local hotel or acquaintance’s home. Others may have searched out spaces prior to the move. Still, having a space to work from is important.

Reading the Local Papers

Most towns have newspapers that disseminate all sorts of information about the town’s history, its peoples, and fun activities. As a beginning point, that may be a good place to start to get a sense of the town and to come up with some ideas…for setting up some new routines. For example, there are often ads for various stores that may lead to local “finds” for treats and treasures.

Identifying Social Groups

Socializing is a fact of life. Virtually all human activities involve some social element. All communities have some ways for people to meet, whether these are films and discussions shown at the local library; community plays; community sports events; public talks; civic events; open houses on campus, and other types of social events. There are bicycle clubs. There are political parties that people may join. There are volunteer activities for various nonprofit agencies, churches, and non-governmental organizations. In workplaces, people will find many endeavors and ways to socialize as well.

Discovering a Town through Entertainment

Towns have favorite restaurants which are local hangouts. There are coffee shops where people may socialize. Local parks are attractive spaces during the summer. People also connect to others around schools and other “centers” of a community.

Making New Habits

In a couple weeks or a month, most people will have started setting up new routines. They’ve met people that they like to socialize with. They have found some similarities between their old town or city and their new home. They’re learning to appreciate some of the aspects of the new space and peoples. They’re acclimating and feeling much more normal and feeling like themselves. They’re as productive as before. They’re making new friends while connecting (from a distance) with their former social circles.

The Emotions of Moving

It may take a while to move through the emotions that come with moving. After all, one is leaving friends and family behind; one will have to make some pretty severe adjustments to new homes and habits. The packing may be stressful with so much material that also has to be left behind. Some may feel anxious and depressed temporarily; for others, if the feelings linger, it may be a good idea to talk with a mental health professional. It is important to reach out to others and not to cloister inside an apartment or home.

Additional Resources:

Moving into a New Neighborhood: How to Feel Part of Your New City (by Diane Schmidt)

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

New to Town? Connecting with the Local Community (pdf)