Being born in a country, automatically receiving certain legal rights, and growing up with a particular way of life, there are multiple factors that we take for granted whilst living there. Hence why it can be so daunting to up sticks and settle into a new city where the customs of your beloved homeland are nowhere to be found.
Here at Europe Language Jobs, we are fully aware of the complications and challenges that the act of uprooting and moving to a new city entails. Although incredibly exciting and ultimately rewarding, settling into a new city is hardly ever a smooth process so we hope these 20 Steps to Settle into a New City render the path to integration a slightly less bumpy road!
As thrilling and Hollywood movie-style as it may be to just hop on a flight and start your new life on the other side of the world, settling into a new city does require a little forethought. You can save yourself considerable time and energy by planning ahead and familiarising yourself with both the physical and figurative ways of the city.
Having just left home behind, the key to settling into a new city is finding a new somewhere that feels like home! The first thing to do is stay away from less safe areas - these are usually the outskirts of the city or the tourist areas where pickpockets can easily nick your wallet or passport as they brush by you in a busy street.
Of course, in a large city, you always need to have your wits about you, but you can save yourself the extra paranoia and compulsive rucksack-grasping by picking a flat in a normal street, a little further from any iconic landmarks.
You will also be doing yourself a financial favour as rent prices are lower in less touristy areas. It might be nice to stay in a swanky Air Bnb in the centre of the city and be close to everything you could possibly want to visit during a week's summer holiday, but living in a city is a different matter. You will thank yourself come June, July, and August when you do not have to fight a path through the throngs of foreigners ambling along, stopping to snap a photo every second step.
If you do decide to book in advance, be wary of scams!
Navigating processes such as opening a bank account, registering with a health centre, or gaining residency can be difficult and convoluted, so it is best to look up the requirements for each beforehand. The obtention of one type of paperwork will often rely on the possession of another, so figure out the order in which you need to book appointments to avoid being rejected for a lack of documents.
Photocopy everything you possibly can before you go - passport pages, bank statements, health insurance, etc. - and take some professional headshots in case you need photos for a new ID card.
You can reduce the "fish out of water" effect and settle into a new city faster by knowing some friendly faces before you arrive. Nowadays, with a plethora of social media platforms available at the tap of a screen, networking is really easy. Search for groups on Facebook with titles like "Foreigners in X City", "Expats in...", "Women Abroad in...", "Girl Gone International..." There, you can reach out to people in a similar situation to you, or ask questions to people who have already gone through the settling in process.
You can find accommodation and activities on the website Couchsurfing.
We live in an ever-increasingly globalised world, so there is no doubt that you know a friend of a friend or a niece of a neighbour who might live near the city you are going to settle into! Even if you hardly know the person in question, it is always worth trying to establish contact because who doesn't love to act as a tour guide or share their secrets about the city they have happily settled into?
So you have arrived; you did all the preparation as we advised and now there is no turning back! It might feel intimidating at first but, looking back, you will no doubt confirm that settling into a new city was one of the best decisions of your life!
There is no need to drape every inch of your room in fairy lights, but a couple of reminders of friends and family here and there can never hurt! In the middle of a big unknown, it is always healthy to create a kind of "safe space", a familiar spot that you can return to after each day of exploring new areas and experiencing foreign things.
That said, don't go overboard with hanging up memories from home; the goal is to feel comfortable, not to wallow in nostalgia!
Go and buy yourself a proper folder where you can file all the paperwork you will be given by various institutions. There will be many white sheets with black print to organise which will be extremely easy to mix up so file them as you go along. Lose your proof of residency and you might lose the right to live there...
Although the phrase "settle into a new city" sounds like a gentle process of acclimatisation, the legal work can be a bit of a hassle. However, do not procrastinate obtaining the required documents. The process may already be long enough so get on with the admin and leave the relaxing until afterwards!
Of course, no one is expecting you to have memorised the entire city layout or metro system, but it is good to learn some key details off by heart in case your phone dies and you have to get home without Google Maps. Memorise your street name, the nearest metro station, and the bus line that passes closest by your flat in case you ever have to ask for directions.
Speaking of transport, buy yourself the monthly card available that will allow you unlimited train, metro, and bus rides.
Public transport is vital for travelling quickly and efficiently through the city. However, when you have the time, get to know the city on foot. You can look up the different neighbourhoods on Google Street View as much as you want, but until you have physically strolled along those pavements, you will not get a feel for the city.
In order to properly settle into a new city, it goes without saying that you need to do the typical tourist activities and see its sights. However, to get to know the place more intimately and authentically, get lost down the less famous streets: see what quaint shops are hidden on the corners, chance upon little parks or green spaces that breathe life into the city!
Now we have given you a range of apps and Facebook groups where public events are posted, there is no excuse to spend your first few weeks alone in your new home.
You cannot afford to be shy when you settle into a new city, so put on a brave face and get ready to show up to events alone. Don't wait for people to approach you, strike up a conversation with them - they might be as nervous as you! People go to meetups or language exchanges precisely to socialise and connect, so there is no reason to be hesitant to speak to others. Walking tours, gallery visits, and bar crawls are great ways of making new friends.
Even when you are not at a meetup, it is always good to seem friendly and approachable in public. Friendships can bud in the strangest of places, so be smiley and open to others even if you simply waiting in line to get some cash out.
It is also very important to establish a great relationship with your neighbours and the concierge (if your block of flats has one) - you never know when you might need to ask them a favour.
Unless you have a very peculiar hobby, the likelihood is that you will be able to find a group of people who share your interests in your new home town. Continuing your hobby is vital not only for making friends and contacts but also for your mental health. To settle into a new city you need to actually get out and see that city, not just seesaw from home to work and back again. It also helps you to remain feeling yourself, whilst everything around you has changed.
The best way to settle into a new city is to literally get a taste of it! Try some new meals or flavours and perhaps even attempt to follow a recipe or two. You can understand a lot about a culture by its food so it can be fun to take your time scoping out the supermarket aisles, sniffing out snacks you have never seen before.
As American chef Anthony Bourdain claims:
"Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling...your region, your tribe, your grandma."
If you do not already speak the language, help yourself get by in public and show some respect to the city locals by learning some key phrases. You do not need to pay for an expensive intensive language course, but you could always do 10 minutes a day of Duolingo or attend a weekly language exchange event. The most effective way of ensuring that you are treated as a resident rather than a tourist is to speak to city dwellers in their own language.
When you settle into a new city, it is beneficial to initially stick to the normal routines and traditions you had back in your home country in order to avoid culture shock. However, gradually introducing one or two customs into your life - e.g. dining slightly later than you are used to - will help you feel that you belong to a new group and thus feel closer to the city and its inhabitants.
Despite your best efforts to socialise and meet people, forging meaningful or trustworthy friendships takes time. Regular human contact is important for maintaining a positive outlook during periods of change so, whilst waiting for your friendships to crystallise, check in with friends or family once a week via videocall. Try to set a reasonable limit for the number of calls you make per month; if you are not strict with yourself, you might well fall into the trap of clinging to the relationships you already have and never meet anyone new in the city!
It is always best to have a goal or something to look forward to in life, so have a flight home booked, or a date when a friend is coming to visit. This way, there is some kind of marker of you reaching the end of the first stage of adaption whilst settling into a new city so you do not feel like you are suspended in an ongoing state of being a newbie in unknown territory.
Finally, don't be too hard on yourself! Settling into a new city takes time. There are 1001 aspects to adjust to and, no matter much you prepare, not everything will go to plan - which can often be a blessing! Do not pressure yourself to go out each night, make a new contact every day, or tick a landmark off your list week after week. It is normal to feel nervous and recoil into your shell a little. The key things to remember when settling in are to stay calm, get frequent breaths of fresh air, and keep in contact with your support base.
There we have it, the 20 Steps to Settle into a New City. We hope this checklist has got you very excited about your next move, or, if you were on the fence about it, has thoroughly convinced you to change city!
Have we missed any golden tips? Share your advice for moving city down below!