- Written by Heather Van Deest; Photo: PhotoXpress.com
Whether it’s your first move to a new city or province, or your fifth, we’ve all experienced that rush of anxiety once we reach a new location. We want to feel connected within our community, to instantly have life set up and running – to feel at home.
It’s never easy starting from scratch in a different place or being the “new mom on the block.” Like planning and making a move, creating a home and a sense of belonging is important to help you feel settled. “When we move to a new community… we need to re-establish the everyday interactions that help us feel connected, known and appreciated for who we are,” says psychologist Cindy Warner-Dobrowski.
As you settle into life in your new location, consider these nine tips to help you thrive.
1. Strike up a conversation. Whether you’re in line at the post office, sitting in a dentist’s waiting room or picking up the kids from school, don’t miss an opportunity to meet people in your new community. Ask a quick question or make an observation. Even if you’re an introvert, starting up a conversation is as easy as saying, “I’m new in town.”
2. Make memories. It’s difficult leaving another life behind – friends, loved ones, a connection to your home of origin or previous location - but you never know when you’re making a memory in the here and now that could stay with you for a lifetime.
3. Follow the spark. Participate in activities and community events that you truly enjoy. Forcing yourself to join a club or group just because it seems like the right thing to do will only leave you feeling burned out because of the “shoulds” involved. What activities do you look forward to? What are your interests?
4. Explore your surroundings. You know how to find the nearest shopping centre and how to get to the doctor’s office, but have you visited your local park yet? What about the library? Try to make plans at least once a month to get out and explore. Stop by that coffee shop you drive past each morning. Or arrange a family outing and have your kids help decide where your next neighborhood adventure will take you.
5. Set a routine. Schedule your time so that at least some of your weekly activities happen on a regular basis. Whether it’s running errands in the morning or going to the gym at lunchtime, planning ahead makes it easier for you to get out of the house, without making excuses to yourself. And a regular routine makes it easier to meet and connect with others. Who knows, the woman who runs beside you on the treadmill may be your next workout buddy.
6. Say “yes” to help. Somehow in our age of “we can have it all,” we wound up thinking, ‘we must do it all.’ Whether it’s a new mom friend who offers to take your daughter to soccer practice or a neighbor who’ll help with yard work until your family gets settled, everyone’s lives are a little better with a small or large dose of help.
7. Honor the ebb and flow of life. At the beginning of the week, you feel like you could take on the world; other days, you don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes it’s worth it to get out and meet a new friend after school drop-offs, even when you’re feeling low. Other days, the extra downtime may be absolutely what you need.
8. Choose vulnerability. When did the word vulnerable get such a bad rap? As researcher Brené Brown said in her popular TED talk (TED online is a non-profit addressing the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design), “Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.” Approaching your interactions with others in an open and vulnerable way helps expand the possibilities for connection and a sense of belonging in your new community.
9. Reach out and start something. Do you enjoy quilting but don’t see that it’s offered as an activity in your area? What about beading or Tai Chi? Dare yourself to start up a new activity that others might enjoy. Post a sign at your local community centre to gauge interest or offer a class yourself if you’re qualified.
Resources for connecting in your community
Community events. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for information on events and activities in your area, such as concerts, exhibits and guest speakers. Volunteering to help with an event is a good way to get involved.
Alumni groups. Attend an event at the alumni chapter in your new location; some groups host evenings specifically for newcomers.
Associations. Are you a member of a national organization? Check to see if they have a local chapter in your area.
www.meetup.com. Helps people with common interests connect across the world.
Making connections so you can feel at home in your new location takes energy, but put yourself out there and before you know it, you’ll be the one welcoming newcomers.
Heather is a freelance writer who has called many places home, including a handful of US cities and several countries.