Advice for moving to a new city?
January 3, 2009 1:48 PM   Subscribe

What tips/advice would you give to somebody looking to move to a new city and start anew?

Long story short, I've reached a crossroads in life and things have become pretty stale professionally, creatively, and personally in $oldcity, where I've lived for the past eight years. I've got a plan in mind to pack things up and move to $newcity sometime in the next three to five months.

I've visited $newcity several times in the past and always found it to be a place that I thought I would enjoy living for a variety of reasons. However, other than a couple of acquaintances, I don't have any real friends there, and the closest family would be ~ 5.5 hours away. I probably will not have a job lined up in $newcity when I move.

Between now and moving, I plan to pay off my car (I owe ~ $3k more) and then save enough money to live 4-6 months without income (just in case). I'm in the process of subscribing to news, culture, and various other weblogs based in $newcity so I'll have an awareness of what is going on before I move there.

What else should I do in the next few months to prepare for a move? What should I be looking for/doing/reading/preparing for that I'm not thinking of? Personal advice or anecdotes are just fine. I can probably visit $newcity once or twice for 3-4 days a piece before moving. Timing isn't a large issue, other than a personal desire to move. FWIW, I'm a late-20's male, no kids. E-mails can be sent to
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
How about getting rid of whatever stuff you don't think you'll want to take with you? With enough lead time, you should be able to sell a lot of it.

It might also be fun (and productive) to buy a map of $newcity, put it up on a wall somewhere, and look at it whenever you feel like it. You can learn a little about the layout of the place, names of neighborhoods, etc.
posted by amtho at 2:06 PM on January 3, 2009

When you get there, walk a lot. Walk all over town. When you're at loose ends, wander. That was a key part of what made my solo move to a city in another country extremely successful. I probably walked 10 miles a day most days.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:10 PM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Another for when you get there answer: Hopefully, you will be close to a nice coffee shop. The one near my pad is a neighborhood hub, and I have met a few nice folks just by getting my morning coffee and making myself known as a neighbor.
posted by captainsohler at 2:23 PM on January 3, 2009

i have done this, with a lot less prep than you.

read the local papers, NOT just the blogs. the blogs will give you a skewed view of things, and the papers will fill out the rest. luckily, you can do this online, but if you can get the actual *paper*, do it, you want to read the ads and the coupons and the supplements to get a feel of the place. read the mainstream paper you'll never read once you move there, find the alternative paper.

read the craigslist forums (if they exist) for your city. read the job ads. read the services. get a sense for things.

talk to people. what are the vagaries of, say, registering your car (how long do you have?), how much of a rental deposit will you need, the little mundane details of life.

get a map of the city, a paper map you can hold in your hand, not just google map. study it. when you read things in the paper and on the blogs, look up where it is on google map. start to try to map things out.

figure out where you want to live. then plan a pilot trip to investigate neighborhoods. the last pilot trip will be the one right before you move there, to get a place to live.

buy a travel guide if one exists, more lonely planet than frommer's. i know you're not going there to be a tourist but you should at least get to know your city. restaurants, museums, culture.

i firmly believe that job hunting should happen in a new city once you're there, that it's only if you have a specialized, in-demand skill that you'll find a great job remotely. if you job hunt when you're not there you're likely to settle for something you don't want just to have it.
posted by micawber at 2:26 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Could you try to set up a job or some work contacts there? Maybe you could email ppl in your field- the cold-call "moving to the area, seeking advice & lay of the land, can I buy you a coffee & chat, pick your brains," kind of email? Then book casual meetings with a couple of people for your next visit to the new city. Then send thank-you notes or emails the next week and quick emails when you move to let them know you're in town. Should make the job search a little easier.

When you get there, going on online dates is a great way to make friends in a new city. Lower your pre-date pickiness a bit so you go on casual, fun dates with people who seem funny and interesting, even if you don't get the perfect romantic vibe from them. You can make a really great social network this way if you're friendly and casual about it.

A Metafilter meetup in your new city might be nice, too. If you've never done that before, check out the "MetaTalk" link at the top tight corner of this page and just post a note proposing a date and asking for suggestions of where to meet.

Good luck!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:31 PM on January 3, 2009

I moved to Vancouver several years ago at the age of 33, with only one acquaintance here (but with a job waiting for me). It was an unexpectedly difficult transition at a time when I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to get along with just about anyone, try anything new, and just generally be ready for everything a completely new city could offer.

Two things stand out about the move. First, dating was a living hell until I met my current girlfriend. Dating gets harder as you get older because everyone has more baggage, more habits, more lists of dos and donts, but a lot of that is hidden if you're well-integrated into your social network because generally you have something in common with those people. Starting from scratch is much, much harder even if you're a pleasant, outgoing, easy to get along with person. It'll take more time and patience than you expect, and will feel a bit hopeless at times.

Second, people in their late twenties/early thirties are starting to settle down with a particular circle of people, and it can be difficult to break into those circles. Your acquaintances can be perfectly nice people to you, but they've already got a set social calendar, routine events, and not as many nights out. People in their thirties aren't really looking for BFFs anymore, so it can be more difficult than expected to form close friendships at a time when you're probably needing a close friend more. Another thing that takes time and patience and may give you a few dark and lonely nights when you think the whole starting over bit was a mistake.

I've never regretted moving here, but I had some truly hard times settling in mainly because of those two things.
posted by fatbird at 2:49 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I reiterate the comments about absorbing maps of where you'll be -- before each of my moves, I have stared and studied maps of where I'm moving to get comfortable. GoogleMaps is especially good for this in short bursts. And of course, pounding the pavement in the new place when you can will get you comfortable with it.

This sounds a little stupid, but also try to figure out some of the public transit options and how that could factor in to your life -- whether it's commuting or just getting around. Learn enough not to look like a tourist the first time you get on a bus, subway, or train. Having confidence about where you're going and how to get around helps immensely.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 2:56 PM on January 3, 2009

Personally I think selling and getting rid of everything you can stand to lose is a good idea. Not only does it make moving easier, but also if you save the money you'll have an excuse to visit the local shopping centers and stores and learn the layout of the town. You can also try going to any little funky areas you come across and buy things that are locally made.

Figure out some concerts you can go to in the new town. Read local alt papers for hole-in-the-wall restaurants and stores. Frequent a coffeeshop in your neighborhood- it will make you a member of the neighborhood.

posted by big open mouth at 3:05 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hey, I'm doing this right now! My job hunt from several hours away was successful--I did a lot of research, made a few phone calls, applied online, drove over for a couple of interviews, and ended up with a great position I'm really excited about. I would not have been comfortable making a move without having that lined up. However, I do have, as previously mentioned, specialized in-demand skills, so I don't know that my experience is in any way generalizable. (But the good thing about finding a job before an apartment is that I am going to have a reeeally easy commute.)
One thing you can do is start looking at jobs right now. Even if you aren't going to apply yet, it will give you a feel for what's available in the area. I checked job listings every week for a couple of months before I was actually ready to apply.
I'm preparing myself for the fact that making friends takes time. I'm planning some activities that will help me meet people--there are some kickball leagues and a kayaking club where I'm headed that look promising, and I'm still on the lookout for some sort of volunteering opportunity. I'm also planning a couple of specific things that are really fun even if I'm alone, like skiing and a couple of specific concerts. Of course, this is all stuff you can figure out once you get there, but I like to have it in mind now, instead of waiting for some weekend when I'm lonely and then try to figure it out. And I am planning on going to a Metafilter meetup. I've also made plans for my friends who live elsewhere to come visit, so I've got that to look forward to.
Definitely ask here for apartment hunting advice! (Thanks again, guys!) Other than that, well, in a couple of months I'll be able to tell you more...If by some odd chance it's DC you're headed for, send me a message, we can hang out. Good luck!
posted by little e at 3:32 PM on January 3, 2009

Oh, yeah, one more thing, I just had my annual eye exam and went to the dentist. If you're in need of any healthcare, might want to take care of that before you go.
posted by little e at 5:39 PM on January 3, 2009

Don't not work.

I say this as someone who moved crosscountry and "started over" in his mid-twenties, and who has also chosen a couple times to quit his job and "take a couple months off" in order to "find myself" or "figure out what I should be doing" etc. The most successful of those ventures were times when I had *something* going on work-wise, even when I knew it wasn't what I wanted to be doing long-term.

Take a job doing something that will keep some money coming in (even if it's not a lot). Bus tables, work in that coffee shop, temp admin work, whatever. This is a GREAT way to meet people, learn about the city, learn what's where and who's who and what's what. It might even make you some friends. And even if those people aren't going to be long-term friends, they are people who know people who might be the people you'll want or need to meet, either for personal needs, or for work / job-finding contacts.

Also, in this economy, having 4-6 mos of living expenses in the bank is FUCKIN' GOLDEN DUDE. Do NOT piss that away. You are young and single and free now, but some time in the future, you may not be, and I can almost guarantee that you will look back and wish you had done something with that money other than using it just to cover the cost of living.

Lastly, and this may seem of a contrary tone to the above, but take risks. It's not a good time to be too risky financially, but there are plenty of other (better) ways to bet... most especially, bet on yourself. Try new things. New, unexpected situations. Put yourself out there. Boldness has magic in it.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 8:10 PM on January 3, 2009

If the city you're moving to has blogging/social networking communities (like the Duke City Fix in Albuquerque), join them and start posting, asking questions and making friends. If you don't have a community like that, consider joining a Livejournal community for your city (especially if you have a specific interest and there's a comm for that!)
posted by NoraReed at 9:14 PM on January 3, 2009

Besides the good advice upthread, I would also suggest getting guidebooks of the city and region so you have places or a rough itinerary of places to see and things to do. Besides the standard guide books be sure to get interesting ones that show little known parts of the place or has a focus like, WPA architecture.

You can also research articles about the place such as "36 hours in " or "best restaurants of " these articles are found at both the local and national level.

I found in moving to any city, country or region that guidebooks gave me a point of reference to work from and signaled to people that it was OK to approach me for conversation.

posted by jadepearl at 4:46 AM on January 4, 2009

I would second a lot of the suggestions upstream. When you get there, read the local paper, look at the local go on small guided tours, go to the municipal/city museum, stop and read the historical and commemorative plaques, visit different parts of the city, walk a lot, buy a bicycle. Learn about your new home.

What hit me was the expenses. There can be a lot of expenses when you move. I spent maybe 400$ on curtains and rods, mop and broom, dishpan, plants, and repairing my bicycle because it was slammed around a bit in the truck. You might have security deposits, too. And your fridge will be empty when you show up. You'll need groceries (maybe twice your regular weekly bill because you are starting from nothing) and cooking supplies (cooking oil, vinegar, etc.) on top of that. (Unless you bring stuff with you.)

I would also be hesitant about selling your stuff and buying new when you get there. Get rid of anything you don't want, the things that are broken, but bring anything else that you want or can use. I brought my old couch. Garage sale value next to nothing but it still works and is comfortable. A new one costs 1,000 and more. I am certain that the couch did not cost a 1,000 to move, so you could look at it as a saving. (Granted, adjust up or down depending on how far you are moving, if you are moving yourself or hiring someone, if you are comfortable buying used furniture, if you can arrange delivery, and so on.)
posted by philfromhavelock at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2009

If you're into this kind of thing, call a metafilter meetup once in town!

Find a cause you are interested in and volunteer for a local org (once a week or even once a month). It'll help you meet people and give you a better understanding of your new city.

Get a library card ASAP. If (worst case scenario) you're not working and on a budget it's a good way to keep sane.
posted by piratebowling at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

In this economy, I'd plan for more than 6 months savings to find a job. Also, I would not go with the expectations that a new city will fix all your problems.
posted by delladlux at 10:22 AM on January 4, 2009

After school, I moved to Seattle (had friends that took me in), Berlin (artist residency), Beijing (family) staying at each for 6-10 mo at a time and now I'm back in my college town working for some coo peeps.

Moving is great. It makes you stronger - really - and a helluva lot wiser if you do it right. It's about learning to adapt and moving cold to a new place full of strangers is one of the "hardest" things to do. Good way to test your mettle.

I am also feeling that familiar itch to move and I'm a huge fan of relocating once you've stagnated if only for mental health reasons and personal growth.

So yeah, take care of your health stuff (checkups, dental / vision - get the full supply of contact lenses for a year etc., any mental health meds if applicable - make sure you get enough to last you a few months til you get settled and find a new pdoc), sell what you don't need or can replace (new life, new stuff and it's also money that goes towards your move), try to book a place to live before you get there. If that's not possible, look into alternatives like hostels and such that won't drain your bank account. Or find a sympathetic couchsurfing host. The goal is to find a place within the first few weeks of arrival but to have your living sitch sorted BEFORE you get there.

Save money, save money, save money. I tried to pay off most of my credit card debt before I moved so I had a cushion (helped a lot). Oh, and the other thing that helped was finding a month to month lease (this varies depending on the city) because sometimes it takes awhile to find the perfect new home, you know? By the third time I moved in Seattle (within a span of three / four months), I'd found the perfect living situation in a house with nine other people - there's always company around and that helps stave off the lonely feelings. Also, rent is cheap in those situations. But shared kitchens can get pretty grody.

If you have a lot of things to ship (e.g. books etc.), get it packed and get a friend to ship to your new residence once you're settled.

Get a job as soon as you get there - it will help you integrate into the community and feel useful there. Even if it's something out of your field - do it til you find something better.

And anyway, the point is to try new things.

Last piece of advice - each time I've told ppl I'm leaving, I get a mixture of "that's great!" and "you're gonna be f*cked!" so depending on your crew of friends and family, I've found it's best to keep mum (except at your job) until you've booked your ticket and are leaving for sure so there's no chance that someone will change your mind. But it usually happens that way anyway. It's a nice secret to have because it's yours and yours alone.

And the only thing left to do is... find a place you want to move to! It'll depend on how much you have saved, if you can survive it on a worst-case scenario crappy job situation and if you dig the vibe and the people. Some cities, esp. college towns, tend to be really transitional and people move in and out, which can make it harder to make friends. I tend to prefer the more established cities where people are warm and inviting and really know their way around and aren't just there for a few years.

So maybe I'll see you there - but good luck! You can feel free to shout back at me if you have any other questions. I've moved around quite a bit in the last few years on my own.
posted by HolyWood at 9:52 AM on January 13, 2009

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