Getting Settled
July 11, 2011 5:02 AM   Subscribe

What are your tips for getting settled in a new city? I am not looking for moving tips. I am looking for tips about getting aquaintaned, settled, and secured in a new city once you are moved. If it helps, I am moving to Austin with my wife and two young kids and are leaving our friend and family behind. What services did you pay for / use that made your adjustment a lot easier? How did you learn the road system? How did you find the right community groups / churches / clubs? How did you deal with the stress and emotions that come with a big move? In a nutshell, I want to know how to make the transition to a new city a lot smoother.
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
1. Meet the locals.

2. Learn the language.

3. Be a tourist. It will help get you used to the city.

4. Use every mode of transport to learn the city: walk, underground, drive. Lots.
posted by devnull at 5:05 AM on July 11, 2011

Allow yourself to be a tourist. (Top of the list: Barton Springs with googles so you can see all the cool fish in the water. Also, cash only and no food allowed inside)
Try out as many different restaurants as you can (people here always loving giving recommendations, so it's nice to understand where and what they are talking about).
Having a physical map of Austin on my wall, plus being willing to go absolutely anywhere someone invites me helps me get a lay of the land. In particular some of the highways here do weird things things like curve around so that they become East/west rather than the original North/ South.
If you have kids, get as involved in school as possible because it's a great way to meet the other parents and get an in with them.
I went to couchsurfing events (it's a great group in Austin, but didn't really end up being my scene).
Get ahold of anyone you even only sort of know, because they might know the person you do need to get ahold of.
Here is a past question of mine, which if you read down has some nice ideas of what to visit in Austin.
In terms of understanding Austin, I just drive absolutely everywhere around Austin. Then my mental map starts to put together all the different pieces.

Good luck and welcome to Austin. I haven't been here that long, but feel free to mefimail me if you have more questions or want to follow up on something.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:47 AM on July 11, 2011

One of the ways I learned local names for (major) roads and intersections was to watch local morning news and pay attention to the traffic reports, with a map open in a tab in front of me. That maybe sounds weird, but it was useful to learn that this particular stretch of [numberedfreeway] is known locally as [nickname].
posted by rtha at 6:16 AM on July 11, 2011

Don't use a gps when finding your way around. I believe my recollection of both maps and visual landmarks is much improved when I do the old-fashioned "study map then figure it out while driving" method. If you lose your way, you're not lost, you're merely exploring a new part of the city!
posted by itstheclamsname at 6:24 AM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

We moved NYC -> CLE a couple of years ago. Here's how we know a lot of our friends here:

1) Neighbors -- moved into a neighborhood with other families with kids in which we felt very much at home. We eventually moved but have kept those relationships.
2) Preschool -- met other parents through preschool that we got along with.
3) Work -- I worked a variety of contracts and met a bunch of people who were easy to get along with.

It's taken about two and a half years for me to get to the point where I have more friends than I can see as often as I'd like (see also, preschool, work, home ownership etc.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:26 AM on July 11, 2011

I used my maps in Google maps to remember places I'd been or that I wanted to go. For example "Grocery store with good produce." This ended up being a lot easier than looking up the same places every time. I'm sure this is doubly easy with a smartphone.
posted by desjardins at 6:27 AM on July 11, 2011

Get stuff / give away stuff on Freecycle, or buy it on Craigslist.

I know my local area much better for having driven around it to all kinds of neighbourhoods to pick up other people's old junk, and on the plus side I now have some amazing dining chairs and concrete garden dragons.

Find someone congenial with a dog and offer to come along on their longer dog walks.
posted by emilyw at 6:41 AM on July 11, 2011

Seconding rtha's tip to listen to the radio to learn place names/major roads. Use a map to locate these places.

Austin in particular has quite a few major roads that have unorthodox pronunciations. A short list:
- Loop 1 = Mopac. This is the second biggest highway in Austin, running parallel to I-35. Every sign or map you see will say Loop 1, but locals always refer to it as Mopac.
- Manor Rd is pronounced "MAY-nor" not "MAN-or".
- Manchaca Rd is pronounced "MAN-chack".
- Burnet Rd is pronounced "BURN-it" not "bur-NET"
- Guadalupe is pronounced "GWAD-a-loop"
posted by donajo at 7:02 AM on July 11, 2011

Oh! To donajo's great list I'll add Ben White/71, which turns into Southwest Parkway west of Mopac. The first time I drove in Austin I got so lost in that turnaround at 71/360 I had to call a friend for help. So: "Ben White" is interchangeable with "Highway 71."

Good luck! Austin is really pretty small and easy to get used to, if you make the effort to get out there and drive around and be curious. And we have great meetups, which will help both your geographical learning and your making friends. :]
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:52 AM on July 11, 2011

Seconding fiercecupcake about meetups. I don't actually know what the MeFite scene is like in Austin, but when I moved to Boston, I ended up meeting a lot of fantastic people at Metafilter meetups. We also utilized a fair bit at first. We didn't end up making a lot of friends that way, but it forced us to get out of the house and gain some general confidence about socializing with complete strangers in a new place.

Really exploring our existing interests helped us to get settled more quickly and comfortably, I think. We spent a lot of time seeking out interesting restaurants, game shops, and used bookstores, because that's what initially interested us, but we then took the time to really explore the surrounding neighborhoods when we found something we liked. We ultimately made the bulk of our friends by really throwing ourselves into one of our hobbies and then getting involved in the organization of a massive event for it. Had to work with lots of similarly-interested people on a regular basis for an entire year, which made getting to know folks a lot easier.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:11 AM on July 11, 2011

My brother once gave me some good advice for learning roads in a new place (and especially in Texas, where you spend a lot of time driving): get up early on a few Saturday and Sunday mornings and explore when the traffic is light. It's obvious, but it made a huge difference for me when I wanted to get to know San Antonio and Austin after moving to those cities.
posted by jkinkade at 8:12 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drive aimlessly around town. Don't be afraid to get lost. There's always a way to get back home. (And there's always a way to discover shortcuts, figure out the secret ways the roads converge, etc).
posted by litnerd at 10:28 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Following up on what others have said, know that many of the roads in Austin have multiple names (Capitol of Texas Highway is 360, Bee Caves Road is 2244, 183 is, at times, Ed Bluestein and other names). I agree that driving around is the best way to learn it all...and follow jkinkade's advice and do it on a weekend.

I moved here over a decade ago and one thing I noticed is that Austin is a very friendly, sociable place and people love to include new people into their groups. You will have no trouble making friends if you are open to invitations.

Ask co-workers and neighbors for recommendations for dry cleaners, mechanics, doctors, etc.
posted by murrey at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2011

1. If you went to college, check your (and your spouse's) university alumni network. When I moved to Seattle, I searched my alumni database and found several people in my zip code. I emailed them with all my questions -- who's a good dentist, where do I buy pet food, etc. They were my first social contacts.

2. +1 is great. In my experience, you have to be persistent. Not all meetup groups are successful. Look for meetup events with several "yes" rsvps.

3. Volunteer work. Check your county or city web site for a volunteer coordinator. It's likely they have a calendars of events where you can spend a few hours with people. I've met great people helping with food drives and garden work crews.
posted by valannc at 12:43 PM on July 11, 2011

Walk around or ride a push bike around the potential places you want or or work in , get to know the street vibe, and all things that are part of your local area. learn the back streets and whats on them.
posted by arrow1 at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2011

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