How can I make my new city feel like home?
June 13, 2006 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Six months ago, I moved to a new city (Philadelphia) to pursue a fantastic career opportunity. It has turned out to be everything I wanted from a career. Professionally and financially, things are great. So, why am I so unhappy here?

So, six months ago, I packed up and moved to Philadelphia with two weeks notice to pursue a career opportunity (I'm 25, single, and not tied down to anything, so this really isn't as crazy as it sounds). Professionally, it was a smart gamble - I love my new position, am treated well by my company, and have a great group of colleagues. I'm now a two hour drive from home instead of a two hour flight, which I enjoy since I am very close with my family.

Before I moved, I had lived in St. Louis for 7 years (4 years of university, 3 years of work). I had been unhappy in my previous job for a while (it was my first job out of school and I was using it for the work experience), and St. Louis is not the ideal location for my line of work. However, socially, I had everything I wanted there. I had a fantastic group of friends, a good dating network, and a sense of comfort and familiarity with the city. However, I have none of that here in Philly.

Despite being an outgoing and extremely sociable person, I have just had no luck finding a person/group I can really connect with here (I knew nobody here when I first moved). I've made a few friends and have gone out socially sporadically, but I really miss the security/dependability of a network like I had back in St. Louis. I'm also a little worried that if it is this difficult to meet people for friendship, then what are my prospects for dating?

Some other relevant background: I work weekday nights and I live in the northwest suburbs. The night shift is temporary and I'll be back to working days by September, but certainly complicates things like happy hours, weeknight dinners, and after-work social gatherings in the meantime.

So, my questions are three-fold:

1. Have I really given the situation enough time? How much time is reasonable?
2. What have others who have moved to a new city (Philadelphians in particular) done to meet people and establish social networks?
3. How can I keep myself positive and motivated throughout this endeavor? I'm usually a very positive and upbeat person, but this whole situation has been taking its toll on me.

I'll be the first to admit that at 25, I'm inexperienced at major life challenges like moving to a new city, so I'm hoping that some other MeFites can offer some good advice here. Thanks!
posted by galimatias to Human Relations (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Every time I've moved — even across town — there's been a really low spell a few months in. The novelty's worn off, but the new place doesn't feel like home quite yet. That's just me, but I've heard other folks say similar things.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:16 PM on June 13, 2006

Read the free weekly papers to find upcoming events, even say, going to a book reading on a Sunday is better than nothing.

Introduce yourself to your neighbours.

Join a 24hr gym.

Ask someone/people from work out to coffee.

When you do have free time, try exploring the city - no preplanning necessary - to get more accustomed to at and hopefully start to feel more at home.

Be patient. You're on a new adventure of sorts. That can be exciting rather than depleting. :)
posted by Radio7 at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2006

I read someplace that it takes two years to get to know a city. It's probably the sort of thing that varies from person to person, but it echoes my experience. There's nothing wrong with feeling alienated six months in.

You do need to make an effort to get to know new people, though, unless you want all of your friends to be from your office. Radio7 has some good suggestions. You might also try giving a charity or not-for-profit related to your interests a few of your weekend hours - volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded and generous people.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:34 PM on June 13, 2006

1) I think a year is the absolute minimum for me, and it took almost three years after one move, from UK to US, before the feeling of being in exile dissipated (I'm a bit introvert, though.)

2) no special ideas, just the usual -- join groups and things, practise random interactions, stuff like that.

3) You might focus a bit less on being positive and motivated and just relax more, instead of pushing to make social frameworks. Not to say you should become a wallflower, but while you're living there you'll gradually become more Philadelphian and absorb the "way of being" that will bring the friends and dates. In the meantime, widen your inner horizons.
posted by anadem at 5:35 PM on June 13, 2006

Best answer: Sorry to sound like the voice of doom here, but Philly is a hard town to make friends in. People tend to be really standoffish when they're not being overtly aggressive. My husband and I lived there for two years and made two friends total. I'm not saying it can't be done, but you're going to have to work extra hard in Philly. But at least you'll know it's just a tough town, not that you're unlikeable. Best of luck to you--Philly's a great town in a lot of ways, so just be patient making friends.
posted by gokart4xmas at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2006

Craigslist is great for this sort of thing.

Also, ask everyone around, "what are you doing this weekend?" It's a good icebreaking question and you will find out a lot about what natives do.

Try organizing things, get people at the office out.
posted by milinar at 5:42 PM on June 13, 2006

Plan a metafilter meetup. Go take a class. Look up college friends. Philadelphia is a great city - although, where you are is sorta away from some of the hubbub. - the King of Prussia area, while a huge shopping mecca, may not be as social as you'd like.

One of the positives of 'community centers' (such as, for examples, churches) is that it grounds you.

And you need this sort of grounding to move to places where you're 'alone'. Be it calls to/from home...looking up college friends, look for a sport, old college hobby....You may have to be the nexus of such.

Six months is the minimum you should give it...but it sounds like while you do a great job at the professonal focus, you need to be doing the same socially.

One of the worst things about the internet is how it isolates us from the immediate social surroundings.
posted by filmgeek at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2006

During your three years of work in St Louis, you probably enjoying residual access to your college network. College is a great way to meet people - it's an society of people your age, all of whom have a lot of free time on their hands.

Now that you're working in a new city without the spare 'hanging out' time that got your network kick-started in St Louis, it's probably a lot harder to branch out. Put yourself out there. Give it some time.

Have you thought about moving into a house with some people in the city? Six months living with some interesting roomates in a more stimulating setting could help set the frame.
posted by nyterrant at 5:52 PM on June 13, 2006

You can't compare six months in a new town to 7 years in an old one. Of course you don't feel as settled in yet- you aren't. You couldn't be. It will take time. When I first moved to New York, I knew one person who I didn't see regularly. I went through several months of wondering if I was ever going to make enough friends to have a real social life. Now I turn down more invitations than I accept.

What did I do? Hmm, let's see, where did I meet people to hang out with: volunteering for a local theatre festival, becoming a member of a local church, going on internet dates with guys who turned into friends, having roommates, going to Metafilter meetups, taking my dog to the local dog run on chihuahua day, keeping up with old high school and college friends on the Internet via AIM and MySpace, just to name a few.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Seconding the above, I will tell you that college creates a not-so-realistic version of a social life. You are with hundreds or thousands of people your age, with your educational background, and (largely) your economic background. You will never be surrounded by so many like-minded people your age in your lifetime.

The advice given to improve your social network is good advice, but it is not realistic to think that you will have anything like you had in and after college. Philadelphia is probably not your problem. It will most likely be like this anywhere you live except in St. Louis.
posted by flarbuse at 6:03 PM on June 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about moving into a house with some people in the city? Six months living with some interesting roomates in a more stimulating setting could help set the frame.
posted by nyterrant at 8:52 PM EST on June 13 [+fave] [!]

This is a really good suggestion. I'm moving to Philly soon and have been scouring the apartment/roommate ads, and it looks like there are a lot of fun, mid-20s group houses out there in a more central location than you're at now. A little bit too young for me, but could be great for you.
posted by footnote at 6:07 PM on June 13, 2006

Response by poster: Good suggestions from all. nyterrant is absolutely correct that the residual network from college played a significant role in my comfort with St. Louis. And I have heard from multiple people that Philly is just a difficult place to meet new people, including natives.

I'm reassured to hear that my situation isn't atypical. Thanks for the input.
posted by galimatias at 6:12 PM on June 13, 2006

I'll second the (unfortunate) comment from gokart4xmas that Philly is a tough town to move to and meet people. I found that everyone I met either grew up there, or went to college there, and hence already had their built in friend-network.

I'll just second the advice to try to get involved in activities. I played some sports, which helped; plus all the previous suggestions above, while they might be tougher in Philly, will eventually work. I'll also repeat that I didn't find King of Prussia to be the best place to live while trying to meet people...
posted by inigo2 at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2006

Response by poster: I'm planning on buying a place and moving from the King of Prussia area within the next few months. What areas are good for mid-20s working professionals?
posted by galimatias at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2006

Some great suggestions already. Places I have made friends everytime I moved:
* Roommates (best!)
* Work (second best!)
* Alumni groups (definitely agood one cause you have a shared experience)
* Volunteer activities
* Take a class (and so tap into the young population)
* Religion (in my case meditation class)
* Sierra club often has something for young adults or young singles (usually pretty savoury guys show up to that)
* Usually group sports / hobbies is a good one - volleyball or soccer or something

Basically you are looking for anything that results in a shared experience. In some ways, the more intense the better.
posted by zia at 6:42 PM on June 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I did the same thing at 25. packed up on a week's notice and moved from NYC to Chicago. Greatest thing that ever happened to me. First 6 months sucked. I had a lot of out of town visitors initially, but when that dropped off I realized I knew nobody.

I did what one of the early posters suggested. Started asking those at work what they were doing that weekend for fun. Some invited me to meet at some bar. Some just told me and I would go the next week to see what was so great about that bar. I would get drinks after work with co-workers which would lead to hanging out and meeting some tof their friends. Eventually you meet friends of friends and start hanging out and before you know it, you'll be rooting for the Phillies and Eagles, Flyers and 76ers.

I guess my point is you need to be proactive but not pushy. Start with those at work your age who go out. When their friends meet them talk to those friends.

The other thing I did was join the Chicago Social Club which was really a coed sports league dedicated to networking and meeting new folks. I got placed on a softball team with some nice folks and started meeting people who we played against and who came to the games to watch, etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:17 PM on June 13, 2006

It took me a few years in a new town before I started making friends. Its hard as an adult! Also, you're probably remembering St. Louis with more fondness than when you actually experienced it. Memories are funny like that.

Volunteer. Join a club - book club or toastmasters or something where you talk a lot. Take a course in something that interests you that lasts longer than a few weeks - get certified in something.
posted by delladlux at 7:34 PM on June 13, 2006

I moved to a new city at the beginning of the year and the novelty was starting to really wear off so I made a plan and am now doing it. I'm very shy and introverted but I'm forcing myself to branch out and talk to people because I got tired of sitting at home and catching up on my tivoing all the time. I had a lot of friends where I used to live and really tried to figure out how I met them and became part of the circle, it was so long ago that I realized I was just out of practice. The hardest part for me was that I had met most of my old friends through work or through other people; my new coworkers are a lot younger than I am and I don't know many people here to introduce me to new people.

Here are some of the things I've tried that are working so far:
- I am not particularly religious but I joined my local church and go to a lot of the dicussion groups and have met some interesting people my age who have had a very similar upbringing and share a lot of the same values as me. (My church is very liberal and not jesusy which makes it a lot easier to stomach). I've also met all the clergypeople and told them what my interests are and they are matching me up with some light volunteer work
- I joined groups and have signed up for classes based on topics in which I'm interested (yoga, meditation, dance, hiking, etc) and go to the social events/mixers and introduce myself to small groups of people and try to get into a conversation. It's worked surprisingly well for me.
- I attend professional networking events so I can meet other people in my industry
- The few people I do know, when they invite me somewhere, I accept
- JohnnyGun was 100% correct with "proactive not pushy". Whenever I go out I tell myself "make an effort but don't force yourself on people"

I don't know jack about dating, though.
posted by superkim at 7:37 PM on June 13, 2006

I lived in Philly for three years, and for the first two, I felt the same as you do. Eventually I did build a network and started getting involved in things and creating a good group of friends. But I do agree that Philly is a hard town to make friends in. A lot of that can be chalked up to the fact that Philly isn't much of a newcomer's city. Some insane proportion of residents of Philadelphia grew up there -- this means that many people are already quite well connected and don't have their feelers out in the same way that people in other large cities may.

That being said, you can fix this. There's a lot going on in Philly. I have a feeling that if I lived there now, I wouldn't have a problem making a good life of it.

My one piece of advice is that you get out of those northwestern suburbs. If I had made one simple change when I lived there -- that is, lived in Center City or South Philly rather than Mt. Airy -- I would have enjoyed it a thousand times more. You need to be where there are people your age , plenty to do casually, and an active, sociable pedestrian environment.
posted by Miko at 7:50 PM on June 13, 2006

It's an issue with Philly. W.C. Fields once proposed to put on his tombstone, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
posted by caddis at 8:38 PM on June 13, 2006

Sort of along the lines of what Afroblanco is saying, any new city is going to seem a bit lonely at first, and by at first it could be years depending upon what you do to meet new people. If you already have friends in the area that changes everything, but if you are on your own it can be tough. Join a bunch of organizations where you will be doing things with people you don't know and soon you will know some of them. It doesn't matter whether they are social, religious, charity, professional, athletic, or whatever type of organizations. What matters is that you are with some other people in a common pursuit. Oh, and get the hell out of the burbs. That is for married folk, especially married folk with kids. No one meets anyone there except through their kids - well it seems like that anyway.
posted by caddis at 9:05 PM on June 13, 2006

Best answer: I think your third question has not been addressed much. I think one thing that many people don't take into account when they make a big move is that it is a major stress hit. I couldn't tell you what that really means from a biochemical perspective, but with a, uh, couple more years life experience under my belt (okay, 10) I can tell you it's real.

Do the simple things that combat stress. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, if you have a meditation or a spiritual practice, practice it... But mainly see it as something natural, something you are recovering from, and something that doesn't reflect badly on you - or the decision you made - in any way. And these times are great times to work on some introspection if you have that bent...

Maybe this is too obvious to bother mentioning, but are you talking to your friends back in St. Louis about this? Every friend I've had make a major move has gone through some of this and I sometimes felt like they felt bad for talking about it. But I am always really glad to hear from my far flung friends and of course a friend can provide that one ego boost nobody here can, telling you from personal experience that there's tons to like about you. It sounds to me like you've made a tough but smart decision at the right time in your life. Believe in that and give it more time.
posted by nanojath at 9:31 PM on June 13, 2006

Aw, you're in the same boat I was in eight years ago. (Really, very close. I also moved from 4 years college + 3 years work in the same town.) I had some pretty low points as well when I first moved -- it took me awhile to make actual friends, not just superficial acquaintances. It's always more stressful to relocate than you might expect, and it's easy to feel like it's ungrateful to be sad while you have a great job.

It'd be much easier if you lived in Center City or closer to it. It's much more isolating in the burbs.

'Bout time for a meetup anyway, isn't it, fellow Phillyites?
posted by desuetude at 10:11 PM on June 13, 2006

Working nights is enough to explain meloncholy. In many ways, it doesn't seem so bad. But it has an effect, emotionally. I loved it until I learned to absolutely hate it! Expect to feel much better when you switch to days.
posted by Goofyy at 12:53 AM on June 14, 2006

Just to play devil's advocate, between school and work I spent 10 years in the SF bay area and never felt quite right. Then I moved to Seattle and within a few months I was doing 1000% better.

Nothing wrong with SF; Seattle just fits with me. Maybe there's nothing wrong with Philly, but St Louis just fits with you.
posted by bjrubble at 1:26 AM on June 14, 2006

Come hang out with other mefites. Sarah and I are certainly pretty desparate for educated company.
posted by dmd at 5:47 AM on June 14, 2006

posted by dmd at 5:56 AM on June 14, 2006

I moved to Philadelphia when I was 22 for grad school. I knew no one within a 12 hour drive of the city.

I'm not an outgoing or overtly friendly person, but I made a few friends thru grad school and at my job. When I graduated and got a new job that all changed and I was left virtually friendless.

But now I have a few more Philly-based friends. How? Thru my blog. I commented on other Philly bloggers' sites, they commented on mine, that led to emails, and eventually f2f meetings. And now we're friends.

When you move to a city alone, knowing no one, and aren't sociable (or aren't able to be because of your night job) the Internet is a great source for like-minded people. '

Philly is a tough town, and there's nothing you can do about that, but give it another six months and see what comes up.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:26 AM on June 14, 2006

When you say "northwest suburbs," what exactly are you referring to? In my opinion, some of the areas northwest of the city are bearable, while others seem very boring and horrible.

To respond to your question about what areas are good real estate-wise for a single, young, working professional, I (26, "single", soon to be a teacher) just bought a house in South Philadelphia (19148, east of Broad) after living in University City for 4 years. I've lived here for a couple weeks so far and it is absolutely fantastic.

I don't really know much about how to meet people, though. I am bad at making friends, bad at keeping in touch with the friends I *do* make, and am one of those poor souls who is actually pretty content sitting around at home on a Saturday night and keeping myself occupied.

Email me if you have any other questions, especially if you need realtor referrals etc.

I love it here, I think you will too, and best of luck!
posted by elisabeth r at 6:29 AM on June 14, 2006

Oh, and if you're looking to move into the city, you might want to live on Penn's campus to meet people closer to your age or Manayunk to meet the hipsters. Or, if you're ridiculously wealthy, you could move to Center City. We live there now and are not ridiculously wealthy, which means we spend all our money on rent and not on living. A lot of people I know live in South Philly and love it, though, depending on the neighborhood, you might not be welcomed because you haven't lived there forever.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:33 AM on June 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input! There were some really great answers and suggestions. I was happy to hear the perspectives of some fellow Philadelphians (though I'm sorry to say, I will NEVER root for the Eagles). I do think this is a great time to plan a meetup for the area. I'll post details in the appropriate area.
posted by galimatias at 7:46 AM on June 14, 2006

As long as you'll also never root for the Flyers, I'm okay with that... And also, never tell Philly people about that.
posted by inigo2 at 8:50 AM on June 14, 2006

I've lived in Phlly and the surrounding area most of my life and as far as conversation topics with strangers go, sports is always at the top of the list. Just throw out a "Dallas Sucks" and you're in. Or, on the contrast, back your St. Louis teams when they come to town and get into a friendly sports argument.
posted by Blandanomics at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2006

Never hurts to cross reference - above mentioned meetup details are now in the appropriate area. Some of the responses above seem to indicate y'all Philadelphians can be a mite unfriendly. Go sign up for the meetup and prove them wrong.
posted by nanojath at 10:07 AM on June 14, 2006

A great way to find a new group of friend is to find one friend you are comfortable with first, meet his/her friends, hang out one on one with some of these friends until you are at least slightly comfortable with a few of them. You'll feel alot more comfortable at the group hangouts.
posted by herbiehancock00 at 12:38 PM on October 16, 2006

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