Should I stay or should I go?
April 6, 2007 2:26 PM   Subscribe

LifeChoicesFilter: Possibly moving to a new town where I don't know anyone. Should I stay or should I go?

Later this summer I may be moving to Austin, TX from Louisville, KY. The reasoning for this is to escape Kentucky winters, experience a little more of the world before I die, and hopefully have a better chance of selling a screenplay in a town more connected to the film industry. I'm not unhappy in Louisville, I've just been here a long time.

Problem is...I'd be going alone and I don't know a soul in Austin. I'm an antisocial kind of guy, I've never approached a stranger in public and started a conversation with them. I only ever make friends through existing connections. Social networking sites don't seem to be much help either because of the sheer volume of people.

I also have a decent job here. I don't give a shit about it, but it pays very well and is fairly mindless; which lets me devote my energy to other things in life. I'm afraid I won't be able to replicate this in Austin, especially since the cost of living is slightly higher.

The whole idea is intimidating, to say the least.

How hard is it to relocate on your own and settle into a strange town? Tips from anyone who has done this? Am I better off just staying put and working a little harder to make connections to sell my scripts, or is my social anxiety and job comfort a total cop out?
posted by Roman Graves to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, making new friends in adulthood is not as easy as, say, college dorms at the beginning of freshman year. But unless you are a pariah of some sort, you'll meet enough people through work, etc. to eventually set up a network of existing connections.

I've lived in three cities, none of which I knew anyone in at first, and these moves occurred way before this overhyped "social networking" thing began. Everything turned out fine.

Also, approaching a stranger in public and starting a conversation with them is generally reserved for crazy people, anyway, so I wouldn't worry about lacking that skill.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:31 PM on April 6, 2007

Not true about conversing with strangers! I do it all the time, and I'm mostly not crazy. I've made some amazing connections that way, and even gotten a really good job. Most people are very cool and have something interesting to say. It's all about finding some connection- are they wearing the shirt of your favorite band or sports team? Are you reading similar books next to each other at a coffee shop? I have a success rate of about 50% with these kinds of things, success being a nice, non-awkward conversation of more than a few sentences. So, to tie this to the question, it is possible to make new friends and/or business connections sort of "out of the blue." But you will have to be more comfortable approaching people. This is a learned skill- practice being aware of your facial expressions, others' reactions to your approaches, etc. I'm currently in a city where I know next to no one, and I've been able to make connections by just talking to random people, using and craigslist, and being generally open to interesting things happening.
posted by ohio at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2007

Best answer: I have done this twice -- both times, however, were to places where the majority of the people in the locale, preferred to speak a language that I was far from proficient in (Spanish).

The very first time I did this, I probably would have described myself a bit like you: I shied away from encounters with strangers on the street, generally making new friends only through my existing ones. Moving to a place where you literally know nobody makes that attitude pretty obsolete -- you have to get comfortable talking with strangers to ask where the nearest laundromat is, whether there is an internet cafe open at this time of night, etc. etc.

It was incredibly hard at first, and you can feel very very lonely. That, however, is a great motivation to get over your shyness/anti-social behavior and just go out. I had to make myself comfortable going to the same bars or cafes with a book and just hanging out and reading (during the week - not a good move for a weekend crowd). Sometimes I'd read, not talk to a single person, pay for my drink(s), and head home. You have to force yourself to get out of your house and go outside. Some times, it feels like a waste, but over time you get more and more comfortable. If you go to the same places, people recognize you and get friendly. You stop reading the book and start talking about sports or politics or whatever. At some point, you're a regular, and you have a spot in this new town that feels somewhat comfortable and, in the process, you've gotten a little more comfortable talking with strangers.

Another approach is to join some sort of Meetup group that has a focus that you're interested in. You'll often find people that are starting from scratch as well, and looking to meet some new folks to adventure with.

It can be extraordinarily tough. The first month I moved to the new locale was maybe the loneliest I have ever felt. That said, getting past that, forcing myself to go out, refusing to be a shut in, allowed me to get the most of the experience and finally meet some really amazing people and make some great friends. It gets easier and easier, and there is a real sense of accomplishment once you find a niche for yourself.
posted by buddha9090 at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I moved to Austin a few years back and only knew one person here in advance. Need to make friends? One simple trick is to find an activity you enjoy and then search out a group that engages in the same. Now, that's not so simple if your particular interest is, say, in the Baroque architecture of the Loire Valley or in recreational burglary. But it's absurdly easy to find sports-related groups from Ultimate to softball to bowling to full-contact tiddlywinks.

Same approach for other pursuits. Lots of bookstores have organized events of different sorts. Museums and galleries regularly have soirees that are only semi-snooty. Go to a cheap continuing education class. Check the Events section of the Austin Chronicle for the myriad weekly festivals, shows, gatherings, readings, poetry slams, lectures, and demonstrations that are constantly erupting throughout town. Sign up for volunteer work--there's always plenty of that to be had.

I fear and despise people of all kinds, and yet it's damn hard work to actually NOT make friends. If you plug yourself into a setting where there are four or five people, they are gonna talk to you, and assuming you're not some kind of loathsome choad, the bonding process will begin. Then you have them. Suckers!
posted by Midnight Creeper at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Go! Go! Go!

I'm from the DC area, and I'm in Lexington KY for school right now. I never want to live anywhere more than 5 years... sitting still seems like such a waste of time with so much out there.

My roomate has lived in Louisville and Austin, and he says Austin is a hell of a town. I know nothing about the movie biz, but why would Austin be any better than Louisville (which I imagine is darn near pessimal). Why not go to LA or NY?
posted by phrontist at 3:21 PM on April 6, 2007

Austin is one of the easiest towns in the world to make friends in, but it will require some effort on your part. Get involved in some group activity that you enjoy (community TV, softball team, book club, writers' club, hobby group, political activism, etc).

Everytime I go to Austin I meet cool new people. It's been over 15 years since I have been there, but I doubt the town has changed that much, except maybe there are more bat-lovers there now.

The mean age is something like 29 because of all the students and there is a huge arts community there.
posted by mds35 at 3:21 PM on April 6, 2007

It's bloody snowing right now in Lex - no amount of bourbon can drown the melancholy of Kentucky weather.
posted by phrontist at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Phrontist: Austin has a vibrant film community, especially for its size. LA or NY would make me feel like a needle in a mountain of douchey needles, and both are very expensive. I had a screenwriter friend in Austin for a while who raved about the connections she made (she was much more outgoing than I).

It's snowing up here too, but the right amount of bourbon can drown anything.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:32 PM on April 6, 2007

I'm extremely antisocial and would prefer to keep moving every time I can't be guaranteed of a shopping experience without meeting someone I know. So, this is what happens. I move somewhere and get a job. I go on a work social event. This event leads me to meet other people. Those people introduce me to more people.

I get library membership. I chat to the librarian about my choices. She mentions that her partner is into whatever my selection is about. Next thing I know, I have invitation to participate in X event.

I'm shopping, alone. Some other customer notes my selection (why do people care so much about what I want?) and this leads to a discussion on similar books, music, food items which may or may not lead to coffee or alcohol.

I am not particularly attractive, I am not single and I do not fall into a high popularity group of any kind.

Plus of course, there's always internet people. Don't let fear hold you back. So long as you're polite and reasonably but not creepy friendly, you will make new acquaintances. It's almost inevitable.

/time for me to move again and get away from all these people.
posted by b33j at 3:50 PM on April 6, 2007

If you love movies - then you should not have a hard time meeting like minded individuals in Austin, TX.

When I move there - I plan to work part-time at the Alamo Drafthouse or volunteer at Austin Film Society functions. This might be a path that you could utilize to make friends as well...
posted by cinemafiend at 4:19 PM on April 6, 2007

As someone who moved a lot as a kid, I'll just say that at minimum, it took a year to feel settled, and there was this low point ("oh my god, we're really never going back") at 9 months. I'd say, take the leap. I'm just saying this so you won't be blind-sided by those feelings and can take them in stride. :)
posted by salvia at 5:51 PM on April 6, 2007

Best answer: When facing a similar decision about two years ago, I finally decided that for me, it came down to the question: would I regret not trying something new? My answer was yes. It is difficult. I spent a lot of time by myself last year, and have had my fair share of unsettled moments. But here I am, almost two years into a completely new city and area of the country, and I like it so much I just might stay long beyond the original plans. As my husband (who moved up here about 1 year after I did) always says: even if we decide to move back eventually, we'll always have this experience and be glad that we tried it.
posted by pril at 6:08 PM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for the advice. You all had great things to say, and at the end of the day I know I'd be disappointed in myself if I didn't do this. I just needed an objective push.
posted by Roman Graves at 6:21 PM on April 6, 2007

Best of luck Roman! Austin is such a wonderful town. When I'm there I like to check out movies at the Alamo Draft House. You might also be interested in the Austin Film Society and Vulcan Video. Austin has a great film community. Volunteer at one of the festivals - that could be a great way to network and meet like-minded folks.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2007

This may not be your cup of tea, but for me, the first thing is to find a church.
posted by konolia at 7:24 PM on April 6, 2007

It sounds like this has been answered, but I can't resist giving you another little push. I went to college in Austin and flew out there without knowing a soul and ended up not wanting to leave. It is a great town with a lot of things to do, so if you have any interests at all that get you out of the house you will meet some like-minded souls.
posted by TedW at 6:14 AM on April 7, 2007

Also a little late to the question. Moved to nyc to chicago without knowing a soul (outside of a few coworkers also moving). The first 3 mos were easy -- 6 mo to a year was really hard -- then after that it just became life as normal. Austin is wonderful -- spent a summer there. Supportive art/music/film community. I know some people there who've made many connections through myspace (yeah, i know) & open mics (not sure if there's a film equivalent). there's also a number of festivals promoting independent work.
posted by ejaned8 at 9:01 AM on April 7, 2007

Absolutely move to Austin. It is indeed one of the easiest cities to meet people. There's a huge community of young, well educated, social people. And it's able to maintain that Texas friendliness without all the narrow-mindedness and latent (or apparent) racism of some other Texas towns.

Despite being more expensive than Louisville, Austin is an extremely livable city. Most people I know are in a similar situation to you (working in low-commitment but reasonably well-paid jobs and doing other things, such as music, on the side).

That said, the film industry isn't quite big enough here to help you build connections. I think it's somewhat difficult for people in creative fields to "make it" here. You get to a certain point and then plateau (which is why I'm leaving Austin soon).

Shoot me an e-mail if you have more questions. I have a friend who made the Louisville to Austin move.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:17 AM on April 7, 2007

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