When you’re moving a a new city, it’s difficult to know what to expect beforehand. Settling in takes time and patience, but can be a lot of fun with the right attitude.

Here’s a quick guide for helping you to find your new home and settle in.

Housing

Finding a place to live can be one of the more difficult tasks when moving to a new city. Some key questions you might want to ask yourself are:

What part of the city do I want to live in? A few factors that determine this may include safety, transportation, conveniences, proximity to work/school, your lifestyle, interests and nearby recreation. You may not want to live in a downtown area if you prefer quiet evenings. On the other hand, if you like to socialize at bars and restaurants you won’t want to have to drive half an hour to get to the hotspots every night.

What are the living expenses, and how will they fit into my budget? One of the greatest shocks when moving to a new city can be the differences in living expenses. These can vary not only city-to-city, but also different regions of each city. You may suddenly find that your previous budget is no longer sufficient, or if you’re lucky you may get more for your money. Be sure to research living expenses and average income for the city and area you’re planning to move to. This will give you an idea of how to prepare and what type of location in the city that you can afford. Don’t forget to factor in safety – you may not want to live in the cheapest apartment if you don’t feel safe there.

How long to I plan to stay? Am I looking for a temporary apartment while I work and save up, or am I ready to settle somewhere long-term? It’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Moving is a great time to start asking yourself these questions so that you can re-evaluate what you want to invest in and what you don’t. It’s a good time to get rid of things you don’t need if you’re going to live a nomadic lifestyle. You may even want to live in a temporary apartment for a while as you search for a place that you really want to settle in to. If you need short-term living while looking for a long-term place consider extended-stay hotels, living with a friend/family, or finding a non-contract arrangement such as paying someone to rent out an extra room in their home.

Do I have pets? Unfortunately your furry friend may limit your options in where you can live. Some places welcome pets, others require a pricey pet deposit, and many places outright won’t allow pets at all.

Resources for Housing

Ask the locals. Once you’re ready to start looking for a place to live, it’s a good idea to physically visit the prospective areas. If possible, ask the locals – knowing the best places to live is often most accurate from people with first-hand experience.

Use guides. If you can’t bounce advice off of some locals, try online resources such as Apartment Guide, Pad Mapper, or Craigslist. Your local newspaper may have a listing. There are also many free apartment guide books displayed in the entrance to stores and restaurants.

Seek them out the old fashioned way. Some apartments aren’t listed and you’ll need to drive around and stop by their offices. A local realtor service may be able to help meet your more specific needs at a fee.

The key is to have patience, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to live long term. It’s better to wait and find the right fit for you. Be sure to actually visit the area when you’ve found one, pictures can be deceiving. Visit during the day and at night if possible, as it may change. Once there, you can usually get a sense of whether or not it’s a fitting place for you.

Once you’ve moved in…

Explore! It takes a while to find your bearings and develop a compass for navigating your new city. Look for landmarks, or use a car compass and take note of which direction you’re heading while out driving. Use Google Maps or Google Earth to map out the streets and areas. Stop by a welcome center or lands management office to get a map of your city. Hang it on a wall at home and mark the new places you’ve visited with a push-pin, and map out new areas you want to check out.

Become a Regular. While you’re out exploring new places, you’ll find some treasures that you want to return to. Coffee shops, restaurants, shops, etc. Visit local establishments whenever possible. Find the best burger and the best brews in town. If you’re feeling alone in your new city it can help to see familiar faces each day. Start to frequent the same places each week and soon you’ll get to know the people that work there and will become more familiar with them. It’s a simple, yet great way to start breaking the ice socially.

Greet your Neighbors. This is a quickly-fading practice, but it was once very common for people to greet their neighbors when they moved in. It may not be as feasible in an apartment where residents come and go, but if you live in a more long-term neighborhood block it’s a good idea to get acquainted. You might even consider bringing a small gift such as sweets or a scented candle. If knocking on doors and bringing gifts just isn’t for you, a simple hello to your neighbors when you see them is a good gesture of respect and friendliness.

Get Involved! There is no better way to start feeling like you’re a part of a new community and to get a sense of belonging than to get involved. Volunteering is always a great way to meet new people, get a sense of what’s important to locals, and to contribute to making it a better place. Volunteering develops mutual respect and trust with others. Be sure to find something that you really want to do, and be upfront and honest about it from the beginning. There are conventional ways to volunteer with national organizations, and there are less-conventional, even peer-to-peer volunteering opportunities. Find the right fit for you and have fun doing it.

Keep an Eye out for Events. Events come and go throughout the year, so be sure to keep an eye out for them. They’re usually posted in local newspapers, venue websites and calendars, city websites, storefront bulletin boards, fliers, etc. Events are unique to every city. It’s a chance to have fun and meet people, and also gives you an idea of the overall city’s identity.

Ask the Locals. Ask coworkers their favorite places to eat, drink, and things to do. Invite them to hang out after work or do something fun over the weekend. Be open to new recreational lifestyles and trying new things. Tell yourself to say “yes” to invitations rather than giving in to the temptation to stay at home.

Learn about the History. Every city has its own history and background. What kinds of stories are there? How did the original settlers earn a living? Was there a battle fought nearby? What’s the cultural significance of the region? Most cities are proud of their history, erecting landmarks and plaques to honor people and events. Some have museums and historical societies dedicated to preserving the history of the region. It really opens your eyes to the place you call home when you educate yourself about all of these fascinating aspects.

Do the “Touristy” stuff. Treat your new city as you would a tourist visiting. You can read more about this in our article “Tour Your Own Backyard.”