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Top Tips for Getting Started in a New City

When you’re thrown into the fast-paced hustle and bustle of city life, finding your feet is not easy. Every city boasts its own set of weird and wonderful peculiarities and customs, so it can take time to truly come to terms with your foreign surroundings.

When we asked our Facebook fans about their tips for getting started in a new city, we received a range of answers, from spending a month there prior to making the move, to having a free and healthy jog around the city.

While I may not be as experienced an expat as many of the respondents, I did just recently move abroad to Munich. Although I can by no means say that the start has gone swimmingly (being whacked with a 60 EUR transport fine just after touching down at Munich Airport wasn’t part of the plan), I’ve learned a few lessons along the way about how to start your journey off on the right foot.

I hope that the following tips will serve as useful advice for anyone opting for life in a new city.

Spend Some Time as a "Local Tourist"

Living abroad is far from just an extended vacation with tourist attractions at every turn. But I feel that the first couple of weeks should in fact be treated as such, only with a slight twist: try to experience everything through local eyes!

When you take in the city’s history, its art, its music, its food, its architecture, and everything else that it is famous for, you should do so ideally in the company of locals. They are the best people to clarify any cultural nuances, give deeper meaning to the history, and provide you with more of an insight into the hows and whys of urban life. Understanding your new city on a local level from the outset can help you feel more at ease there later on.

Also, it’s best to enjoy all these cultural charms while you can; it won’t be long before you’ll have to settle into a routine of not-so-exciting pastimes. This said, I would definitely recommend planning a repeat of the favorite items on your city bucket list during your time abroad. That way, you always have something to look forward to!   

Don’t Turn Down any Opportunities to Socialize

Unless you’re being asked to sign up to some questionable cult espousing whacky ideas, try to join in with both the locals and your fellow countrymen whenever possible!

There will likely come a time when you’re invited to a dinner out or perhaps to a sit down in the park with fresh faces, so see it as a chance to build new relationships. A foreign environment can be quite a lonely place and it can get more difficult to make meaningful connections as time goes on, so make them early on and reap the rewards.

Become a Member of a Group

Joining a group of like-minded individuals doing something you enjoy, or even something you’ve not previously tried, can enhance your social life no end. Whether it’s a run around the city to get fit, or a virtual arts and crafts session to get creative, a regular activity with others will give you a sense of grounding in your new community.

Learn the Local Language

Do you consider yourself well versed in the tongue of your new city, or are you perhaps hoping to pick up some of the local lingo as a beginner? Either way, it’s definitely a plan to take up language classes that suit your linguistic level and to seize every opportunity to chat.

Understanding, as well as communicating, in another language is arguably the determining factor in a successful cultural immersion. It will open your mind up to a new way of perceiving the things you would normally take for granted, such as the unwritten “script” an everyday conversation follows. It will also allow you to mix more easily with the locals and help you feel more like you belong.   

Figure Out How to Find Your Way Around

This may seem like one of the oldest tips in the book, but I find it’s worth repeating. Being clued up about the ins and outs of the public transportation (including taxis) will go a long way to helping you navigate the city’s many mazes like a local. So, gear up, grab a day ticket, and explore all there is to be explored on all there is to be ridden, making a mental note of the main stations as well as any places of interest to you.

It’s a good idea to know the cost of tickets and of any smart deals that might benefit you in the long run, too. While some are lucky enough to be afforded the luxury of free public transportation in certain cities, the majority will have to fork out for their travel.

Also, some cities — like Munich — employ what is known as an honor system, where commuters are free to hop on without restriction, but may be randomly checked for tickets by onboard officials at any point. Fare evasion, even if wholeheartedly unintended, can carry a hefty fine, and — believe me — the innocent plea of “but I didn’t know!” will fall on deaf ears, so make sure you know how it works where you are!

Make Time to Call Loved Ones 

On a bad day, the hectic and anonymous nature of city life can be enough to leave you feeling forgotten, unwelcome, and alone. Although talking to your friends and family back home through a speaker and screen can never replace the face-to-face interactions you share in real life, it is still a surefire way to counteract the bouts of homesickness that are bound to beset you. Unfortunately, missing your nearest and dearest is part of being far away from them, so try to arrange a few set times throughout the week when you can catch up, and stick to them if possible.

This is one of the easiest ways to stay connected, to seek comfort when you’re feeling down, and to receive regular updates about everything happening at home: you may be surprised at how quickly life flies by for both you and your loved ones when you’re apart.

Last but Not Least…

Enjoy yourself and don’t panic! If at first the going is tough and you’re not sure whether it’s right for you, give it time! Who knows — the things that make you feel uncomfortable in the beginning may very well end up being the things that you love most.

Remember that in your new city, there will be endless opportunities to discover never-before-seen places and to experience an entirely unfamiliar culture, so make the most of it! Get off to a good start and, with time and a positive attitude, the rest will fall into place.

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