Moving to a new city for studies or an internship for a while is the new normal for our globalisation-tormented generation – just like backpacking across a strange continent or the good old long-distance relationship. We’ve all been there, done that, we know it’s pains and joys.
Isn’t it more or less the same, every time: you gather all your belongings, fascinated by the fact that, when push comes to shove, your whole life can be assembled in a few boxes.
Same old, same old?
You imagine what it will feel like, to arrive in your new home, accompanied by the few essentials, that somehow always manage to make a strange place into your home. Like that old globe from the flea market, the mug from your best friend or the hot water bottle, that had warmed your lonely and home-sick heart so mane times already.
So it’s more or less the same chain of events, and by now you should have gotten used to it: starting anew, discovering the city, meeting new people. But when you exit that student/trainee bubble, enter professional life and suddenly spend most of your time at your place of work, there’s a couple of things that do change. A lot.
The many advantages are quite obvious: you’re earning money now, and don’t have to count every penny anymore. Further, you finally have an interesting task, in which you may even put all that theoretical knowledge from school and university into practice. In short: you’re doing something that is interesting and fulfilling – at least in an ideal scenario, otherwise you wouldn’t have changed cities for it, right?
Fulltime-job as game-changer
But there are also things that are much more difficult now than they were as student or trainee. For starters, there’s that annoying thing about time. Even if you didn’t want to believe or admit it to yourself before starting your career: in-between classes, the library or uni-sports, there really was an incredible amount of time left – for relaxing, partying, sleeping and all the nice things. To put it in Paolo Nutini’s beautiful words, you were short on money, long on time.
Another huge difference is the fact that as a trainee, student, or in Erasmus, you startet your new endeavour with a bunch of people who were in the very same situation as you. When I started my traineeship in Brussels, back in 2013, I was one of 700 trainees – I was flooded with new acquaintances, parties and other activities.
In professional life, however, it is not rare that you are the very only newcomer in an existing team. When I moved to Brussels for a “real” job, compared to for a traineeship, I still had a few friends from back then. But still, it is different – everyone has moved on since then and started a life of their own. And even if your colleagues are nice, even if you go out together and eventually become friends – it is a different feeling from being amidst a bunch of Erasmus-students.
And since there are no freshmen-parties that could help you to settle in your new surroundings and to meet people, things may become a tiny bit trickier. Let’s face it, not everyone is 100% at ease when approaching and meeting new people, right?
Especially at the beginning you may feel a bit like you’re left alone when starting your new job. But worry not, I put together a list of things that can help you really and fully arrive and get used to the new city that you will now call your home. Some of them have sure helped me to get settled and make the new beginning in Brussels as nice as possible.
- “New in”
Almost every city has a “New in XYZ”-group that gathers for drinks and giggles, which you will easily find via Facebook and other social networks. Who knows, maybe you need some nice people there? Even if not, it was worth a try.
- Sports and exercise
It doesn’t matter whether you sign up at a gym, attend some classes or join a club – exercise won’t only help you to feel better in general and spike up that endorphin-production of yours. It will also give you lots of opportunities to meet people that are into the same kind of thing as you and may even live in the same neighbourhood.
- Dance lessons and the like
Okay I admit, not every one considers going to the gym a fun activity. But you’re in luck, there’s plenty of alternatives. Together with some friends, I recently joined a salsa class, for example.
Hitting the dance floor once a week is fun in itself – of course that after-dancing-drink is a nice and well deserved plus.
4. Language classes
If, like me, you even changed countries, there may of course also be that tiny little detail of having to learn a foreign language.
But that’s not a reason to panic. There are language classes everywhere, where you can polish your French, English, Spanish and yes, even German. And actually, it’s not at all unlikely that you meet other newcomers and expats that are in the same situation as you.
Meet-up is an app that brings together people with similar interests. Whether for you’re into hiking, pub-crawls, the cinema or picnics – meet-up will help you to find the right activity with the right people.
Every city has a variety of networks, clubs or groups, ranging from lots of different interests, fields of work or industries. Find out if there’s anything to your liking. Once thing is certain: doing some networking will not hurt you, it may benefit your career and – heaven forbid! – you may even have a little bit of fun along the way.
For the ladies in Brussels, I can’t help but recommend Leadarise, an inspiring network for young professional women.
- Meet couchsurfers
Maybe you have previously used Couchsurfing when traveling or you would like to start offering your couch in the new city to other people? Almost every city has couchsurfer-meetups, in which fellow travelers meet, have a drink and chat – sounds good, right?
8. Invite people to your place
For me personally it was super important to fill that new apartment of mine with “my” stuff: my furniture, my decorations, my things. Inviting friends to my new home, however, made all the difference in starting to feel truly at home and filling my apartment with life!
9. Explore the city
On foot, by bike, with the metro, in a nice café, at the vegetable market… how you roam about your new city doesn’t matter. What is important is that you do it, because it helps you to get to know it better.
Also, make use of the occasional festival or event in your city and neighbourhood can make a big difference when it comes to starting to feel at ease with a new place.
10. Going out
Try the bar with the best gin tonic, eat that delicious pasta at the Italian next door, visit that cosy-looking café for some working, reading or chilling – everything is okay, except for hiding away in your four walls!
Doing nice things in your new city will not only help you to get to know new people. It will also help you to establish a positive relationship with your new surrounding.
It would be a total shame if your new home became only all work and no play, right?
What about you?
What are your tips for newbies in a strange city, who start off by feeling alone and lost? What helps you to truly and fully arrive in a new surrounding? Share it with us in the comments-section below!