Moving to a Big City for the First Time – What to Expect

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Leaving the wide open spaces of a small town and heading to the concrete jungle of a big city is exciting and nerve-wracking. And totally worth it.

Now that you’re ready to live your urban dream, it’s crucial that you have a good idea of exactly what you’re getting into. Transitioning from the relaxed pace of small-town life to the hustle and bustle of the city is about more than geography.

You need to be prepared mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically (believe it or not, you’re likely to do far more walking on the city streets than you did back home on country roads).

Because we want you to feel at home as quickly as possible, we have some city-smart tips that will have you owning your new city in no time.

First Things First: Big City Housing

Apartment shopping in the big city is likely to be a bit of a shock – and not just because of the rent prices. Be prepared to pay more for living accommodations, but also for that monthly payment to bring you a lot less. Space is a premium in most cities, and the word “cozy” will take on a whole new meaning. On the bright side, in your city apartment, you will probably be able to grab a cold drink from the fridge without leaving your bed.

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Image by Ina Todoran/Flickr

Once you find a place to live, you have to navigate physically moving in. Older buildings can have the most character, but they can also lack modern amenities, like elevators. And those with elevators are often pretty narrow. Pay attention to how many flights you have to climb and/or how wide doorways and hallways are. Your comfy, overstuffed sofa might be too much for your place in the big city to handle.

And parking can be tricky. You might need a permit to park a moving van or truck in front of your building. Your best bet is to hire professional movers. They are experts at getting your furniture into your new city-sized apartment and have dotted all the “I”s and crossed all the “T”s when it comes to legally parking on your street during the move.

Settling In: What to Try First

When all your stuff is finally in place, it’s time to explore your new neighborhood. Because traffic and parking are such a nightmare in most cities, navigate your new city on foot. Locate the nearest market, coffee shop, diner, and happy hour hangout. Not sure which place to try? Ask a local.

Put your smartphone to work like never before. Use apps for directions, ferreting out local hotspots (you don’t want to go where the tourists are – you live here now), and finding public transportation. Research the fastest routes to work, the gym, and other places you frequent. Find out whether walking, biking, driving, or public transportation is the best option.

moving-big-city-subway
Image by VictorDobai/Flickr

Depending on your city, you may want to live without a car. Chances are, the subway or bus will get you to work faster and with less hassle than driving, and finding a place to park your car can come with an exorbitant price tag. (Not to mention you’ll be doing your part to cut back on pollution.)

It seems ridiculous, but it can be hard to make connections in a sea of so many strangers. But connecting over a shared interest or hobby is a great way to break the ice, especially when you’re new in town. A couple ways to do this are to check out neighborhood groups (start with Facebook) or find people with similar interests on Meetup.

Act Like a Local

No one wants to move to the urban jungle and be constantly mistaken for a tourist. The sooner you start acting like you belong, the faster you’ll stop being pegged for a newbie.

Respecting personal space is a big deal in a crowded city. Don’t hop in the rotating door with someone else, and give people elbow room in the elevator, if possible. Walk at the same pace as everyone else – which will probably be pretty brisk – and don’t take it personally when almost no one makes eye contact or flashes a smile.

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Image by Kevin Case/Flickr

Protect your purse or wallet. Don’t put wallets in loose or back pockets and keep purses closed at all times. And no matter how tempted you are, don’t give money to every person who asks – and there will be plenty. Find a local charity to which you can donate cash or your time as a volunteer.

Take advantage of all the awesome amenities your new city offers. Because many stores don’t close at 7:00 p.m., you can pick up groceries at 3:00 in the morning if you want to. Explore museums and art galleries; many have discounted or free admission days so you can get a dose of culture without putting your rent payment at risk.

Carry cash; not too much, but enough to get by if needed. Some food vendors don’t take cards, and you never know when you might need to tip someone. Brush up on tipping etiquette for your city and don’t skip it. Tipping can help you make allies who will be able to give you the inside scoop on deals or the newest hotspot for after-work drinks.

Making the move to a big city can feel overwhelming. But with a little preparation and a dose of confidence you’ll feel right at home in no time.

Featured image by Giuseppe Milo/Flickr

About the author

Jess once moved from Tennessee to Utah and about a dozen places in between. She loves reading, researching, and being outdoors with her husband and two silly puppies.