5 Things No One Tells You About Moving To A New City

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I have moved to two different cities in the last two years. When you have the opportunity to change addresses and you do so willingly, it is an exciting experience that can bring on a shit ton of emotions. I first moved from my small college town, to my small hometown for a couple of months, before moving to a larger city in my home state: Columbus, Ohio. I lived there for a year and then moved to NYC to live with my boyfriend and because my job was relocated to New York.

We are so apt to glamorize a big post-grad move to the city that we rarely discuss the shortcomings of taking the plunge and moving in the steps of Carrie Bradshaw. And unfortunately, not discussing the challenges that come with moving to a new city only encourages new post-grads to be disillusioned about what moving will actually be like. Not sharing the realities of a big move seems almost like a disservice to the eager almost graduates (and everyone else preparing to move to a big city). While I do not regret my decision to live in Columbus or New York City, there were several things I wish I knew before making the moves. Here are five things no one tells you about moving to a new city:

1. Making friends is hard and takes a lot of effort.

This sounds very negative, and it’s not. Learning how to make new friends as an adult has been a very valuable lesson for me. I’m very independent, as is my boyfriend. When we did the whole long distance thing, it was definitely hard but we each had full lives outside of each other and that helped. When I moved to NYC, he had a full life (because he already lived there), and I did not, which was hard for me. Although I hung out with his friends and did a lot of things with him, I craved my own group of girlfriends and wanted a full life of my own. I felt lonely. Not with my significant other by any means, but without having good friends. I had my own job, but at that time, I was working a lot in New Jersey, so there wasn’t really opportunity to hang out with my coworkers after work or during the weekend.

I had to put myself out there and not be scared to ask people I didn’t know well to hang out, even when it felt a little weird. When I met people I got along with, I asked them for their numbers. I actually followed through on the plans we made. I went to networking happy hours, group fitness classes, anywhere I could meet people and connect. I also had to put myself out there emotionally. It’s a weird thing to force yourself to be open as an adult because most of my friends growing up already knew everything there was to know about my personal life. But I’ve realized that being open around new friends is the only way to build lasting friendships. And after eight months, I have a good group of girlfriends, so it worked.

2. Making a place feel like “home” takes time.

I love Ohio. I loved growing up there, I loved going to college there, and I loved living there for a year after graduation. It felt familiar and comfortable, but also fun. With that being said, I was ready to move somewhere new and to challenge myself to create a new home for myself that wasn’t already mapped out for me. When moving to New York, not only did decorating my apartment feel like a step toward making it a home, but picking my favorite grocery store, being a regular at a coffee shop, and choosing my gym were all the things that helped. You can stay cooped up in your apartment if that is what makes you happy, but going out and seeing your neighborhood and getting to know the area can make all the difference.  It’s a slow, exciting process and dealing with the unknown once again helps you learn what you like, and what makes a place feel right for you.

3. It’s going to cost more than you think.

I have discussed this aspect before on The Financial Diet, but really I do not encourage anyone to move until they have a lot of money saved up. Do the math: figure out how much the move will cost (ask around so you can get exact numbers), and then add more. Between security deposits and exploring your new home, costs add up quickly. I had a three-month emergency fund in Ohio saved up, and mostly all of that went to moving and moving expenses, and I still put some expenses on my credit card. It’s paid off now, and I’m building my emergency fund back up, but it did cause a lot of unnecessary stress when I moved here, which could have been easily avoided if I had taken the time and discipline to save more money before the move. Moving is already stressful enough and your finances are going to take a hit regardless, so the best thing to do is plan for the hit ahead of time. If you are prepared, I promise it will leave time for a little less stress and a little more enjoyment.

4. You’re going to grow a lot very quickly.

I learned a lot about myself throughout these two city moves. You are forced to do things differently and get outside of your comfort zone and you’re forced into figuring out and perfecting how you deal with uncomfortable situations. I have always been a social butterfly, but I realized that was mostly because I was comfortable around everyone I knew. Therefore, I really had to try to translate that socialness into new situations with new people. You have to be a grown up and figure it out for yourself a lot of the time. I guess I just didn’t realize how much moving would play a role in the person I was becoming. I didn’t think it would teach me a bunch of valuable life lessons, yet here I am, telling you about all the things I’ve learned.

5. Every city move is different, and living in one doesn’t necessarily prepare you for living in another.

I had two very different transitions, as my move to Columbus didn’t feel as big as my NYC move. Yes, I had my first apartment that I was paying for out of my own pocket in Columbus, so that was a financial wake-up call. But the changes that felt big were more your typical post-grad changes; learning about myself in a professional setting and trying to figure out how to balance work and life. Also, my move to Columbus came with a lot of great things: a roommate that was one of my closest friends in college, my cousin (basically sister) living five minutes away, a few good friends to hit up happy hours with, and a two-hour drive to my hometown.

My move to NYC was a different story. I moved in with my boyfriend and had him as a friend and companion, but that was virtually it. I had a few acquaintances and knew some of my boyfriend’s friends but other than him, there was really no familiarity. It was a huge change for me, and ended up being the best thing I’ve done for myself. However, I’ve learned that though moving to a new city always gets tagged with adventure, excitement, etc., in reality, it can also be scary and the adjustment takes time.

Abby is an IT professional living in Manhattan, originally from the beautiful land of Ohio. She’s obsessed with humans, solving problems, and tuna salad.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Irene

    The making friends thing really hits home. I have lived in multiple cities but always with a job or school that made meeting people much easier. I moved to Boston over a year and a half ago to be with my fiance and I still don’t have a core friend group, just one or two co-workers that I feel a pseudo-connection with. It is really hard to put yourself out there and meet people, congrats on your success with it.

    • Heather

      Irene, I live in Boston and I’d love to meet you and hang out. My friends and I all read this site, maybe we could all get together sometime. My email is hmb220@gmail.com

      • chelseafagan

        !!!!!!!!

        (Also now Boston is the next city after NYC on the list of “places we are definitely going to do a TFD meetup)

        • Heather

          Woohoo! I’d love a TFD meet up!

          • Irene

            Heather you are so sweet! Thank you so much, I will be in touch 🙂 I should really comment here more rather than just lurking.
            Yes, Chelsea a TFD meetup would be awesome.

          • Abby S

            Irene- By you commenting, you’re already putting yourself out there so that’s a great step!! By good group of girlfriends in the article, I mean around 3 that I can count on. I’m still working on it a lot and still struggle with it, too. A TFD meet up might be just what is needed!! 🙂

            Also, loving the idea of a NYC TFD meetup, Chelsea!

        • Keisha

          C, I hope you keep us all posted on a NYC meetup… I’m due to make a trip back up soon and would love to make those two things collide!

        • Coral

          TFD meetups!!! What a great idea! I live in DC and I would LOVE to be part of a meetup around here! I’d even be happy to help organize =)

      • Emily

        Heather, see my comment above re: New to Boston Book Club–this goes for you too!

    • Emily

      Irene, several months ago I started a New to Boston Book Club, and we’ve been meeting a couple times per month and having such a great time. It’s a fantastic group of girls, and not a single one of us knew each other before the book club! Please find me on Facebook (Emily Gironda), friend request me, and I’ll invite you to our Facebook group where you can see all the details about our next meeting! We’re reading The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant next. 🙂 This goes for anybody else in this thread. Seriously, look me up. Join us. Don’t feel weird about it; every single one of us wants to make friends. <3

      • becominganisland

        This and Heather’s comment below seriously made me smile. It’s awesome and heart-warming to know there are good, caring people out there.

    • Jack

      Oh, I love all the responses from people in Boston this has gotten!

      I feel you so much on the pseudo-connection with coworkers front; I moved to San Diego from NY about a year ago knowing only one person here, and even when I meet people I get along with it’s so hard to turn that into an actual friendship — some people are so flakey, and others are just hard to make plans with because they have all these other things going on and have full, established lives here. I sometimes even feel embarrassed to say I’ve lived here so long and haven’t really made any progress in building that friend circle yet.

    • Hey Irene! I live in Boston too and would love to hang! Shoot me an email if you’d like — sarahbenesi@gmail.com. 🙂

    • Fae Ehsan

      ah, yeah. i moved to philly about 6 months ago, and it’s hard work! i did try to reach out to friends in my hometown to see if we had any mutual friends who also lived in philly–got 2-3 friends out of it! 🙂

  • I moved to a town earlier in August to start grad school and yeah I had no idea moving somewhere on my own would be so hard. The having no friends part was definitely the hardest. It took about 3 months before I really started hanging out with people, so I got really lonely on the weekends. I’m looking at moving to a new city to be with my boyfriend in the fall, so I’m glad you mentioned saving money. That’s the biggest obstacle to me actually getting to move. Wonderful post!