Living in an unfamiliar city can be difficult, whether you are a student doing an exchange for a semester, or you’re relocating indefinitely for a job. It doesn’t have to be a painful experience, though. With a bit of research ahead of time, and the right energy when you arrive, you can make the transition to your new life easier.
Learn the language
If you are going to be living in a city where the language spoken is not yours, make sure that you learn a few words before you arrive. Even if you master the basics like “hello”, “yes”, “no”, “thank you” and “sorry”, you’ll be well on your way. The locals will appreciate that you’re making an effort, and will be more enthusiastic about helping you learn more.
If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what something means, ask someone who speaks the language. You’ll have a much easier time finding your way around town if you can actually understand the street signs, ask for directions, and order food.
Take a tour
It doesn’t have to be a double decker bus, but taking a guided tour of your new city will help you get the lay of the land. Take a map with you and follow along, marking down places you might want to go back to (museums, stores, parks…). Chat with the tour guide and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Along with traditional bus tours, many cities have walking tours of certain neighbourhoods, often catering towards specific interests such as historical buildings, restaurants, or bars. If your neighbourhood has one of these it could be a good way to get your bearings, and maybe even some restaurant suggestions. If you’re looking for something less narrated and more private, look for carriage rides or rickshaws, and ask the driver to show you his or her favourite spots.
Join a club
…Or a team, or find social groups based on your interests. Whether you’re an amateur photographer, an avid stamp collector, or enjoy learning about wine pairings, finding like-minded individuals will go a long way in making you feel at home in your new home. Churches, temples, and other places of worship can also be a starting point for finding your community, and can be a familiar routine in an unfamiliar place.
Living in a new city can be lonely, and homesickness strikes a lot harder when you’re sitting at home watching TV than it does when you’re out making new friends.
Whether it is a university mixer or cocktail hour after work, say yes to invitations to social events. Moving can be tiring, but don’t use that as an excuse to turn down opportunities to get out and meet people. It may not always be the perfect event, but the more you get out the more you’ll feel at home in your city. Soon enough, you’ll be the one inviting new people to parties, game nights, or shows.
Eating out is not only a good way to get to know your neighbourhood, it can also be a great place to get information. The wait staff at restaurants are often locals who might be able to give you advice on bars, museums, and even grocery stores. Many cafes have live music nights, with a casual atmosphere that makes meeting people easier, and you may discover a new favourite band in the process. As an added bonus, when friends come to visit you you’ll be able to point them to the best food in town.
Take care of your health
Look into health care rules for the area that you are moving to. Even if you are moving within Canada, you will usually not be covered by your new province immediately. If you are moving outside of the country, you will need to make sure you have health insurance before you go. Don’t wait until you have a problem to get insured – by then it will be too late.
Once you have arrived, find out where the nearest hospitals and walk in clinics are, and find out the emergency number for your region. Relocating is stressful enough without worrying about your safety as well.
Try not to be intimidated by the unfamiliar surroundings and way of life. If you give yourself time, you’ll find your rhythm and build your own routine. Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask questions. Every city has its own pace and its own unwritten rules – be curious, pay attention, and you’ll feel at home in no time.