From London to Lausanne, from Strasbourg to Santiago, from east to west and back again, I’ve moved home a lot. I know first-hand how hard it can be. If you’re moving to a new city and don’t know anyone it can be especially tough.
Moving to a new city is a journey. Enjoy the ride, not just the final destination.
Here are my top 10 tips for moving to a new city alone or with family, for work or without a job, for love or simply a fresh start…
1. Save before you move
How much money should you save before moving to a new city? Well, it depends.
If you’re moving to a new city without a job, set aside enough savings for the first three months at least. Consider additional costs such as new furniture and appliances. Factor in extras, such as dining out and takeaways when you haven’t had time to do a grocery shop, or if your kitchen isn’t yet in working order.
Even if you do have a job, the first few months can still be tough financially. If you’re moving to a new city for a new job you’ll have to cope until the first pay check comes through. You really don’t want to pile financial stress on top of everything else going on.
Moving to a new city can be tough emotionally too. Ideally you want to have enough savings to treat yourself now and again until you feel settled and have made friends.
You also want to have enough savings in case things don’t go to plan. Whether it’s a leaky roof that needs fixing, a broken washing machine that needs replacing or a surprise medical bill that isn’t included in your insurance plan, aim to save as much as you can for a little financial cushion. Be sure to have enough cash for return travel home in the case of an emergency, too.
Write down your current and expected new living costs on paper. Even better, put them in a spreadsheet. This way you’ll have a really clear idea of your budget.
2. Reach out to expats
Expats know first-hand how tough moving can be. They’ve had to start from scratch, finding a home, friends and perhaps even a job, often very quickly.
In my experience, expat communities are tight knit, but also open and supportive. Expats want to help fellow newbies to the city. Their advice and tips can save a lot of time and effort. Whether you’re moving from near or far, connect with them.
ExpatBuddy is a free mobile app linking like-minded expats so they can empower each other. Whether you need a helping hand finding your way around town, or just want the comfort of a friend on the same wavelength as you, ExpatBuddy is a fantastic resource.
Chat to a buddy before you move and clarify any questions you might have. Whether it’s finding the cheapest supermarket for groceries or setting up a bank account without local ID, the buddy system is a god send.
ExpatBuddy isn’t just helpful on a practical level; it’s great on an emotional level too. Moving to a new city or country is a big step. It’s reassuring to have a friend who speaks your language and can relate to you.
Avoid the newcomer blues: arrange to meet up in a cafe or public space as soon as you feel up to it. This way you’ll be getting out, exploring your new neighbourhood and making friends in no time.
3. Redirect your former city life
Set up a postal redirect for at least three months after your move date. Setting up redirects can take time, so if possible, look into options a month or two before you leave.
You might also need to appoint a power of attorney to sort any unfinished business. In some countries you may need to get forms notarised, in other countries it’s not necessary. For example, moving now from Santiago to Quito we need a lot of power of attorney notarised for our removal company to handle our goods. Meanwhile, in the UK, my father was able to sort out some banking on my behalf. For this, I just needed to sign a simple form at the bank.
Also be sure to have internet and / or telephone banking set up, as well as the corresponding digipasses and PINs. You don’t want to be stuck in a new city without access to cash.
If you’re moving country it might be necessary to get your qualifications and other important documents translated and apostilled. I’ve done this before via the Hague Apostille service for my British documents. All documents need to be processed in the country they were issued, so it’s essential to get this paperwork sorted before you leave.
4. Research on social media
If you’re moving to a new city without a job or alone, social media may well be your best friend.
If you’re looking for a job, join LinkedIn professional groups in your area. For example, Chicago Young Professionals is a networking group for young professionals living in or thinking of moving to Chicago. You can find more advice on job hunting in a new city here.
On a social level, city relevant Facebook groups are a great way to connect. In my current home town of Santiago de Chile, the Discover Chile Facebook group includes information on everything from visa advice to social events. I’ve met countless friends through these type of Facebook groups, both at one to one meet ups and bigger events.
Also check if your city is listed in my Relocation Guides section, If not, leave a comment at the end of this post and I’ll get on the case!
5. Try before you buy
I’d highly recommend renting before buying if you’re moving to a new city. And even then, try to get a feel for the neighbourhood before you sign on the dotted line.
Explore the area in which you plan to live. Some neighbourhoods can sounds great in principle, but when you get there and get a feel for the place you might be disappointed. Equally, you might have written off some areas of town, to be pleasantly surprised when you actually arrive.
Alas any big city comes with its scams; fake property rentals are just one of them. Sure, research as much as you can online before the move and get in touch with realtors, but for a long term rent or property purchase I’d always recommend visiting in person. This post explains everything you need to know about finding a house or apartment in a new city.
It may sound obvious, but it’s so important to unpack. Even if you’re moving to a new city for work and only plan on staying for a few months, set your house up as a home.
Get rid of the cardboard boxes, pack the suitcases away and put pictures on the wall (or on furniture if the walls are off limits). Set your new home up with the things that make you happy ― flowers, plants, essential oils and photos of your loved ones, for example. You don’t need to spend a fortune. It’s about mindfully connecting with your new home, not wasting big bucks.
Unpacking physically helps you settle in mentally. Put on some feel good music and enjoy the nesting.
7. Invest in a deep clean
Depending on your budget, paying for someone else to clean your home may feel like an unnecessary expense. It might feel like an extra hassle to organise. However if you can afford it, trust me, a deep clean will be some of the best money you’ve ever spent.
8. Be mindful of depression
Feelings of depression are normal when moving to a new city. The loneliness of being separated from friends and family, coupled with exhausting paperwork, cleaning and furniture shopping can dampen even the cheeriest of spirits. These negative feelings might stop you getting out and about, and before you know it, you’re blocked in a vicious cycle of depression.
Don’t despair. Be mindful of your emotions, accepting that bad days will come, starting afresh the next morning. Create a routine including daily exercise and healthy home cooked meals as much as possible.
Be kind to yourself. Congratulate every achievement, no matter how small. Whether it’s meeting a neighbour, clearing out a closet or getting dressed for the day ahead, keep a mental check of every step you manage.
Keep a journal and record your feelings. Chances are you’ve grown in confidence, and haven’t even realised it yet.
If depression is impacting on your daily routine and stopping you from functioning normally however, speak to a qualified mental health counsellor.
9. Schedule time for paperwork
Moving to a new city means a lot of paperwork. Signing lease agreements, setting up water, heating, internet and TV contracts takes time and patience. Without doubt this is the most tedious and frustrating part of a move.
Alas, this paperwork can’t usually be done on a weekend when the shops are closed. Plan ahead for this, blocking out a few weekdays spread out over your calendar to get it done.
Do you very best to get this paperwork over and done with as soon as possible, so you can focus on life in your new city. Nevertheless, don’t beat yourself up if things take longer than you first expected.
10. Enjoy your neighbourhood
You’re moving to a new city, not visiting as a tourist. Don’t feel guilty for giving the sights a miss. Moving home is time consuming, tiring and hard work. Explore your new city as you want to, not how you feel you ought to. Get your hair done, visit your local library, read a magazine over coffee in a nearby cafe, take a stroll around the block or spend an afternoon in a gallery. Enjoy your city.
Moving to a new city alone can feel daunting at first. However, it’s also an opportunity for a fresh start. Embrace it with gusto. Have you ever noticed someone alone and thought how weird they looked? Not me. Doubtless no one else will think it odd if you dine out, go to the cinema or have a drink on your own either. Don’t feel ashamed. Own your city.