Are you new to New Jersey or maybe just relocating to a different city within the state? No matter what brings you here – a new or transplanted job, starting school, following or rejoining family members, or another big, exciting adventure – the prospect of settling in to a new city can be daunting.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are five tried-and-true tips for getting to know your new hometown and learning to live like a local.
Get comfy in your home sweet (new) home
You’ve probably already found a place to stay, whether it’s an apartment, a house, or a friend’s futon (hopefully if it’s the last option, it’s just a temporary situation!). Now it’s time to make that home your own, adding furniture and personalized touches that reflect your signature style and make this place one you can’t wait to come back to after a long day at work.
If you’re furnishing your home from scratch, consider exploring local furniture stores, thrift shops, or other outlets in the community to find the perfect collection of pieces to fit your needs and your space. Shopping locally offers the added benefit of giving you the lay of your new land, checking out the neighborhood, and getting to know the folks who own, manage, or frequent these facilities. Opt for functional, comfortable, and cozy accessories to soften your space. Bringing in artwork crafted by local artisans or items from your personal collection will also add one-of-a-kind character.
New homeowners will also need to review and secure local services like lawn care, pest control, and perhaps even maintenance or remodeling contractors. Apartment dwellers may not need these services, but will want to add rental insurance coverage to cover your apartment’s contents. Most landlords will already have apartment building insurance in New Jersey, but that usually won’t cover your personal belongings.
Feel good about your neighborhood
Browsing stores for furniture is a great way to meet some of your neighbors, but you’ll also want to become familiar with your go-to options for grocery shopping, eating out, and working out, among other everyday necessities. Sure, you could consult an app or type “liquor store Woodbridge, NJ” into a search engine, but wouldn’t it be fun to hit the streets on a beautiful day and check out the local offerings in person?
If you’re in a downtown area, don some sturdy shoes and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, stopping in shops to browse or just say “hello.” For longer journeys, hop in your car and hit some of the area’s attractions. Visit one of the VW dealerships in New Jersey to test drive (or lease or buy) a convertible Beetle and explore your surroundings “topless.” Don’t worry if you feel like a tourist – you kind of are! But the next time your family and friends come to visit you’ll know exactly what sites to share with them.
If you’re not up to an in-person introduction, join an online community devoted to sharing neighborhood information like lost or found pets, recommendations for local professional services, and heads-up messages about local events. You’ll be in-the-know in no time.
Make at least one new friend
You’ll surely make new acquaintances as you explore what your city has to offer, but you’ll also want to create new friendships, or at least find one person to be your buddy throughout this transition. If you’ve arrived in town without any previously-established connections, there are several ways you can find new friends.
First, get to know your coworkers. Chances are they’re just as curious about you as you are about them, so feel free to strike up a conversation across cubicles or conference tables, or maybe in the break room. Or how about the guy or gal working out or practicing yoga next to you at the gym? Say hello, introduce yourself, and ask his or her opinion on the best place to find a great green smoothie.
Accept invitations when at all possible, but only if it’s comfortable for you. Join your coworkers for karaoke after a long day at the office, or take that extra ticket your neighbor has to the neighborhood theatre production. But if serving as the fifth wheel on a romantic double date doesn’t sound like your kind of fun, it’s perfectly OK to bow out gracefully.
Of course, there’s always social media. Search LinkedIn for colleagues or former classmates who may be living in your new hometown, or post a picture of yourself on Instagram or Facebook in one of New Jersey’s many iconic places to announce your new relocation. Chances are either some of our 3,865 social media friends or one of their connections will be local and will volunteer to show you around.
Opportunities to meet people abound once you get plugged in to local happenings and groups, from your new church family to community adult sports teams to book clubs at the library. Often a simple, “I’m new here” will be enough to prompt local folks to welcome you to town and share some insider information, and perhaps could lead to a casual coffee or lunch date.
Fill the voids
While you’re gradually learning the ropes and cultivating new relationships, you’ll likely have some extra time on your hands. Fill those extra hours doing something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time, like pursuing one of the many available online liberal arts degree programs or taking French or writing classes. Not only will you meet new people, but you’ll also add valuable skills and interesting expertise to your resume.
Getting involved in a service organization also offers multiple benefits. Programs for the homeless, disadvantaged youth, particular minority or age groups, the creation or upkeep of community gardens…you should have plenty of options from which to choose in your new town. Find one that speaks to you, can use your particular talents or abilities, and fits nicely into your schedule, and enjoy the gratification of filling your time by giving back to your new community while working side-by-side with like-minded volunteers.
Take it one step at a time
If there’s anything other been-there-done-that movers to new cities recommend, it’s definitely to take your time getting accustomed to your new situation. The process of packing up, moving, and unpacking itself is stressful. So is starting a new job or attending a new school. Add to that navigating new neighborhoods and making new friends, and you have a lot on your plate. It would be easy to turn your face to the sky, raise your arms high, and dramatically groan, “What have I done??” Those feelings are perfectly normal, and there’s no rush to check off every single to-do on your list or finalize your throw pillow arrangements.
These feelings of doubt will also be mixed with feelings of exhilaration as you explore your city, create new connections, and get involved. Every day will bring new opportunities and unveil previously-unknown nuggets of knowledge about your new community. And just think…one day in the not-too-distant-future someone will come up to you and say, perhaps hesitantly or awkwardly, “Um…I’m new in town. Can you help me?” And you’ll know exactly what to do.