Everybody winds up being the New Kid at least a few times in our lives. The older we get, the harder it is.
The only thing constant about our life is change. The average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime. Twenty-somethings move the most — almost as much as people in the Military! Whether you are following a job or a spouse, going solo or bringing an entire family, the challenges of leaving your old home and starting all over can be daunting.
The Index Card Cure(TM) program has asked Susanna Maher, mother of two, geophysicist by education, librarian and expediter by on-the-job training, for her tips on assimilating into a new community. Jane F. Collen reports this is what she said:
I have just recently moved twice in a little more than one year. I had thought our first move from a home we had lived in for more than 20 years would be permanent. I therefore spent a lot of time trying to get settled in and get acquainted with my neighbors and my surroundings, only to face another move in less than a year.
It is tough — to be geographically distant from the life you used to lead, and tougher still to give up close proximity to family and friends. Here are some ways I found to try to establish a community for myself and make myself at home.
I started with the Newcomer’s Club. It turns out most towns, or at least areas, have them! In the 2 towns I just lived, the clubs were run by volunteers and offered a variety of activities and lots of opportunities to meet and greet. And of course everyone is helpful and friendly!
It is hard to go in there alone, and introduce yourself to a crowd of strangers, no matter how friendly they turn out to be. I had to keep reminding myself to smile. But I found a warm welcome.
I also visited the local library. As a former Librarian in my home town, I know just how much information about the locality can be found at the library. In most towns, the library is a font of local activity — the librarians know everyone, and can help you access information about the local events and gatherings. If you are afraid to ask — there are flyers posted at the entrance! Libraries also host many interesting events: lecture series, workshops in many different subjects — computer basics, art, creative writing, sewing — and author visits.
If you were lucky enough (!) to move with kids — you have a whole slew of options, starting with their schools. Become a joiner: PTA, class parent, car pool driver. Meet the teachers. Not just at school but at after school activities – Judo, piano lessons, swim meets, soccer matches – and say hi to the other parents.
If you don’t have kids as your intro to a community — think outside the box for other opportunities. VOLUNTEER — what charity or cause are you passionate about? Find a local chapter and give some time -even if it is only an hour or two a month. You will be rewarded by meeting people you have at least one thing in common with! If you are not working — get a part time local job, even if you don’t need the money. One of my recent residences was near a ski slope – some fellow newcomers I met in the Newcomers Club became “ambassadors” at the local slope, met wonderful people and got some free ski passes — the icing on the cake.
Nothing I mentioned so far sounds appealing? How about taking a class in a subject you have always wanted to further explore at a local community college, town center or adult education location. Artsy but never had the time to pursue it? Now you can take that pottery class or ballet lessons you always wanted to try and have it do double duty as a way to meet people and feel more at home.
Don’t forget to smile!
After a stressful morning navigating the new city to find the DMV and change my driver’s license (talk about a fun morning), I found myself eating lunch at a local eatery, sitting alone at a table for two. Deep in thought, reviewing my To-Do list, I suddenly realized that just at the next table for two a woman sat alone. The only thing next to her was pretty handbag. I smiled at her. She smiled back — and I said something about her beautiful bag. Now I have a friend I meet almost weekly for lunch!
Keep a positive attitude. Smiling (even if you have to make yourself) at everyone you meet, on a line at a store, at a table for one at lunch, at the library, at the gas station – anywhere you are is an opportunity to engage people in conversation and make the new town your home.