How To Feel Settled In A New Place

February 3, 2015

Kelley & Dan (The City and Us)

Last spring we jumped into the unknown when we moved from the central Vermont to New York City. Before our move, Dan had never lived in a city before. I had lived in Boston for 10 months when I was 19, which seems so small to me now, but neither of us had lived in a large city before (to clarify for my hometown readers: according to 2013 census data, Boston’s population in 2013 was 645,966 and NYC’s was 8,405,837. Boston is a small city). We knew very few people living in NYC, mainly friends-of-friends and a couple acquaintances, which added to the uncertainty of our move. But we wanted to experience something out of our comfort zones–totally fresh scenery and way of life.

Initially, we signed a three-month lease instead of a one or two year lease. This allowed us to explore city living before committing to something long-term. Since we knew we wouldn’t stay in our first apartment on the Upper West Side at the end of the short-term lease, we thought of our time living there as an extended vacation rather than “home.” We didn’t take steps to “put down roots” aside from frequent trips to Trader Joe’s and making friends with the bartender at A.G.’s Kitchen.

Brooklyn, NY

But after five months (we were able to extend our lease by two months while we searched for another living arrangement), we signed a one year lease on an apartment in Brooklyn. Our mind set changed from “short-term” to “a minimum of one year, probably longer” when we moved to Brooklyn, and we immediately started taking steps to settle into our new neighborhood.

These 5 efforts helped our transition and made Brooklyn feel more like home:

1. Finding “our grocery store.” I suggest finding all of the grocery stores within walking distance of your apartment (grocery bags on the subway is a bigger hassle than walking four blocks with them, in my opinion), and then, test out all of the stores, taking into consideration your budget and the variety and quality of products. During our first couple of weeks in Brooklyn, I walked seven blocks to a grocery store that I wasn’t thrilled with, and I thought the prices were unreasonable. Since we were accustomed to and loved Trader Joe’s, I was disappointed every time I went into this first store. But, with very little effort, I found a different store with a larger selection and better prices, and it is only four blocks from our apartment. Then, Dan discovered a great market one block from our apartment that is now our go-to for almost all of our groceries. And bonus: it’s family-owned and we recognize the staff and owner during every visit (we like to think they recognize us too ; )

The City and Us blog

2. Finding our “go-to bar.” About a month ago, Dan went to a great bar a few blocks from our apartment and since then it’s been our spot for a casual drink and it’s also a great spot to take friends on a Saturday night (or to suggest to friends staying in the area). You might even start to recognize other regulars and make friends. And make a point to make friends with the bartender since you’ll be frequenting his establishment.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn3. Since I love to run outside, and exercising is imperative to my sanity (and consequently the sanity of those around me), I was thrilled to learn about the running/walking loops in Prospect Park (photo above from one of our weekend strolls through the park). With little online research you can pull up running maps for almost anywhere. I run regularly in the park and it feels great to get out and see our neighborhood on foot. I prefer to exercise outside whenever possible, but if you prefer the gym, scope out gyms in the area and join (also a great way to meet people) or research nearby classes to take (yoga, spinning, boxing, etc). Make this a priority! You won’t regret it.

4. Signing up for a library card. This might seem out of left field, but you’ll be surprised at how much is going on at your local library. At our library, which is only three blocks from our apartment, there are readings by local (often best-selling) authors and yoga classes (I haven’t been to one yet but it’s on my list of things to do)! And, obviously, books!

5. And, of course, finding a few local places for takeout and delivery was key for us. Pizza. Chicken tenders. Burgers. Salads. Milkshakes. I suggest finding places for late night orders (after drinks at your go-to bar, see #2!) and casual dinners (Sunday night when you just haven’t cared enough to get off the couch to cook nevertheless go grocery shopping at #1).


These are just a few tips that have helped us along the way from small town New England to Brooklyn. What would you add? Any tricks that helped you feel settled after a move? We’d love to hear any thoughts!


(Top photo by Whitney, bottom three by me.)



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