Finding Your Place in a New City

It’s been just over 3 months since I moved to London, 1/4 of a year since I changed life. Now, that doesn’t sound very long but its been just about enough time for me to get comfortable moving around the city and call it my home. I’ve not go the whole change of lifestyle and daily purpose thing down yet though, and I’m not quite sure I can call myself a Londoner yet, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

I’m quite lucky that I’m usually the kind of person who can call somewhere home as soon as I’ve slept there. I adjust to change quite quickly. But this move to London has been my first attempt at adulting, so it’s been not just one change, but a whole host of changes. 

The first stage was simply moving in and making my room feel like home. I live in a house share so  not all of the space is mine, which has meant making my room feel like it belongs to me was a priority. I moved the furniture around. I got my bike tool out and built some furniture and dismantled some other bits. I put pictures on the wall, I put my rug down on the floor. I cleaned everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I think I ended touching and doing something with every inch of that room. The process, which I see as something a bit like my dog rubbing himself all of his clean bedding to mark it as his, even went as far as getting the same diffuser as I’d had in Oxford so it even smelt familiar. Smell is such a powerful sense for evoking emotions and memories, that I really think this last step probably had one of the biggest impacts.

After I’d conquered my immediate space, I set my site further afield. I explored my local area, working out where all of the things I would need (read finding the local Sainsbury’s) were. Then I just walked. I worked out how things were connected. Mastering the transport system is a huge part of being comfortable in a new city, thankfully I’d been to London more than enough times to know how to work an oyster card. But I made sure I took the time to work out my fastest routes to the places I was most likely to go, and to work out the quietest bits of the platform. My route to work is now as efficient as it could be. I also took the bus places, even if it took longer. 

If you’re in London I highly recommend taking the bus if and when you can. I say that not just because I hate tube, which I won’t deny. But the bus lets you join up places in a way you can’t when you’re underground. You get to spot new places to go, and you’ll also, more often than not, get a seat. London buses let you know which stop is coming next (visually and through an announcement) so you don’t have to worry about knowing where to get off in a way you have to in many other cities.

Stage 3 was talking to people.This was probably the hardest bit for me. I’m not the biggest fan of small talk and putting myself out there to meet new people. But feeling like you’re alone in a new city is the worst. So I made sure I got to know my housemates. I made the effort to grab coffee with people I hadn’t seen in a while. I even went to all of the work socials, so many trips to the pub. Even if it’s just someone to say hi to in passing and to ask how their day was, having a little bit of a familiar face around really helps make somewhere feel like home.

The other big familiarity thing for me was creating a routine. I know some people don’t like routines, but I think for the first little bit of moving it’s important to create some structure in your days. When you have a routine you’ve mastered it gives you a bit of confidence in everything you do, you feel like you know what you’re doing all day (even if you only really know how to do a few things) and that’s such a powerful feeling.

The final thing to add is I made sure I treated myself a little bit. Do something a bit special when you’ve just moved, for me this was going to the theatre on my birthday and having a couple of nice dinners in the house. Build some good memories to associate with the move and you’ll look back on it more positively. 

So that’s how I’ve made my home in London, nothing revolutionary, but I think it’s been a real process of learning and actively trying to adjust. Feeling happy and comfortable in the city hasn’t just happened, I’ve worked at it, and I’m glad that I did. That’s not to say it’s all gone swimmingly either. I’m still struggling my way through, and, I’m not going to lie, I think I always will be. No one has everything together, there is no end point to being happy and comfortable and fulfilled, because every time you get close something else will change. So I guess home is where you put the effort in.

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