It is hard to relocate your life to a new city. I know because I’ve done it four times in my life. Besides the obvious and necessary things like updating your address at your bank and registering your kids to new schools, building on things that make you happy oftentimes gets over-looked. But I’ve gotten into a good groove for the last two times I’ve moved, and I want to share it. Here are five things that you must do to add satisfaction to your life in a new city:
1. Get into a healthy routine that works – If you’re settling into a new place, it is likely that your old life routine will be blown to smithereens. A new home in a new city requires that you learn the ebbs and flows of the neighborhood in order for you to make the best of your time. For example, if you moved to a city in Saudi Arabia, you would need to know the prayer times in order to be efficient when you needed to go grocery shopping. If you didn’t know prayer times, then you may arrive at the grocery store as soon as it closes for a 30 minute prayer. A routine will make you feel productive and in control of a new environment. Just make sure to add in some activity so that you get those endorphins coming in to get you into good positive vibes – healthy food helps too.
2. Make friends – When people ask me how I learned to love life in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and now Detroit, I always say that it’s all about the community of friends you build. They make the experiences in far-off countries worth it. Where do you make these friends? Well, I have been successful through my church communities, from cultural events with my embassy and by just putting ourselves out there like the time we asked a question to a lovely couple before they entered their building’s elevator (you guys know who you are)! The fun part is that this little circle of friends grow as you get introduced to others through those new friends.
There really isn’t an excuse to make friends with the internet at our fingertips. List out your hobbies and find people that live in your area with a similar background. Just keep in mind that some cultures may see your approach to them as an invitation to be more than friends. Be clear and be an adult.
3. Join the local culture – It is possible that you can live in a new city, but still manage to stick with your own culture and familiar way of life. However, I presume that the main reason you wanted to leave your hometown was so that you can experience new ways of life. If you do this correctly, you will also increase your satisfaction when living abroad. So don’t stick with the familiar. Get out there! Ways to do that would be to read the local news, look for good shopping districts and find the best local restaurants. You will fell like you live the thug life when you find an awesome deal in a foreign country and fell as efficient as the locals. I am so proud of the glass tumblers that I bought in Kuwait!
One other important experience is to make friends with the locals. Try to learn some words if they speak a foreign language. You will build a beautiful community of friends. When I visited my parents in my college years, I was always so excited to meet my mom’s Saudi friends. They were an exciting experience of the Saudi culture that I had not known much of in previous years. I know she misses them a lot as well since she’s left.
4. Take a class or give a talk – You must enter into the education world of the society you live with. Being faced with the leaders of tomorrow in that area is a fabulous experience. You get an incite into what their concerns and goals are for the future. Take a class or give a talk to exchange thoughts, inspire, and be inspired. This one is a must to make the most of your time in a new city. Some of my favorite moments in Kuwait were discussing Cultural Intelligence (CQ) with culturally diverse business groups, engineers, and educators. I learned more than I probably taught, and the experiences brought my CQ instruction to another level.
5. Volunteer – A new life in a foreign country is not complete without giving your time to those who need it. This is by far the best way to reach out to so many in the community. It gives you a satisfaction unlike any other knowing that you have helped and do not expect anything back. You meet wonderful coordinators that have given their lives to making a difference in their communities and work with others that are committed to giving back just like you (bonus points for community building and friendship finding). I coached for the Junior Baseball League of Kuwait and met some wonderful kids and families. Volunteer where you can and you will get a lot out of the experience.