Seven ways to make a new city feel like home
I have a friend, an interesting friend indeed. Top guy in the corporate world, very smart, smart in a way that at times when he speaks, you can mistake him for being arrogant.
Out of curiosity, seeing how he has become such a ‘Nairobi Man’, I decided to find out when he first came to the city.
He said boasting, “I remember very well my first time in Nairobi. I can never forget that Friday in 2001. Everything seemed different from the village. Alighting at Akamba bus stop and seeing a two storey building for me was a dream come true.”
At this point I bursted out laughing. Who could have ever imagined that this guy, who now hangs out with a certain calibre of people, fifteen years ago was such a village boy. Curious to know more, I continued probing …ehe…and then?
“I had just been accepted to University of Nairobi, not just any university, The University of Nairobi.”
I laughed again, unbelievably on how he stresses ‘The’ and the fact that he insists to date, that I have to underline ‘The’ whenever referring to The University of Nairobi.
“I was the first person in my village to go to university you know?”
“Oh really?” I said as if surprised.
“Oh yes, and it was a big deal then. It is still a big deal today but then, those days, it was something else. I remember my weekends with friends in down town Nairobi. Those were the best days of my life. Finding my way from the village to the city, completing my studies and now getting to rise up the corporate ladder and very soon maybe, as it seems to be the trend, I want to pursue politics. My father would have been very proud of me.” He said with some sense of pride while securing the cufflinks on his long-sleeved shirt.
“Oh, so you have political ambitions?” I asked, just to confirm that I heard it right.
“Now that I know Nairobi well enough, and I have been assimilated, I think it is time to go back to my roots.” He said vaguely.
I was taken aback, I pretended like we didn’t have the ‘politics conversation’ and then I quickly moved on swiftly with our earlier discussion of settling in a new city. I wanted to know his experience, considering that he has been nudged by life into moving into different cities out of Kenya for work. I wanted to know how it all went for him.
So, in this article, from a man and a woman’s perspective, here are some of the best tips to help you minimize loneliness and dislocation and start embracing your new life in your new town that you now call home.
1. Know the culture
Culture is the way of life of particular group of people. Ranging from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. For the first weeks before joining your new city, make an effort to learn more about their culture. Some countries and cities may be totally different from yours in everything. My friend lived in Ivory Coast for one year. He tells me he had to learn French. This goes for me as well, I have been able to master the basics of the Italian language so far and more is expected of me if I have to be fully assimilated in the society.
2. Use your networks
We have to thank social media for this point. You may be in a new place but old friends or acquaintances can assist you with finding some new friends in your new city. It just takes some few seconds and you could be meeting a friend of a friend and before you know it you are BFFs. If you are one of the many people who opt for reaching out to organized volunteering groups, go for it. In Rome there are many organizations like Order of Malta and Boabab Experience where you can volunteer. Find your local chapter and drop them a mail.
3. Agree to everything
I am currently taking Italian Language and Culture courses at Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci. In my class, we are ten, all from different countries. This means that almost everyone has something interesting going on that they would like to do or explore. I have realized that we always quickly say YES to any suggestion floated on the table. Be it having lunch in a new restaurant, visiting gardens or catacombs, I have learnt not to say NO. This is the only way I get to meet new people and make acquaintances.
4. Plan your weekend
When in a new place, your weekends can be long and boring if you do not plan well. ‘Uncle google’ as I call it, is your best friend. Check on different activities that you can do in the weekend. Some music, some art, food festival, theater, any interesting idea you can pick up from the net and incorporate it in your activity planner. If you are an indoor person, find some movies, some recipes, invite some friends over, bake together and play some indoor games.
To call a place home, you have to explore. Walk it! Be courageous and get ready to be lost. In my first months in Rome, I promised myself that every day after school, I was going to exit at a metro stop and explore the neighbourhood. Rome has three metro lines: Metro A, B and C. Metro A and B are interconnected so it has always been easier for me to explore all the stops along these two lines. Six months down the line, I am happy that I have a rough idea of where the important places are and that I can reach them easily when I want to.
6. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Oh-oh. This has to be the most difficult part for me. Especially with food. I have such a basic palate and anything that is out of what my mama used to make when we were growing up, I eat it with lots of caution. I taste it first with a little frown, then I raise my eyebrows as I swirl it on my tongue just to see if it is something that can go down my throat before swallowing. It has taken a lot of effort to be able to try new food. But now, woohooo, I am loving everything, ok- still struggling with eating octopus. Remember, life is all about trying new things. Go for it!
7. Learn to pat yourself on the back
Veteran movers can confirm that it is an emotional roller coaster being away from home. There are days you wake up and you are fine, you are happy, and then you are excited about everything. Then, there are THOSE DAYS!!! You wake up and you dislike everything, days that you walk down the streets, with balancing tears on your eyes and you wonder why being an adult must be this hard! Those are the most difficult days. And that is when you need to quickly take a moment and focus on how far you have gotten. How far you have managed to sustain yourself. Look at the mirror and say, “I brought myself this far, I must have done something right!”
Always remember, things will get better, keep moving!
How about you? Have you ever changed towns, city or country? Do you have any tips to add on the list? Let me know on the comment session below 🙂
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