You’re about to move to another city or country but you don’t know how to start to build your new life.
Whenever you move — especially to a different country — there are lots of factors that can be overwhelming at first: the language barrier, currency exchange, cultural norms, not knowing anyone…
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. After traveling through nearly 20 countries, I’ve developed and compiled some of my best tips to help you overcome some of these challenges.
6 Tips for Moving to a New City
1. Download useful apps
This should be your first step! Download apps that’ll make your life easier in the new city. Here are some of the most important apps to download when moving to a new city:
Google Translate: Download Google Translate to allow for communication with people if there’s a difference in language. Plus, for many languages, you can use the camera to auto-translate text in real time!
Maps.me (or Google Maps): This is the best way to make sure you’ve always got a map — whether you have internet or not. Maps.me allows you to download the map of the city whenever you’re on wifi. After that, you’re free to use it without internet. Google Maps also allows for this, but we’ve had slightly more consistent results from Maps.me in usage, and the maps are smaller in size.
Transport app: Find out if the city/country you’re visiting has a transport/ride-hailing app and download it! Sometimes public transport doesn’t make it out to a certain area, or you need to get there quickly.
Local mobile SIM card app: After buying a SIM card, don’t forget to download the app for the mobile company that you purchased from. Also, make sure to look for it in the language of the region you’re in! Even if you don’t understand the language, you can usually make it to the “usage” settings and control your consumption of data.
XE Currency: Check currencies exchange
Duolingo: Download Duolingo if you want to learn a new language, little by little.
Yelp and Tripadvisor: The Yelp and Tripadvisor apps are must-haves for finding food and attraction recommendations.
Whatsapp (or Viber): One of the best ways to communicate and text with everyone you meet along the way is download Whatsapp (or Viber).
2. Use Facebook groups... for everything!
Social media is a powerful tool that has connected people all over the world.
When you arrive at a new city, you should always look for local Facebook groups! Within Facebook, you’ll find communities filled with expats and travelers that have gone through a process similar to yours and are more than willing to help out.
Thanks to these groups, I’ve gotten help with local restaurant recommendations, suggestions to medical questions, and even (several) job opportunities.
For example: At the time of writing this, I’m in Belgrade. When I first got here, I joined a Facebook group called ”Belgrade Foreigns Visitor Club”. This FB group has close to 10,000 members, many of which post daily, and is a great place to ask all kinds of questions while potentially meeting nice people (people within the group will often organize meetups!).
The two keywords that I typically use to find these FB groups are: “Expats in [name of the city]” or “Digital nomads in [name on the city].”
Also, If you're passionate about something in particular and want to find a community around it, you should also try something like this: Salsa dancing (or your passion) in [name of the city]. More often than not, you’ll be surprised by the results.
3. Swing by the tourism board
Sightseeing — it’s something you’re going to want to do, especially during the first days in a new town/city.
The best way to know what's going on in a city is to visit the local Tourism Board. You’ll find out about activities, free tours, festivals, exhibitions, etc. Often times, they also offer packages/discounts to visit some of the city’s attractions at reduced prices.
Making a quick stop at the tourism board is always a good idea.
4. Find your go-to places around your apartment/accommodation
If you’re staying for any kind of extended time, you’ll want to find and set up the places you’ll be visiting frequently.
Some ideas for go-to places include supermarkets, highly-rated or interesting-looking restaurants/cafes/bars, a pharmacy, a gym, and so on. Once you know where you’re going to be staying, explore the nearby area to find the places that are important to you (and when you’re not sure of a place, like a cafe or a restaurant, try it out)!
Doing this sounds unimportant, but when you’re far away from “home,” being a regular somewhere and having a few daily routines will make you feel more like you’re at “home.”
5. Don’t be shy — ask locals for recommendations!
Asking locals is the best way to get to know a place. Once you’re a few days in and have become a local at a place or two you’ll have a better chance of meeting people who speak your language and can help you discover your new city in a unique way. Sometimes language can be a barrier, but if you know English (even if only a little), you’ll be surprised at how many people from different cultures will be thrilled to hang and share experiences with you.
Also, try to make local friends and don’t close yourself off to only hanging out with expats.
6. If they don’t speak your language, try to learn a few words.
Learning just a few words in someone else’s language is one of the most flattering things you can do!
It may sound stupid, but even if it’s a simple “hello” or a “thank you,” locals look at you differently when you try to connect with them.
Don't wait for others to make the effort to understand you and put in the time to learn a few words — you’ll receive smiles and kind gestures in exchange!
7. Open yourself up and be ready to say “yes!”
When you’re new in a city and you start meeting people (online and in-person), a lot of random plans will start coming your way. Have an open mind even when you might not want to and push yourself to say yes.
In the last 18 months, we’ve set up bases in a few different cities. Thanks to keeping our minds (and calendars) open, we’ve ended up doing things like:
Assisting someone’s huge birthday party in Thailand via an open invite in Facebook — I was on crutches and the condo had five floors, but we had so much fun!
Attending a “Spanish Omelette Contest” in Serbia
Participating in an Eid al-Fitr celebration in Morocco (end-of-Ramadan celebration)
Accepting invitations to hang out with people we met in a matter of minutes through spontaneous situations — people who are now our friends!
Have you ever moved to a new city? What helped make the move easier?