In 2012 our family moved from Ithaca, NY (a college town of about 33,000 people) where we’d lived for 18 years to Dublin, Ireland.
While Dublin is a very different place from Ithaca, it was a relatively smooth transition. In fact, Liz and I have both commented several times how quickly Dublin felt like home for us. And although the transition was not quite as smooth for a couple of the kids, when we were back in the States for 4 weeks last summer, each of our 3 teenagers commented that they were looking forward to getting home to Dublin.
Now I’m sure that there were other factors that went into helping us transition so quickly to feeling at home in a city that is not only in a different country, but different in so many ways from where we spent the past 2 decades, but I wanted to share 5 that stood out to us.
1. Get immersed in the media of your new city.
One of the greatest things about the internet is the ease with which you can research your new city. While we were living in NY, we used the RTÉ player to watch the news, as well as a couple of shows we heard were popular. We read the Irish Times, and a couple of other papers, and listened to Irish radio using various iPhone Apps in the car.
While moving within a country will not be as dramatic as moving to a new one, being able to get a head start on understanding the popular culture, how the government worked, and who was who in Ireland was a tremendous help.
An added benefit for me was being able to acclimate to the Irish accent. I had a difficult time understanding it at first, and by listening to Irish TV & radio I got used to hearing it and didn’t need to keep asking people to repeat themselves once I arrived.
2. Land in a part of the city away from where you hope to live.
This was not something we planned, but having experienced it, I’d recommend it to anyone moving to a new city.
We knew that we wanted to end up in the Clontarf area, on the northeast side of Dublin; however, the people who offered to put us up until we found a place lived in Lucan in Dublin West.
We spent a total of 5 weeks in Lucan–about 3 with our friends, and 2 in a place we rented before finding our own place.
If we had landed in Clontarf, most likely we would have not explored the west side of Dublin all that much. But in living there, we have a good sense of where things are, how the area is laid out. It was also helpful because we learned several ways to get to Clontarf from the other side of the city.
When we move to a new place, it can often be a bit overwhelming and we tend not to venture too far away from our home base. Having a couple of places that have served as “home” helped us to see the city as much more manageable.
3. Don’t use maps.
Related to number 2, don’t use maps. In fact, plan on getting lost. If you have time-sensitive appointments, it’s obviously important to be on time. So when we had an appointment to see a house, we’d give ourselves much more time than we needed, and drive from the west of Dublin to Clontarf. We’d turn down roads that we hadn’t been down before. We’d take different routes each time. In doing this, we got familiar with how the city is laid out, saw landmarks that later on would be helpful in allowing us to know where we were going.
And although we got lost a few times, we always found our way home eventually.
4. Don’t expect things to work as they did in your former city…they aren’t changing for you
In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott wrote that “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” What we learned very quickly is that there is a lot that does not work here as it does in NY. There is not Target/Wal-mart type store where you can find almost anything in one place…forget a Costco. Laws that are different…and don’t even get me started on the banking system here.
It is way too easy for us to romanticise the past and think about how much better things were. And some stuff may have been. But some wasn’t. And a lot of it is just different.
The quicker you decide to adjust to how things work in your new place, and give up expecting them to do it the way you want them to…the quicker you’ll adjust to your new city.
5. Don’t allow individuals to colour your experience of the city.
We love to generalize. Irish people are…Americans are…New Yorkers are the most…
When we are in transition, we are a bit more sensitive than we are normally. And it is easier for us to be hurt and take offence.
Most likely we’ll encounter at least one person in our new city who seems intent on making life difficult. The temptation will be to generalize, “people in Dublin are…”
The healthier way is to recognize, “this person is an unhealthy person…” (or whatever description applies). Otherwise, we tend to go into each of our interactions with people in our new place looking for and expecting them to behave just like this person.
Once we can recognize, “wow, the vast majority of people we’ve met are amazing!” we’ll be in a much better state to build new relationships and move forward.
So, those are my top 5 ideas for making a healthy adjustment to your new city. Anything you’d add?