Have you ever caught yourself saying “I hate it here” or “Why do I live here?” Well, I’m going to let you in on a few secrets that could transform the way you look at your city. In fact, I might even be able to help you love where you live! Don’t believe me? Listen… I’ve been in your shoes. Sure, there’s a lot to adore about my city, but it took me awhile to see that. In fact, my relationship with Lafayette, Indiana was anything but love at first sight.
We never intended or aimed to move to Indiana. Furthermore, we knew precious little about the state. It was a great career opportunity for my husband, but another move in a string of many (6 in 10 years) and we didn’t exactly get a great introduction. We visited in the winter—which can be ugly in the Midwest—and saw only limited slices of the city. Slummy student housing doesn’t exactly scream “welcome” does it? Let’s just say, I was not leaping for joy.
Despite that chip on my shoulder, Lafayette/West Lafayette charmed us. It surprised us. And most importantly, it pushed us to reframe our thinking about community. The secret to learning to love where you live isn’t about location it’s about connection. You must discover ways to appreciate the people and places of your new home, and be willing to give both a chance.
I’ve hopped around a lot because of my TV news career (you need to change markets regularly to advance in the industry, more on that in this post). Consequently, I consider myself well-acquainted with moving, including moves to places I never expected to live. Want to get acclimated to your fresh surroundings more quickly? The following steps will have you loving your new digs in no time!
Sure, you can drive around your new home. But if you want to really see it, you need to explore by foot! The car isn’t a bad place to start, but once you get a general lay of the land, set an exploratory goal for yourself. Try to tackle a new region or neighborhood each day, or week if your time is limited. You can’t rush this process. This is the one time when getting lost is actually a good thing!
Wander aimlessly up and down streets that intrigue you, pop into small store fronts, give that tiny cafe or antique shop a try… and most importantly start conversations with the locals. Be inquisitive. Ask for restaurant/shopping/neighborhood recommendations. People love to spill city secrets and talk about their community. You might even make an instant friend.
Feel alone and isolated in your new city? Don’t know anyone? It’s tempting to retreat to the couch and call up a pal for companionship, but try your best to branch out. I’ve always found neighbors and co-workers a great place to start.
As awkward as it can be, go knock on your neighbors’ doors and introduce yourself. Better yet, have a housewarming party and encourage them to bring other pals. Neighbors are usually quite eager to tell you everything you should know about their town (the good, the bad and the ugly). All of this is great knowledge to have!
At work, say “yes” to every invitation you get, even if it’s inconvenient or you don’t really feel like going. As the newbie, you have a golden window of opportunity to find friendships and learn the workplace culture. Say “no” too many times and the invitations will inevitably stop coming, no matter how good your excuse.
Groups like your area Young Professionals Association, leadership development organizations, volunteer agencies or hobby/interest clubs are also a great way to meet people. When we first moved to Lafayette, I joined Purdue’s ballroom team and got involved with the university’s community relations advisory committee.
It is SO easy to immediately compare your new surroundings to the place you left behind. Resist the urge and don’t go there! Especially, if you really loved your previous home. Comparisons always leave one party coming up short. Instead, spend time exploring the unique merits and individuality of your new city.
A great way to do that is to be a tourist, even if it’s not a tourist destination. Go to the Visitor’s Center, take a trip to the museum or City Hall, have lunch in a park or green space. You’ll love where you live in no time!
Is your new town perfect? Probably not. It’s human nature to spout off a litany of negatives. However, learning to love where you live requires a slight Pollyanna attitude. Is Lafayette, Ind. a bustling metropolis with perfect air quality and the waterfront location I always dreamed of? No.
But it does offer an incredibly low cost of living, some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, proximity to a Big Ten college campus, super reasonable taxes, great city services, a pretty riverfront and a walkable neighborhood with beautiful character homes. By focusing on these things, I’ve been able to embrace my new home and speak about it with admiration.
What’s your trick for getting to know a new community? I’d love to hear it!