How to get along when you’re new in town

It’s a fact of life that in developed countries, very few people live their whole lives in one town. Your parents’ jobs, going to school, your first job, joining the military, changing jobs, getting married, finding a better climate, moving away from gangs, finding a retirement home are among the reasons for the many moves we make in a lifetime. On average we moved every three or four years. Each move is different – we might be moving out of our parents’ house and into the house next door, or we could be going to live in another country. Sometimes we are stepping into the unknown – a new state, a new job and new neighbors. It can be tough under these circumstances, but there are ways we can make it easier for ourselves.

Thanks to social media, it’s easy to keep up with your old friends. Don’t forget to put up photos of your new home and regular updates about how you’re settling in. Your old friends will want to keep abreast of what you’re doing and might want to think about planning a trip to come and see you.

That said, don’t spend all of your free time in front of the laptop pining for your old social group. You have to make some new connections. Find out what groups and societies there are in the town. Even if you don’t find anything that you’re really interested in, go along anyway, you’re not going to meet people by staying at home. Expand your horizons by not being so picky about the people you want to connect with. You could be missing out on some great opportunities. Everyone has something you can learn from them.

Have a barbecue in the yard and invite your neighbors. There’s nothing that says ‘neighborly’ more than sitting around the grill with the guys, sipping on Miller Lites and exchanging stories. Find out about their hobbies. See which ones you might like to get involved in – even if you have no experience, volunteer fire departments are always happy to take on new guys and train them up, people always love to show off their skills on a hunting or fishing weekend.

If you’ve moved to a quiet, conservative town from a big city, try your best not to disturb the peace with noisy parties in the middle of the night or playing unfamiliar music with your car window rolled down. Show consideration and people will appreciate it. Small things like replacing a noisy garage door with a quiet, smooth automatic one (like these at will go a long way towards showing your intention to fit in and make things just like they never changed at all, which is the way it should be. Likewise, if you’re a city boy living out in the country, don’t walk around in city clothes as this will just end up getting you ostracized. People will never get over their suspicion of you. If you start to dress like the locals they’ll quickly start to think of you as one of them, or at least appreciate that you’re trying. Don’t hide that old car in the garage – park it in front of your house and learn to work on it. You might get some offers of help and a new friend because of it.

If you struggle to make conversation on topics you’re unfamiliar with, don’t try to ‘educate’ your new friends about things they are not interested in. You’ll either come across as supercilious or as a bore or both. Learn about college football, NASCAR, demolition derbies, wrestling and rodeos. Once a conversation has started, try to follow what people are talking about so you can remember it and repeat it the next time the topic comes up.

Moving house and changing jobs and schools for the little ones are some of the most stressful things you’ll ever do, and probably amount to the single most stressful time in life if you do them all at the same time. Make it easier on you and your family by finding new friends and allies in your new town as soon as you can.