Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

I have decided to move to a new state. I’m excited about this decision, except for the fact that I’ll arrive not knowing anyone. Do you have any advice for me?

…Marva on the Move

Dear Marva,

Since I don’t know why you’re moving or where, I won’t get into anything logistical, other than to say that I trust you have researched neighborhoods, have a plan to earn your livelihood and have some extra money set aside to get started.

I have been a newcomer enough times to offer these practical tips:

1) It’s wise to get along with your neighbors. Schedule your move at a reasonable time and get into your new place with minimal disruption. If you’re moving into an urban area, don’t expect anyone who lives nearby to rush over and meet you. Urban people tend to value privacy. It may be a long time before anyone in your building says hello. If you’re moving to an outlying area, be prepared for the possibility that neighbors might drop by before you’re unpacked. Have a smile ready.

2) Don’t leave your social life to chance. Think about the type of people you’d enjoy most, and go to meetups, activities and other locations where you’re most likely to find them.

3) Make many acquaintances immediately, but be prudent in choosing new friends or writing anyone off. You might meet a delightful person when they’re having a bad day. You might meet an instant charmer and later discover a side to their personality that spells trouble. On that same note, don’t be in a hurry to share too much personal information or invite anyone to your home.

3) Don’t be unduly afraid of strangers. If you want to play it safe, strike up conversations with familiar people if you bump into them in an unfamiliar setting. (For example, you see a neighbor you recognize but haven’t met at the museum across town.) Strike up conversations with unfamiliar people in familiar settings. (For example, if you’re a regular at the corner coffee shop and an attractive person sits at the next table.) If an unfamiliar person pops up and approaches you out of nowhere in an unfamiliar setting, be on your guard.

4) Humble beginnings are best. If you can recite Shakespeare at length, speak half a dozen languages, do backflips or have any other impressive tricks up your sleeve, please refrain from “front-paging” those talents on first impression. People may indulge your performance politely, but they’ll feel like they’ve encountered a trained seal, not a potential friend.

5) Decide you’re likable and attractive. In the words of the well-known professor Brenè Brown: “Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal.” 

Here’s to the adventure of finding a new community.


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