About 7 months ago I made the move from Adelaide to Sydney to start my PhD at the University of New South Wales. The prospect of moving from a ‘big country town’ to the ‘big smoke’ of Sydney surprisingly didn’t daunt me too much at first. I was excited about what I saw as my ‘new life’. A place where nobody knows me, or my complex past. It felt like a fresh start and an opportunity to completely reinvent myself.
The reality was a little different. It didn’t take me long to get really, really lonely and really, really stressed. I thought I might write some tips for others planning a move to a big city, from what I’ve learned over the past seven months:
1. Get a GPS.
I can’t even believe how often I get lost. I was pretty bad with directions already, but moving to the hell-mouth that is Sydney’s road network has been a nightmare. It is easily the worst thing about Sydney, and I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t agree. There is SO MUCH TRAFFIC it’s hard to fathom and GOD FORBID any of Sydney’s streets go in a straight line. Oh no, there is no simple grid system like Adelaide or Melbourne, it’s this complex labyrinth of tunnels and bridges and overpasses and exits and nightmares. So my point is, get a GPS. Getting lost is really annoying and stressful.
2. Don’t believe everything you hear.
When you move from a small town or city to a big metropolis like Sydney, people love to tell you all of the horrible things they’ve ever heard about that big city. Like that it’s “impossible to rent anything for under $400 a week”. Or that “the people are really cliquey and bitchy”. Or that “you can never even get a spot on the beach because there’s too many people”. Don’t believe them. I’ve found that people are very eager to protect the reputation of their own city, and do so by trying to convince you that your next city is horrible. I will never understand why a person would do this just before I moved, but hey, people are assholes.
3. Be patient
I had been warned plenty of times about the loneliness involved with moving to a new city, and spent lots of time preparing myself for it. I was determined to make the best of it, to join lots of new groups and sports and try to meet as many people as I could. These are all good things to do, but in truth the only thing that makes it easier is time. Give it time and acknowledge that you’re going to have your lonely moments. Moments in which you want to go home (I nearly did at around 3 months). But then you develop great friendships and find your favourite spots and before long you can’t imagine living anywhere else.
4. Get recommendations
Ask anyone you know / meet in your new city for recommendations. About everything! Who your new GP should be, where’s a good running spot, who sells the best coffee, what you should explore etc etc. It makes settling in a lot easier than finding them all yourself.
5. Remember your boundaries.
The number one piece of advice I got before I moved was to go along to any social event that I could. This was my best chance to meet new friends and ease the loneliness. Again, sound advice but I want to add a bit of a clause. The thing is, there are assholes everywhere. Beyond that, there are just people that you won’t click with. So if you get invited to something and you really just don’t want to go, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or that you’re not trying hard enough. You’ve got to do what’s right for you.
6. Go home as much as you want.
Especially in the first few months, head home as often as you want. This was a little more essential for me, as my partner still lives in Adelaide. But I would argue that if you need a bit of your Mum’s home cooking and a hug from your best friend, just go. It’s part of the adjustment process – and HOT TIP (don’t tell my friends back home), it helps you realise how much better you like the new place you live!
Go out and discover your new city. You might even find you enjoy spending time by yourself!
8. Do something you couldn’t really do before.
The big advantage of moving to a big city is that there is SO MUCH to do! It can be really overwhelming at first, but pick out some things that are just not as accessible in your home city. For me, that was joining a really well organised Feminist Collective. For you, it could be a cool exercise group or beach yoga or poetry slams or whatever you like!
9. Check the parking signs.
10. Remember that it gets easier.
Every day you’ll settle in a little more, find your rhythm and build your relationships. It’s tough at first, but just grit your teeth and it gets so much easier. Goooooood luck!