Women getting settled in a new community.

Getting Settled In: Eight Proactive Steps to Feeling Connected in a New Community

If someone has learned a thing or two about moving and getting settled in – it’s me! Believe it or not – I’ve moved into five different homes in three states – all in the past five years.

My husband’s career path drove our moves, making my role as the “plus one” a bit challenging. I didn’t have work colleagues to welcome me on the first day. It was just me, myself, and I learning and figuring out how to feel more at home.

Moving and getting settled in actually do get easier with practice and experience, and I’m sharing some of my tips and thoughts here:

Couple walking dog in neighborhood

1. Get out of the house and into your community!

Sometimes when you’re feeling lonely, the last thing you want to do is get out and mingle. I’ve had days where all I wanted to do was stay home and binge The Crown, and at the end of those days, I didn’t feel one bit more connected to my new town.

Stepping out to walk the dog or run an errand is a good first step! Wandering through your new area, you’ll probably meet people and get a feel for what your neighbors are like. Even the simplest “hi” from new neighbors might make you feel happier and more connected.

Working outside in your yard is another great inroad to getting settled into the neighborhood.

Here’s a great example: Recently, my husband and I were in our garage with the door open, and a neighbor we’ve never met stopped by and said, “Hey, I met your mother last month – she’s such a cool lady!” My mother-in-law is the friendliest person on the planet, so this was no surprise.

Then she said, “She’s an unbelievable packer. I saw her trying to fit everything into her trunk!” So there you have it – my mother-in-law made a friend just by spending time outside in front of our house.

2. Get settled in by inviting the neighbors over.

This is the fastest way to feel settled. I’m not sure where the idea came from that people bring “welcome to the neighborhood” gifts to new neighbors when they move in, but my experience has been that they don’t.

Don’t take it personally. We live in an overly scheduled, guarded world today. So, take the initiative and open your doors to your neighbors instead.

There might be someone living three doors down from you that could become a close friend – but you won’t know if you never meet.

Another idea is to have an “open house.” My friend Amy inspired me to do this. She’s a hustling single mom and still made time to throw a holiday open house when she moved into a new community. By the end of the evening, she made a few fast friends on her street.

3. Reconnect with people you already know to feel settled in more quickly.

Do you know people in or near your community already? Connect with them! Sometimes I’ve forgotten to do this. I get so busy trying to get settled and make new friends that I forget who I already know.

Use your network. Do you have a friend whose sister lives in the next town? Invite her over for a coffee. Anyone who knows you already or with whom you share a mutual connection will help you feel more settled in no time.

Woman at museum

4. Join a local museum and support local events in town.

When we moved to Detroit three years ago, I joined the Detroit Institute of Art. I found that was one of the best and easiest ways to connect with the Detroit community.

Unfortunately, Covid hit shortly after we moved to the city, so I didn’t have a chance to get involved as much as I would have liked.

I did go to a member luncheon to listen to a curator describe the meaning behind a collection, and it was fantastic. This event attracted a wide range of patrons of varying ages and backgrounds. It was great to meet new people who share a common interest in the arts.

On the same note, make an effort to attend other local events and activities. Go to craft fairs, town movies, or anything you can to feel more connected to your community.

Woman volunteering in her community by delivering food to an elderly neighbor.

5. Volunteer in your community to feel more connected and settled in.

What can you do to help out while getting to know others in town? If you enjoy throwing events, offer to host a fundraiser in your home. Or commit to a regularly scheduled time to volunteer in your community. Volunteering is an excellent way to feel more at home in your community.

Another benefit of volunteering is that it takes you out of yourself and your sense of “Poor me, I feel lonely!” You move into a higher place within inspired by giving and generosity. The feelings of loneliness may seem suddenly insignificant. And the act of volunteering will warm your heart and give you a sense of purpose.

6. Get more settled in by going to a fitness center or joining a fitness group.

I used to work out at home, but now I appreciate getting out and working out in a group setting. It’s such an easy way to make new friends. Even just saying “hi” to other women in the class is a good start.

A lot of fitness centers have social networking opportunities too. When I first moved to Cohasset, MA, I attended “sip and shop” events at my local yoga studio. It was a great way to connect. I’m still friends with many of those women to this day.

Overly zealous woman very happy while shopping.

7. Be friendly and approachable while you’re out and about.

Try to be deliberate about being friendly while out and about in town!

I know this picture is a bit much (LOL), but you get the picture. Often we can walk around in a fog – checking our phones, constantly in our heads thinking about what we need to do tomorrow or next week.

Try taking the time to be present. Be friendly and welcoming. Your kindness and positive energy can work like a magnet – drawing new friends and opportunities your way. You never know what doors may open.

8. Getting settled in requires jumping in with both feet!

When you first move to a new city, it’s easy to continue to focus on the events you’re missing in your old city. Maybe you feel sad because you know you’re missing a dinner party this weekend. Or, you’re missing a charity event that you enjoy attending every year.

This is really hard to overcome. But try instead to give your full attention to where you are right now. Read the local paper. See what’s going on.

Take a blank calendar and fill it with events you’d like to try this month in your new city. Book your schedule in advance so that you don’t find yourself weary while wondering what you’re going to do this week.

Celebrate what’s happening today. Be here now. And trust that every moment of every day, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. So dive in and make it a day to remember!

(This post was originally published on September 3, 2021, and has been updated for thoroughness and clarity.)

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