New Home, New Community: How to Fit In

Let's face it, moving to a new area can be tough. Finding new friends, schools, good restaurants, as well as a sense of community can be a full-time job on its own.

What ever happened to the neighborhood welcoming committees from years ago? As soon as you moved into a new area, the neighborhood gathered at your door, greeted you with baked apple pie and cookies, explained the ins and outs of the town and became your friends instantly. Unfortunately, these days, neighbors are more concerned with whether you have a criminal record than whether you feel at home in your new area. And in big cities, you could go years without saying a hello to the person who lives next door.

We asked our members for their tips and secrets to getting to know their way around new digs. Member Rebecca suggested: "Running a 5K or 10K in your new community is one of the best ways to meet people."

My mind says "Yes, great idea," but my body tells me there has to be an easier way. Apparently, lots of iVillagers have moved -- a lot -- and had a lot of advice to offer.

So we put six steps together for you to follow on how to make a new area your "home sweet home" in no time.

Step One: Find an email pal in your new area

"I emailed women who live in my future neighborhood and asked them about the area. I learned a lot about the area and people while making some fantastic friends." -- Tammie

(start the search in our Find an Email Buddy message board.)

Step Two: Buy a map

"One of the tricks I learned to help myself not feel strange and disoriented in a new area was to immediately buy a good city map. I then sat down with a phone book to find out the locations of my favorite national stores and restaurants. Some of my co-workers who had lived there longer than myself had more trouble getting around town than I did!" -- katrynr

Step Three: Walk about the town

"The way I got to know people in my new neighborhood is by walking everywhere. If I went downtown, I parked the car and just walked around town from store to store. I met so many wonderful people this way. I just walked up to them and said "Hi, I'm new in town and I was wondering where you would suggest I go to have a bite to eat." We then struck up a conversation, and 50 percent of time they went with me. It's worked well." -- sjme2

Step Four: Find a church or organization you believe in

"My husband and I attended services at several churches in our denomination after we moved. Within our first six months here we had dinners with four other couples and went camping with one of them. The people we met at church are still our closest friends here. Faith communities are one place where the old 'welcome to the neighborhood' spirit still exists." -- Karla

"One of the first things I did to meet new friends is find an organization for which I would like to volunteer. This not only helped me feel more a part of my new community, it made me feel good about my involvement. Doing this immediately put me in touch with a group of similar-minded friends." -- Amelia

Step Five: Make play dates

"Instead of waiting for friends to knock on my door, I found other ways of stopping the 'blues of moving.' I believe it was easier for me to adjust and make friends because of my children. I took my three-year-old son to a playgroup at our church and story time at our local library. My seven-year-old daughter likes softball, so she joined a team. So when the kids made friends, I did also." -- triciamcfarland

Step Six: Plan Party Luncheons

"I hosted a luncheon and played this game called 'Know your neighbor.' The week before, I asked all the ladies to answer questions regarding their favorite color, pet nickname, birth date, most embarrassing moment and other funny questions."

"At the luncheon I then read the questions that revealed some of their answers, and boy did we laugh and learn a lot about each other. Now when I need to pick up a thank-you or birthday gift for my neighbors, I know their favorite color, type of music, nicknames. Trust me, this game has been really helpful." -- Missy

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