Moving to a new city can be equal parts exciting and daunting. For those in the medical field, moving to a new city usually represents a good professional opportunity. Oftentimes, if there is a trailing spouse and family, they may feel like they’re just along for the ride. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. There will always be challenges when you uproot yourself from a comfortable, familiar location, but following a few handy tips here will help smooth the transition.

Every relocation story is different, but much of your success will depend on your attitude, as well as your family’s, towards change. Remember that things are never going to go 100% smoothly, and know that no matter what happens, you are going to get one heck of an education – as St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Get involved!

Upon arriving in a new city, the best thing to do is get involved in as many clubs and organizations as you can handle. Although your intuition may be to wade into the proverbial waters of your new location slowly, you can always cut back after you discover where you fit in best. Many people seek out the familiar when they relocate. Searching for a church group of your preferred denomination, or sports club with your favourite activity is a very good start. You’re likely to find supportive kindred spirits with shared interests.

Don’t forget, though, that moving to a new city is also a great opportunity to re-invent yourself. Take up a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try (or even one you’ve never heard of!). In general, people taking part in more off-the-wall activities tend to be more open, and inclined to embrace new friends. Whether it’s books, motorcycles, skydiving, knitting, running, etc., relocating offers a great chance to pursue a new interest.

School ties

Having school-aged children is a great way to instantly dive in to a new community. Volunteering, fundraising, and guest lecturing are just a few things that you can do. Reach out to your school’s administration to determine what they need, and let them know what you have to offer. For example, what biology teacher wouldn’t love to have a practicing physician visit the classroom to give a presentation?

Even if you don’t have children of your own, any school can always use volunteers. In addition to the magnanimous feeling that can be gained from giving to your new community, it will allow you to gain access to an existing support network, too.

Promise you’ll write (sometimes)

Any time you move locations, you’ll be leaving family, friends, and your old community behind. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, keeping in touch with people around the world is as simple as pushing a button. You’ll have to resist that urge sometimes.

Instead of ‘Skype-ing’ your old tennis buddy every day, get down to the courts and find a new partner. Reluctance to accept that your old life is gone will just make your transition harder. Sure, keep in touch with old friends. Rely on them in tough times, and be supportive when they need you. However, bear in mind that you may be preventing yourself from opening up to your new community. Challenge yourself to talk to people, even if that might not be your natural inclination. You never know where you’ll find a new friend, and if not – no harm done!

Be humble

It’s only human nature to compare your current situation to your previous one, but be aware of how your comments might sound to your new neighbors. Nobody wants to hear how your hometown has better restaurants, schools, cultural amenities, sports pitches, or anything else (at least not on a regular basis).

If you’re moving from a “higher status” to a “lower status” location, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to make comparisons. Don’t do it! Remember that everything you do in your new situation is a valuable educational experience – and nobody appreciates arrogance or condescension.

Make an attempt to “go local”

It is much easier to join a community of fellow expatriates with similar experiences. All of you will understand what it feels like to be away from home. However, in some cases that might not be possible, and you’ll have to “go local.”

Be aware that in many cases the local community may be reluctant to bond with short termers – having transient friendships may not be appealing to people whose relationships can be measured not just in years, but in generations. Still, it never hurts to try. Bear in mind the advice listed above and find common ground with your new people. When you truly feel that you’re a part of your new community, you will be glad that you did!

Neil Raymond