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How To Move Somewhere New Without Any Connections – By 8 Women Who Did It

Moving anywhere is intimidating. Taking stock of everything you’ve accumulated since you last moved, packing it all up, lugging it to your new place, changing your address, working out where the nearest supermarket is… The list gets all the more intimidating when that move is to a new town or city (or country!) where you have no connections. What is the healthcare like there? Can I transport all my belongings? If not, where does that stuff go? And the biggest question: how do I even begin to build a new support network?People move somewhere completely new for a wealth of reasons – work, love, studying, a love of the place, a need for a fresh start. Since the pandemic shook up the ways we work and live, it’s no wonder that more people than ever are considering making that leap. In December a survey from SpareRoom found that 27% of London renters are planning to move after the pandemic, with half of them planning to leave for good. That number is even higher for Gen Z and millennials, with 55% saying they are considering packing in the London life.But what can you actually expect from the experience? We heard from eight women who moved somewhere new without a support network about the highs and lows of it all. If you’re itching to make a move in the future, let this be your guidance for what it could be like.Yero Timi-Biu, 28, moved from Hackney in London to Margate in April 2019I moved on Easter Sunday 2019, a very hot day. Thousands of people were on the beach. It looked like paradise.My only connection to the town was that my uncle, who is a doctor, had a rotation in the district’s only hospital decades ago. He said the signal was rubbish. It is. I made the decision to leave my bubble of London where friends and family lived in order to seek a slower pace of life in a coastal town. I told myself I’d be here for a couple of years – call it an extended holiday. I really like being near water (pre-pandemic, I was enjoying the Californian life). I made the move to Margate as a UK base for better financial security too. I’d left a permanent full-time position in film development the month before in order to focus on my writing commitments. I knew Margate could be home without too many distractions. And the cost of living was much lower. I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay my bills in between chasing my agent for invoice payments from commissions.According to the census from 2011, the town is 0.5% Black. I am Black, 5’10 and at one point had purple, black and pink braids. I stand out. During my first year here, one woman came up to me and was like, “You’ve been here almost a year now! How’re you finding it?” I remember being so slack-jawed with my groceries because I’d never seen her before in my life.I got lucky with new connections. My good friend Naomi was visiting from London, she invited me to a party of a schoolfriend at the end of my road. I met so many awesome people there, including one of my closest friends here called Grace. I guess you have to put yourself out there. People here are usually friendly. The town is really tiny so I made friends with like-minded people quickly. I’ve counted six taxi drivers say that they welcomed people ‘down from London’ because this town needed the gentrification.I speak to friends on the phone all the time, video call etc. When I said I was moving out of London, I was met with some strange reactions, mainly sentences with high inflections at the end. “Oh, you’re moving to…Margate?” alongside a quizzical eyebrow. A lot of the reactions were related to my ‘bravery’ of leaving the big city for somewhere that used to have Nigel Farage as an MP. The weirdest reactions were jealousy. I found others projected their own insecurities of leaving a big city onto me, which upset me at first but I understood. I did remind a few people I had wanted to move to the town for a good few years. It’s not my fault they thought I was bluffing.I didn’t do enough research in terms of the town’s healthcare access. The district has one NHS hospital for Margate and its four surrounding towns. I have multiple chronic illnesses that can prevent me from doing day-to-day activities and I often feel overlooked when seeking medical help. I’m a dark-skinned Black woman. The statistics show I’m often not believed or taken seriously when it comes to pain, symptoms and getting a diagnosis. This isn’t much of a different experience from London when it comes to the intersections of medical bias but I feel very isolated here because there is no other hospital to turn to and it’s seriously affected my mental health over my two years here. I understand places are understaffed and oversubscribed (especially during this time) but I will be leaving my oasis by the sea after the pandemic because of this.Dani, 24, moved from Derby to Manchester last September I moved to Manchester to study for an NCTJ fast-track diploma. At the time it was possible to have in-person teaching. I’d never been to Manchester and I wanted to move away and be independent for a bit. My partner stayed behind in Derby. He lived in Berlin for five months last year and left me by myself so I guess it was my turn to take off for a while! We’ve been together for eight years and have lived together for two.The strangest and hardest part is not being able to socialise properly with my coursemates. I was grateful we were able to have in-person teaching for the first month and a bit because it meant I could meet people in my group. Our cohort this year was split into two groups so lessons were COVID-secure, so I haven’t even met half of the people on my course. They’ve just been names and faces on a screen. I live in a shared house with four other people aged 29 to 43 and they made me feel at home. I’m glad I chose to live with other people because I don’t think I would have been able to get through two lockdowns if I was on my own. My housemates became my immediate support network. It’s so good living with people older than you – they’ve experienced more of life. We sometimes have a big sit-down dinner and watch movies together. I also have Zoom revision sessions and pub quizzes with my friends from my course and we all have a group chat.My family have a WhatsApp group chat and we talk to each other there. We are close but messages are sometimes sporadic because we’re all doing our own thing. I’m not very good at keeping in touch. I’m making an effort to be more present.Before I moved, I didn’t quite appreciate how much it rained in Manchester. I never knew it was possible to have this much rain. It rains like 95% of the time. I was warned by the r/Manchester community on Reddit but I thought it was an exaggeration. I’m looking forward to the summer when hopefully restrictions ease and I can enjoy some sunshine(?).Natalia, 29, moved from Auckland, New Zealand to Toronto, Canada in July 2017In 2017 I was 26, I’d graduated university, I was perpetually single, didn’t have many close friends, had been through a crappy breakup and just wanted to do something interesting with my life. I figured there’d never be any other time in my life it’d be that easy to do, so I just went for it. I also had a lot of issues with my mental health when I was in high school and since in Auckland everyone knows someone who knows you, starting over with no baggage felt really appealing to me.I’d always fantasised about being a nobody in a big city as despite living in the biggest city in NZ, it still felt like a small town sometimes and I just wanted to be somewhere that felt like it catered to everyone. I also watched a ton of Degrassi growing up, and that honestly had a bigger influence on me considering Toronto than I like to admit. It was really hard at first. I spent the first week in a hostel and then moved to an Airbnb for a month while I tried to look for a place. Toronto has a very heated housing market and I was looking for a place for August/September. Despite my months of research I didn’t consider that September is the start of the school year, since the school year in New Zealand is the opposite. I ended up competing with a whole city of students also trying to look for a place while I had no credit score, no job, no rental references and nobody local to use as a guarantor. I found a sublet for an overpriced illegal basement apartment on Craigslist where I had to duck to get to my bedroom because the ceilings were so low but I took it because I was just so glad I’d found a place. I was genuinely questioning if I’d have to go home due to not being able to find one.Finding a job was also hard as most people wanted ‘Canadian experience’ which I clearly had none of, and so I was at the mercy of recruitment agencies where I was paid $14 an hour for a job that hired directly for $20 an hour because of the agency cut. It took me about 10 months to get my first permanent job where I actually had benefits, paid sick days and a reasonable salary. It was really hard doing it all alone and I had a sense of shame about finding everything so difficult. I hid how much of a struggle it was from everyone at home.Discovering a new country completely alone was rough. I was going to all these tourist attractions in my first few weeks and all my photos from that time are selfies. I remember being at Niagara Falls and all these families and couples around me were taking all these photos together and it was just me, by myself. I went on a boat ride by the falls and we all got sprayed with water; it was weird to have nobody to laugh with when something like that happened. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it’s the smaller things that really made me feel the loneliness. In all honesty I cried most days for the first five-ish months and regularly searched for flights home.The great thing about Toronto is that there are huge online communities that make it really easy to meet people. There was a Facebook group specifically for people in Toronto trying to make friends and I made a post in there and labelled all my niche interests which nobody else was into where I was from. I got a bunch of people saying they’d love to hang out who were into the same things. Toronto can be a very lonely city for a lot of people, even if you haven’t just moved from the other side of the world, so if you find a place where it’s okay to put yourself out there, people are generally really receptive. I still am close with friends I made through that post almost four years later. Even after making friends the loneliness definitely lingered because everyone here had a ton of other friends and relationships with people in the city with these rich histories and shared memories and I was the tacked-on new friend who people liked having around but never anyone’s go-to. Even now I still feel a little weird filling in the emergency contact of any form as I have a lot of friends here but I don’t really have many people who are emergency contact close.I think social media and the cliché chick flicks about women finding themselves from travelling hides the fact that the first three to six months in a new place can be really, really hard. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually have an amazing life there. It was like the opposite of a honeymoon period – as soon as I hit that six-month mark, I fell in love with a city I had contemplated leaving so many times. There’s a lot of patience needed, no matter how much research you do and how prepared you think you are.Isabel, 34, moved from São Paulo, Brazil to London, UK in 2014I moved to do a master’s and see how an established creative industry was run. At that time I had been working for over seven years in the culture industry in Brazil and I was going through burnout. I wanted to explore new ideas in the creative industries, see how others ran their business and also be inspired by London, a city I had fallen in love with when I was younger. I thought it was time!The process was hard but it was amazing as well. I was mesmerised at first by all the new things, the arts and culture on offer, the possibility of reinventing myself and, most of all, the safety I felt when taking the Tube even late at night, which is not as common sadly if you’re coming from São Paulo. Understanding the minutiae of everyday living is hard, like how to open a bank account or rent an apartment. For me though, the hardest was getting my foot in the door in the creative industries here. I felt that for a few years all my previous experience was completely disregarded because it wasn’t made in the UK and there were a few moments where people judged me from where I was from. I asked EVERYONE to hang out with me. I messaged friends and family and asked to be in touch with people and had SO many coffee dates, I even crashed a picnic once! I asked and also always said yes when people offered to introduce me to someone. I joined a running club as well!It can be very difficult to keep up with friends and family but whenever I go back home, I feel like there is concentrated effort from everyone to meet up. Your heart is always divided because no place is 100% your home anymore (I have been here for nearly seven years now). But I find that with technology it is easier, you just need to plan ahead a bit. You miss some of the everyday stuff but usually you can still be there for most of the big moments and be very present when you’re there. So you don’t take those for granted!Meg O’Donnell-Bath, 28, moved from Bethnal Green in London to Deal in Kent in November 2020My husband and I have talked about moving to the coast for years but have never spoken about it as an actual plan. It got to a point, especially once the situation with COVID worsened, where we both felt like we’d had enough of living in London. As soon as the first lockdown eased and we were allowed to travel to outdoor areas safely, we took a drive to Margate for some chips on the beach, which was honestly one of the happiest moments we’d experienced in months. On the way home we literally turned to each other and were like, ‘LET’S DO IT, LET’S MOVE TO THE SEASIDE!’ We have been saving for years and always intended on buying a property closer to home (we’re both from Birmingham) with the savings we’ve accumulated so it was a complete change of direction in that aspect but we thought if we don’t do this now, we probably never will. Moving in right before the national lockdown has obviously tarnished the settling in process but we were able to enjoy a few weeks in December where shops and cafés were open to the public so that was nice. It’s given us a glimpse of how things usually are and I’m just so excited for things to get back to normal. I very quickly introduced myself to our neighbours with some banana bread and have been in touch with them a lot for support/info on the local happenings – one of them is hopefully going to sort me out with an allotment spot.The southeast was hit pretty hard before Christmas by COVID so it’s (rightly so) very quiet here. I am a social butterfly and love nothing more than meeting new people, so not being able to do that I am finding quite challenging. There seem to be quite a few opportunities here like open mics, art classes and wildlife groups that I honestly cannot wait to experience when it’s safe to do so.I’m amazed how much the sea has improved my mental health already. I knew it would affect me for the good but I honestly did not imagine how much happier in general I would be, having the coast literally a five minute walk away. I’m spending so much more time in fresh air and it’s definitely giving me a boost – plus the cleaner air is doing wonders for my skin and hair.Tineka, 34, moved from London to Geneva six years agoI had become recently engaged and my then fiancé (now husband) had received a job offer with the United Nations, a dream of his for as long as I had known him. I actually wasn’t too keen on leaving London but eventually started working with the United Nations a few months after we arrived in Geneva, Switzerland. The city is also very beautiful and we both speak French so I tried to look at those factors as a positive.The process was extremely difficult. One of my best friends from London flew over with me for the weekend to help us settle in. When she got on the bus to head to the airport I burst into tears and cried for about three weeks straight. My husband had only seen me cry once before at that time. I think it was the realisation that everything had changed in an instant and there wasn’t really any going back at that time. I was actually surprised at my own reaction because I moved around a lot as a kid and moved from the States to London to study with no friends or support network and it was a piece of cake.Swiss mentality and culture is very different and it took me a long time to get used to it. You can’t just go online to find things to do in Geneva, you really only find out by going out and meeting people. But the hardest aspect we had trouble getting used to is the fact that everything is closed on Sunday. EVERYTHING. If you don’t go shopping on Saturday, you might be a little hungry – unless you order takeout and even then that’s limited.After feeling sorry for myself for about three weeks I found an expat glocals event and we went to it. I decided to just jump in headfirst and see what happens. We met someone who we’re still friends with to this day, they introduced us to new friends who we’re still friends with and our group of friends and support network expanded from there. I think that happened because we made an effort and we’re also pretty social people. But in this city you really need to make an effort to establish a support network.Blathnaid, 23, moved from Kildare, Ireland to south London in August 2020I decided I was going to make the move to London on my own during my final year of university. Ireland is small and everyone knows everyone else, and I really just wanted to start over somewhere new and meet new people. I got accepted onto an NCTJ course, saved up all the money I earned working in a hotel over the summer, and moved when the UK’s COVID restrictions had eased.I was drawn to London for several reasons. After living in Ireland my whole life, the anonymity of a big cosmopolitan city really appealed to me. It’s still nice to know that when I walk down the street or go out with my friends (post-lockdown of course) that I won’t run into an ex-boyfriend! I had looked at moving to other places too – particularly Canada and the US – but the pandemic meant that London was the easiest place for me to move without needing a visa. I think the hardest part for me came in the context of the pandemic. Going into the winter months, restrictions seemed to be tightening every few weeks and I was quite anxious that my housemates could go back home any day and our course could go online. Going home just wasn’t an option for me. I also never realised how expensive moving country actually is, even if where you’re moving is just across the water. I had no bedroom furniture, no kitchen utensils or pots and pans, whereas my housemates could just pack up their cars and bring these things with them from home. If it wasn’t for Ikea I don’t know what I would have done! There is also a lot of admin that still needs to be sorted out, moving from Ireland to the UK – I had to change phone providers, get a National Insurance number when I applied for work and set up a new bank account. I was lucky to have my NCTJ course which allowed me to develop a support network quickly and meet like-minded people who have now become friends for life. Our course was in person several days a week up until Christmas, so I had the chance to meet people and even meet up outside of course hours for a while. I also discovered when I moved to London that lots of Irish people had also moved during the pandemic. I met up with schoolfriends who I might not have stayed in touch with had we still been in Ireland, and we became each other’s support network in a sense. I even met my second cousin who I had never met before, and we are now great friends!Something that has surprised me a lot about London is the rent prices in comparison to Dublin. I know London is relatively expensive compared to the rest of the UK but there is so much more on the market for your money compared to Dublin. As the public transport system is so good here, you can really live anywhere in the city regardless of where you need to be for work or education. I’m also surprised at how safe it feels in the city. Having lived in both Dublin and Barcelona, I feel far safer walking alone at night in London compared to either of these cities. People really keep to themselves in every sense!Furvah, 21, moved from the UK to Madrid, Spain in August 2019I had the option to study a semester of my course abroad with the Erasmus scheme (which has now ended post-Brexit, unfortunately) so I jumped at the chance after building the confidence to do so from moving to London from my hometown in the West Midlands for university.I envisioned Spain to be very cultural, diverse and, of course, warm! I love warm weather. I was quite keen to challenge myself by learning a new language, too. I thought it would be quite diverse as it is a major capital city and I could potentially find a community there as a Muslim woman of colour.It was quite overwhelming, intimidating and a bit of a culture shock. Having to navigate little things like grocery shopping, getting on public transport and asking for directions with my broken Spanish proved difficult for at least the first few weeks. Madrid wasn’t what I expected it to be. I imagined it to be like London regarding the diversity of the people who lived there, so when I often found myself as the only Muslim or woman of colour present, it made me feel alone and sometimes quite unsafe. Dealing with different levels of racism and Islamophobia was probably the hardest part, alongside homesickness and loneliness. I was as open as possible so I could meet more people! Going to different welcome events, language exchanges, salsa classes and more all helped me to reach outside my comfort zone and meet new people. I also built friendships with other international students in my flat and university, which helped me a lot as we were all experiencing similar things. I was/am in constant contact with family and friends via social media, messaging and FaceTime. Some people I’ve drifted from or am no longer as close to, but I think that’s a natural part of growing up and moving away. I wish I’d had more faith in my strength and abilities and taken time to take care of myself when things got overwhelming. But I’m glad I made the mistakes and learned the lessons that I did. Also, I couldn’t prepare myself enough for all the growth, experience and friendships I’ve cultivated since moving. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?How Much You Can Save By Moving To The SuburbsI Moved For Love — & Instantly Regretted ItI’ve Moved 4 Times In A Year & I Nearly Fell Apart

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