Getting the Full Picture of a New City Before Moving

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Oct 10, 2023

We live in an age when it’s easier than ever before to pack your belongings and move to a new city. However, just because it’s easy to do something, that doesn’t mean that you should. While it can be exciting to think of starting afresh in a new state, there’s often a big difference between expectation and reality.

If you’re thinking of moving to a new city, it’s highly recommended that you visit beforehand. In this post, we’ll look through some handy tips that’ll ensure you get as full a picture of your chosen city as possible during your visit. 

Visit At a Random Point

It’s unlikely that there’s just one version of the city you’re thinking of moving to. If, like most places, it experiences seasons, then there’ll be several different versions. You’ll have a different experience living in New York in February than you would in July, for instance. When you’re planning your visit, think of when you’re going. It’s usually best just to go at a random point, rather than waiting until the optimal time to visit. 

Visiting during peak tourist season is recommended if you’re a tourist, but not when you’re trying to get a sense of what the place is really like. The best time to visit might only last a month, but you’ll be living there all year round. 

Stay in a Neighbourhood

If you’re visiting somewhere as a tourist, then it’s recommended to stay as central as possible. After all, you’ll want to be close to all the tourist attractions. But when you’re scoping out a place that you are considering moving to, then it’s best to stay in a neighborhood where locals live. Most people don’t live in the center of a city, they live on the outskirts — and if you move, you’ll likely live in the outskirts too. By staying in a neighborhood you’ll get a sense of what it’s really like to live there, including the general atmosphere of local life and how long it takes to get into the center.

Visit All Corners

There are good and bad parts of all cities. If you’re only spending time in one neighborhood, then it’s unlikely that you’ll have a full picture of what the city is like. That’s all good and well if you’re just visiting for tourism purposes, but if you’re going to move there, then it’ll be best to visit all corners. You don’t want to move all your belongings only to find out that the one neighborhood you visited previously wasn’t an accurate depiction of the city at all. You don’t need to go to every single street in the city but try to give yourself as broad an experience as you can.

Remember: You’re Not a Tourist

It’s easy to fall into tourist mode when you’re visiting a strange city. But it’s best to avoid that feeling because, well, you’re not a tourist — you’re visiting for research purposes. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun. It’s just that you should avoid the tourist experience. Visiting the beach in San Diego? Sure, because that’s something that locals do. Visiting the San Diego Zoo? Maybe not, since locals aren’t spending their weekends queueing up to go there. Also think of other tourist aspects, such as dragging your heavy luggage around. That’ll compromise your enjoyment and prevent you from getting the full picture of the city. Instead, put your bags in luggage storage and walk around freely. It’s also best to stay away from any centrally-located, tourist-focused restaurants. You’ll never eat in those places when you’re living there! 

Speak to the Locals

If you speak to tourists, you’ll probably get a pretty inaccurate picture of what the city is like. People who are traveling have rose-tinted glasses on and only see the good stuff. While their opinions may not be incorrect, you’ll get a fuller picture of the city if you speak to the locals. They’ll be able to tell you the good and bad about living in the city. As well as listening to their opinions, take a read of how they say it. If no one seems to enjoy living there, then there’s an increased chance that you’ll have issues too. On the other hand, if everyone’s telling you that they wouldn’t move cities for the world, then that’s a pretty positive sign that you’ll end up loving living there. 

Visit a Supermarket 

It’s unlikely that the cost of living will be the same as where you currently live. Ideally, the place you’re planning to move to will be less expensive. One way to find out, apart from looking at rental prices, is to visit a supermarket and do a grocery shop. You should rent an Airbnb apartment rather than a hotel to have the local experience, so you’ll have a kitchen to prepare meals with whatever you buy. Try to buy the same products that you buy in your current city and then compare prices. You’ll be spending that much money on food each week when you live there, so it’s good to know what to expect!

Observe the Atmosphere

You can learn a lot through observation. While you might have a bunch of things you want to see/do when you’re visiting the city, try to spend some time doing nothing other than observing the world. You’ll see things more clearly when you’re sitting just looking at the people. Do they seem happy? Are they the type of people you would like to live around?

Listen To Your Intuition

Finally, don’t forget good old intuition. As we’ve seen in this post, there are plenty of things you can do that’ll give you a good sense of the city you’re planning to move to. But sometimes, the real information comes inside. If you have a good sense of a city and think that you’d be happy there, then there’s something that’s worthwhile paying attention to. On the other hand, if it doesn’t quite feel right, then it’ll be time to continue looking! 

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