07 March 2024

Moving house is among the top five life stressors and even more so when the move is not just from one house to another, but to a new city or country. In another article, we discussed how the 80:20 principle plays an important role in choosing a new city and preparing for the move. In this article we’ll give you some useful tips and the odd life hack for putting that preparation – the 80% – to work, creating a new home, and turning your new city into your hometown.

Venturing out: discovering the neighbourhood

Take to the streets: wander around the neighbourhood to discover the local park, nearest grocery shop, and bakery for those essentials you always need. At the same time, scout and try out coffee shops, delis, and restaurants that could become family favourites and your future regular haunts.

The admin

Admin is a necessary evil and it’s best to rip off the bandaid and just do it. You may have already attended to some of the little – big – things, like notifying your bank and other service providers of your new address. Remember, though, that often you need proof of your new physical address before you can make these changes. While it is often the utilities’ account that does the job, you may not be able to wait until the first one with your name on it lands in your inbox. In that case, it’s best to swear an affidavit at your local police station.

Oh, and don’t forget that if you have relocated from one town to another when your motor vehicle licence expires, you’ll also have to update those details to reflect your new residential address. If you’ve moved provinces, this will mean new licence plates, too.

At the same time, especially if you have children, investigate and, as appropriate, register with a nearby general practitioner or dentist.

Many neighbourhoods have community social media groups – join them: they’re a useful source of local knowledge about service providers to trust (or avoid). Of course, it’s still important to do your own homework: reviews and similar platforms are also useful.

Getting back to your normal routine

As the dust settles, try and get back into your “old” routine. Humans are creatures of habit and structure makes us feel safe and more in control. Sometimes these are imposed on us because we must get the kids to school, or ourselves to the office, on time. Others, like the weekly visit to the farmers’ market. Remember how you’d have Sunday breakfast there every week? Now it’s time to venture further than your backyard as a tourist in your new hometown – getting to know your way around – and either re-establishing old traditions or developing new ones. For example, if you’ve moved to the coast, perhaps a daily run on the beach could replace that early morning hike up the mountain.

Getting social – meeting people and making friends

It’s not enough to get to know the place where you live. You also need to connect with people. In this day and age, with high walls and locked gates, that’s sometimes easier said than done. If you have children of school-going age, that helps. As they build new friendships at school and you attend school functions, you’ll inevitably meet other parents with whom you’ll (hopefully) connect. Similarly, as you get to know new colleagues at work, they could graduate from acquaintances to become friends.

Often, that’s not enough and that’s when it’s time to take out your pre-move research and seek out that book- or sports club and/or hobby club, and actually make contact.

Keep your eye on the local media for events in and around your neighbourhood and city, which provide opportunities for both meeting new people and exploring new experiences. Local and community radio stations are a mine of useful information about everything from community controversies and cultural activities to charity events.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

It takes time to settle into a new home and a new city. Allow yourself the time you need to do it. Often a move within a neighbourhood has our friends clamouring for a housewarming party. In a new city, that’s a tall order with, potentially, no established friendship circle, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. Instead, why not aim for a “celebrating our new hometown” party around the first anniversary of your arrival in your hometown?

Turning a house into a home - day of arrival

There is not much worse than arriving at an empty house with all your worldly goods in a van parked outside, and knowing that somehow, between that moment and bedtime, you just need to get that house feeling like home.

Assuming the house is spick and span – if it’s not, a blitz is the place to start – then it’s a question of priorities. People who move regularly will tell you that the most important things to get done first are the beds. It seems counter-intuitive, but once the furniture has been unloaded and the gazillion boxes have been dumped on every available vacant spot, chaos will likely be the order of the next several days as you carry on unpacking. Having beds made up – especially if there are children – means that you all have at least one small space of peace in which you can retreat.

Next, a tea and coffee station. Remember to let the fridge sit for at least an hour to let the gas settle before you plug it in at your new kitchen. Keep a cooler box with some milk so that you can get and/or make that cuppa-on-the-run as you get stuck into unpacking and deciding what will go where.

It’s a team effort

Because you’re in a new city, the kids won’t be able to escape to their friends down the road. To keep them occupied and to speed up the process, give them specific jobs, starting with their bedrooms. While all this is going on, and depending on advice from your estate agent, one of you will probably be attending to the family’s safety and security: is the system functioning and does it need upgrading, e.g. cameras? Do you need the provider to come in and do a check and change any codes? Similarly, is it necessary to change any locks or install more? Divide and conquer can be key here - one could keep unpacking while the other sees to the security and other installations.

Draw on the expertise of your local Real Estate Agent

When you move to a new city, your local real estate agent is invaluable. They know your new city intimately and will be more than happy to share the inside track. Because RE/MAX has both a national and international footprint, you can work with an agent from the same brand – in the city you’re leaving behind – and in your new hometown. As you settle, reach out to your RE/MAX agent who has local knowledge, as well as experience and expertise to help you navigate your new territory – in South Africa and/or in a new country.

Have more unanswered questions? Here are some related questions – and answers – that might help…

How long does it take to adjust to a new city?

It’s hard to give an exact timeframe on how long it takes to adjust to a new town or city. Much of this could, well, depend on you. Some people settle quickly, others do not. Perhaps it’s worth bearing in mind that it takes anything between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit.

Why is moving to a new place so stressful?

Moving is stressful, whether it’s in the same city or not. It is, however, more stressful when you move cities, and as trite as it might seem, it really is fear of the unknown. The best way to manage that stress and the accompanying symptoms is to follow some of the steps outlined in the article above and take your time.

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