Moving to a new city - 8 Tips to help you prepare.
Updated: Mar 11
I’ve been fortunate enough to live in 3 South African cities so far.
I grew up in Port Elizabeth and then moved to Johannesburg in 2013, After spending 6 years in Jozi, my wife and I moved down to Cape Town in 2019.
Moving to a new city stirs up a mixed bag of emotions. It’s exciting, but also scary, and it can be quite sad and lonely at first. The best advice I was given (and it’s been true for both moves so far) - It takes time to feel ‘normal’ again. For me it was about 6 months - both times.
There are a couple of things you can start doing before you move that will make it a lot easier and prepare you for the emotional roller-coaster you are about to board.
1. Save, Save, Save! You need a bit of a financial buffer. Relocating is expensive, and if you are self-employed it’s going to take a bit of time before you start earning what you are earning now. Don’t worry too much if you aren’t loaded, but definitely make an effort to put something away in the months leading up to the move. Financial stress is only going to put more strain on your emotions. A little is better than nothing with this regard.
2. It’s not what you know but who you know. This saying is 100% true.
When you leave your city for a new one, you leave a lot of your contacts behind - especially if you are self-employed. We take our industry colleagues for granted - until we get to a new place and suddenly realise that we know no one. At least that’s how it feels.
The remedy for this is to start reaching out to people in your industry and inform them of your move ahead of time. This goes for your current city as well as the new one. The more people that know about your move, the greater the chances of landing work right off the bat. Or better yet, before you even arrive.
3. A Tangible Support System. I was very fortunate to do both my moves with my then girlfriend and now wife. This obviously isn’t an option for everyone but if it’s at all possible, move with a friend, partner or family member who is also keen to move. Not only does it help financially, but it’s good to know that there is someone else who is experiencing the same emotions with you in real time.
4. Do your research. Decide on a few areas where you’d like to stay and then take a day or two to visit your new city and explore the different suburbs and see what each one has to offer - before your move. When doing this, think about things like - where you’re going to work, where you’re going to shop for groceries and where you’re going to socialise. These are all things you take for granted in your current city but it takes time to get your bearings in a new place. The more you know about your area, the less frustrated you will get.
5. Find new friends. And find the right ones. The right friends are the types of people who enjoy the same things as you. So if you like yoga, find a yoga class as soon as possible, if you like soccer, find a soccer club and join as soon as you can. Remember, it’s much easier to talk to a stranger who has the same interests as you.
6. Stay in touch. Don’t forget about your friends back home. They love and miss you whether you guys speak on the phone all day or not. Start a WhatsApp group with your core group of friends and family and post regular photos and updates to them. You will feel connected to them and their friendly banter will be good for the morale.
7. It takes time. Don’t fool yourself. Prepare mentally for a rough emotional patch and know that it’s normal. It will pass, but it takes time. Like I said before, for me it was 6 months. So don’t make any rash decisions when you feel down. Chances are good that during this time you may even regret your decision, but this is because you are emotional and longing for a sense of familiarity. This will pass and things will get better. It just takes time.
8. Get excited! You are moving to a new city! There is so much to look forward to and it truly is an exciting time and a rewarding challenge. Embrace the change - it’s inevitable. Accept your decision and stick to your guns!
PS this was our bed in Johannesburg for a week once all our stuff was packed up and sent down to CT. The timing won't always work out perfectly ;)
Good luck and enjoy the process! This is a life changing experience. Good or bad it’s one you will never forget.