Moving to a New City Alone: 11 Tips on How to Cope

Moving to a new city alone can be extremely difficult. Having done it a few times personally, I believe the key thing is to get settled into a routine and start meeting people as soon as possible. Here are some tips to avoid being lonely in a new city.

moving to a new city alone

Even moving to new cities in your native country can be difficult.

Moving to a new city alone can be incredibly difficult and leave you feeling isolated and unhappy.

You may arrive with a job, a place to live and have a few acquaintances knocking about, but there’ll still be moments where you’ll feel very much alone and lonely.

It takes time to settle into a new city – six to twelve months by all accounts.

Sometimes you’ll slip right into the pace of life your new city offers… other times it’ll take a lot longer for you to feel at home.

There will inevitably be times where you’ll feel lonely, but luckily, there are things you can do to distract yourself, until the feeling passes (along with steps you can take to increase your social circle, so that these moments become far and few between).

Here are a few tips on how to avoid feeling lonely when you move to a new city alone.

Read more: 13 Reasons Why You Should Never Become an Expat

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Tips For Moving to a New City Alone

sign in waterloo london

Don’t wait then… make it happen!

1. Aggressively pursue everyone you know

This has been my number one tip for making friends in a new city.

I hit up everyone I know – old school friends, friends of friends, the second cousin of someone I worked with for three months at my after school job in 2005 – if we have a tentative link, it’s getting exploited, no buts about it.

What about when you don’t know anyone? Well, there are still ways and means, my friend.

I moved to Doha in 2014 and knew absolutely no one. There was a rather lovely Kiwi girl at my work orientation, one of those types of people who is effortlessly cool and immediately liked by everyone.

I eventually convinced her to hang out with me and add me to a Whatsapp group of other freelances at my work.

Bang – I was suddenly meeting people and within three weeks had made friends with two girls who I count amongst my nearest and dearest to this day.

This is a practise that requires you to really throw yourself out of your comfort zones.

Yet, it pays off in the long run – I can assure you of that.

lonely in a new city

The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne

2. Lose yourself in fiction

This may be a point for the bookworms alone, but as someone who likes to read, I find novels to be a great comfort in a new city.

You pick up a book and for a few hours you can escape elsewhere, walk a few miles in another person’s shoes and forget any problems you may be facing in your own life at the time.

I highly advocate joining a library when you immediately move to a new city.

Not only are they usually beautiful buildings to hang out in, but many have free Internet to boot. Plus if you’re a reader, you’ll save yourself a tonne of money – I’ve borrowed over 60 books from my library this year and saved myself hundreds of cash dollars in the process.

I know, I’m a crazy kid who needs to reign themselves in, damnit!

Read more: Which is Harder: Moving Abroad, or Coming Home?

lonely in a new city

Take yourself out for afternoon tea, perhaps.

3. Treat yourself

Moving to a new city alone is both scary and stressful. Be nice to yourself. You deserve it.

Take yourself out for dinner. Buy those new shoes you’ve had an eye on. Replace your old camera lens so you can take quality photos of your new city. Get that pretty doona cover for your new bed. Try out that community acupuncture centre down the road. Get your nails did.

There’s a whole range of things you can do, to suit any desire and budget. Give yourself things to look forward to throughout each week – it’ll make it easier to settle in.

lonely in a new city

Like mouse taxidermy.

4. Pick up a hobby you never would have tried at home

Here’s an opportunity to try something completely different.

Join that German language class. Learn how to crochet. Do a class in anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy. Join a choir. Start sketching nude people at a life drawing class every Wednesday night. The choice is yours!

You’ll not only be trying something new that you may have had an interest in for some time – you’ll be meeting likeminded people. More opportunity for awesome friendships to form.

Who knew you’d ever bond with someone over your shared love of moulding stuffed dead animals into humanoid positions? Life is beautiful.

Read more: 13 Reasons Why You Should Move Overseas at Least Once in Your Lifetime

mcg melbourne

This is the most sports photo I’ve ever taken, of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Grounds).

5. Join a sports team

As someone who cites yoga and swimming as their main form of exercise (VERY SOLITARY ENDEAVOURS), this is a point that has been less helpful. I can see the merits in it, however.

If you’re an athletic type, or you can successfully complete a sports game without running into a brick wall and knocking yourself out (I may or may not be speaking from experience), then join a sports team!

Soccer/football, other types of football which don’t actually feature much foot action yet get called football nonetheless, netball, basketball, tennis, squash, salsa dancing, chess (okay, that’s not a sport, but it involves human interaction, so whatever).

You’ll not only meet new people, you’ll be getting fitter in the process.

Well, not if you’re playing chess. I guess you’ll be sharpening your mind, so that’s something.

lonely in a new city

The National Gallery of Victoria has fast become one of my favourite places in Melbourne.

6. Indulge in local art

I recently read a fantastic book by English writer Olivia Laing called The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone.

Laing described moving to a new city alone – New York – only to have one of the most lonely experiences of her life. She spent a lot of this time researching the art of other lonely characters such as Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol and Henry Darger. Their art spoke to her, in ways that helped alleviate her loneliness.

And I agree – art is a wonderful, wonderful thing to get lost in. It pays tenfold to take yourself regularly to art galleries around your city, as well as exploring the urban art that is on offer (if you live in cities like London, Melbourne, New York, etc you’ll never run out of public art to look at).

lonely in a new city

One of my favourite cinemas in Melbourne, the Sun Theatre in Yarraville.

7. Take yourself out to the movies, often

Here’s another form of fantastic escapism, for those less inclined to read (or who like both watching movies and reading books. You’re allowed to like both).

I personally love exploring the cinemas within the cities I live in, particularly as it’s something you can easily do yourself. Although I wouldn’t recommend going to see the latest blockbuster at say, 7pm on a Saturday night unless you truly couldn’t give a crap about being alone.

Either way, it’s a pretty simple way to kill a couple of hours. I like being a member of the cinemas I frequent – I feel both a sense of belonging and as though I were part of some cool club.

lonely in a new city

Travellers at Kings Cross Station in London.

8. Travel

Well, duh you may say. If you’re living in a new city, particularly one in a foreign country, it’s probably because you have some sort of interest in travel. Maybe. Just a bit.

So, get out there! Live in the UK or Europe? You’ve got an entire continent just waiting to be explored. The USA is one of the most diverse places you can travel to.

Canada is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Asia is mostly ridiculously cheap to travel in. Australia has a lot going on and is only a hop, skip and a jump away from NZ, which packs a lot in for a tiny country.

lonely in a new city

If you move to a city as diverse as New York, you may never run out of pockets to explore.

9. Explore different areas of your new city

If you’re moving to a new city alone but you can’t travel abroad, or outside your new home of choice just yet – get to know your new city a bit better!

I lived in London for two years and loved poking around new areas of the city, as well as my own “hood” – a city that old always had something new to discover.

I live in Melbourne now and make sure to explore new corners of the city every chance I get – every neighbourhood is different in its own way and has something new to offer.

I also regularly try to walk down different streets in my own suburb – it helps keep it fresh.

Read more: The Best Neighbourhoods in Melbourne to Explore

lonely in a new city

Living out the Victorian Terrace Dream helped me feel at home in London.

10. Pick a house that you’re actually going to feel at home in

Where you live (and who with) is so integral to helping you feel at home in a new city.

It took me a year when I moved to London to find a place that I could call my own, where it didn’t feel like I was encroaching on anyone else’s territory.

But lord, did it make a world of difference. It definitely helped that it was exactly the kind of place I’d imagined living in when I pictured my life in the city.

So, shop around when looking for somewhere to live and pick a place that has a vibe that sits well with you (and comes with housemates who aren’t batshit insane). It’ll be worth it in the long run, trust me!

lonely in a new city

A few plants and books help me to feel less alone.

1. Invest in the odd thing that’s going to help you feel at home

Some people do the minimalist thing well, but I’m a hoarder nester and always like having a few items of comfort around me. Books, plants and trinkets all make the list – art and photos are a big one too.

Just don’t go crazy, lest you want to end up shipping seven boxes home (mostly filled with books) like I did when I moved from London back to Australia. Whoops.

At the end of the day, time is key. You’re going through a massive upheaval and it makes sense that you’ll feel disorientated and lonely from time to time, in varying degrees. But it’s a feeling that does pass and you’ll be living it up with your new pals, in your new city before you know it.

Have you moved to a new city by yourself? Do you have any tips you’d like to add for settling in?

Other articles like this

The Downsides of Moving to your Dream City.
What They Don’t Tell You About Moving Overseas.
How to Survive Christmas as an Expat.
Was Moving Overseas a Big Mistake?
Some Thoughts on Friendship in the Digital Age
What I Miss Most About Living in London

If you like it, you should stick a pin in it.

Here are some tips to avoid being lonely in a new city, from obvious ones like travel and new hobbies, to losing yourself in fiction and surrounding yourself with things that bring you comfort. / Expat Life / Move Overseas / How to move to a new city alone / #Expat / #ExpatLife / Moving Abroad /


LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats. Follow along on Facebook or sign up to the monthly newsletter.

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Sarah - November 18, 2017

Awesome advice, I started volunteering when I moved to a new city, and made some amazing friends that way.

    LC - November 22, 2017

    Also a great idea!

Katie Ackerley - November 18, 2017

Yes!! These tips are so good! I was so scared when I first moved to New Zealand from England and really struggled to meet people at first. Joining a sports team has been my real saviour here! I’ve met so many great people through it and even got to see a little bit more of the country!

Investing in things to make me feel at home also made such a huge difference. It really is just a few little things that change everything! Thanks for sharing! x

    LC - November 22, 2017

    NZ is so sports orientated, I can see how that would help. And yeah, I know it’s akin to nesting, but the familiarity of these found objects really do help.

    LC - November 22, 2017

    NZ is so sports orientated, I can see how that would definitely help a lot. And yeah even if it is akin to nesting, having found objects around definitely helps.

Helenaq - November 18, 2017

This was hilarious and so true at the same time. Love your writing. I’ve moved to new cities 4 times in the last few years and can relate to most of these. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve done them all. Except sports. Cause sports.

    LC - November 22, 2017

    Thanks Helen! Yep, I’m with you on the sports. I can see how it would be a good idea… but, no.

Meg - November 19, 2017

Excellent tips! So often we are afraid to jump out of our comfy routines, but that can mean missing out on something great when you move to a new city.

Kati - November 27, 2017

This is such a heartwarming post (I think I just aged myself by 30 years by using ‘heartwarming’??)! Anyways, your photos are making me Melbourne homesick and your thoughts are spot on as always. I must say though that as you get older, it gets harder and harder to make friends, especially if you’re on the introvert spectrum and don’t fancy joining clubs and stuff (though who could possibly say no to a mouse taxidermy class?!!! 😀 😀 ).

    LC - December 3, 2017

    Thanks Kati. Yeah, I think there’s sort of a “middle period” of life where everyone has their established friendship groups and it can be hard to burrow in. I have to say, all the friends I’ve made in new cities have generally been people who aren’t from there originally – that definitely says something! I will get on that mouse taxidermy post soon, haha.

      Kati - December 4, 2017

      Yep, that’s a good point – you often make friends who are also not established… I guess, like the whole expats meet expats thing.

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