How to move to a new city alone & avoid being lonely

Moving to a new city alone can be extremely difficult. I’ve done it quite a few times. The best thing to do is to settle into a routine and start meeting people as soon as possible. Here are some tips to avoid being lonely in a new city.

Melbourne Australia's cityscape and the Yarra River on a sunny day. Discover how to move to a new city alone and have a wonderful time.
The city of Melbourne in Australia. I moved here alone several years ago.

Moving to a new city alone can be a great adventure.

Yet it doesn’t come without its difficulties.

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 up to two years.

You may be lucky enough to slip right into the pace of your new city… or it can take awhile 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.

Here are a few tips on how to move to a new city alone and avoid being lonely.

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Tips For moving to a new city alone

A sign spotted in Waterloo, London. It reads 'Like man, I'm tired (of waiting)
Don’t wait then… make it happen!

1. Pursue everyone you know (even vaguely)

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

When I move, 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 you have even a tentative link, exploit it.

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

Unless you’re moving to somewhere super remote, you’re presumably going to be around people. At your job, an exercise class, in cafes.

You may need to really throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Start a conversation, suggest a catch up.

Some people will be open to making new friends. Others aren’t. Yet, it’s always worth a shot.

Here are some tips for making friends in the digital age.

2. Bring extra savings

This is a must do if you’re moving to a new city where the currency is strong. And definitely if you’re moving without a job lined up.

It can take some time to find work, as you settle into your new home.

Give yourself a buffer if you can, so you can search for a new source of income stress free, without worrying about burning through your savings.

3. 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 ton of money.

Image from Kings Cross Station in London of the silhouette of travellers against a patterned ceiling.
Travellers at Kings Cross Station in London.

4. 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 (duvet) cover for your new bed.

Try out that community acupuncture centre down the road.

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.

5. 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 you’ve been wanting to do. Learn how to crochet. Do a class in anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy. Join a choir or walking group. 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’re interested in – you’ll be meeting like-minded 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.

6. Moving to a new city alone? Join a sports team

If you’re moving to a new city alone and want to improve your overall fitness while making friends, join a sports team.

There’s plenty of options to choose from. 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 so much if you’re playing chess. I guess you’ll be sharpening your mind, so that’s something.

Outside the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. A fountain features at the front of the image. A sign on the gallery was is advertising 'NGV Friday Nights'.
The National Gallery of Victoria has fast become one of my favourite places in Melbourne.

7. Indulge in local art

Once, I bought, read and subsequently adored a 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.

while there, she spent time researching the works of notably lonely artists 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 when you’re feeling emotional or lonely.

It pays tenfold to take yourself regularly to art galleries around your city, as well as exploring urban art (if you live in cities like London, Melbourne, New York, etc you’ll never run out of public art to look at).

8. Take yourself out to the movies, often

Here’s another form of fantastic escapism.

I personally love exploring the cinemas within the cities I live in, especially as it’s something you can do on your own.

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 recommend buying memberships to the cinemas I frequent.

It can give you a sense of belonging and as though you are part of some cool club.

9. 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 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 New Zealand, which packs a lot in for a tiny country.

A big building in Greenpoint, New York, with a colourful mural on its side.
If you move to a city as diverse as New York, you may never run out of pockets to explore.

10. Explore different areas of your new city: be a tourist in your town

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 neighbourhood.

A city that old always has something new to discover.

I live in Melbourne now and make sure to explore new corners of the city every chance I get.

Each area is different in its own way and has something new to offer.

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

11. Pick a house that you’re actually going to feel at home in with fantastic flatmates

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 and I could relax and be myself. 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.

It’ll be worth it in the long run, trust me!

The easiest way to settle in after moving to a new city alone is to have some things around you that will make you feel at home. Image is of a table featuring a plant, a passport holder with password and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Purple Hibiscus'.
A few plants and books help me to feel less alone.

12. 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 and trinkets all make the list. Art and photos are a big one too.

Plants are wonderful as they bring many benefits. And having something to take care of can help you feel less alone.

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.

13. Consider volunteering

If you’re feeling lonely after moving to a new city alone, spending time helping others is a surefire way to distract you.

You could help out at an animal shelter. Look for groups that plant trees or pick up litter in the local area.

Perhaps you want to volunteer at a soup kitchen or deliver food to elderly citizens of your city.

Not only are these good ways to meet like-minded folk, volunteering can increase your self-esteem and well-being.

Blue bike leaning against a fence on Rottnest Island. Riding a bike around is a great way to get to know an area when you're moving to a new city alone.
Use your bike to explore new places.

14. Buy a bike

Bikes are an excellent and fun distraction when you’re moved to a new city alone.

You can wake up on the weekend, jump on your bike and pedal around at leisure.

To shops, markets, new neighbourhoods, dedicated bike paths.

Not only are they a fun way to get around, but you’re getting a decent exercise session in at the same time.

Moving to a new city alone is not as frightening as you think

Moving someplace new is a big deal and can raise varying emotions.

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.

It can also be so much fun. You’re discovering a new place, perhaps working a job you’re really passionate about and meeting loads of interesting people. What’s not to love!

At the end of the day, time is key when moving to a new city alone.

Remember, 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? I have written guides for moving to London and Melbourne, which mauy be helpful.

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 /

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  1. 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

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?!!! 😀 😀 ).

    1. 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.

      1. 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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