If you’ve ever made a big move, whether to a different county or a different country, you are probably familiar with that uprooted feeling that comes along with leaving everything known for something different and new. It can be exciting but also… terrifying. How do you build a life in a new place? When you’re wondering how to find the supermarket, navigate the tube and perhaps even learn a new language, having a warm, cosy, comfortable place where you can rest your head becomes even more important than usual. Making a home away from home is hard — get the ball rolling by trying out one or more of these ideas.
Set up a routine
When you arrive in a new place, whether it’s a different city or a different continent, a daily routine can help create a feeling of normalcy. Seek out a few spots in your local area - a café, bakery and newsagent, for instance - and visit them each day. Smile and say hello (or bonjour or ciao) to the shopkeeper, sip your coffee, eat breakfast and repeat. After a few days of this, you and the shopkeepers (and maybe a few other regulars) will get to recognise one another, making the greetings more familiar and perhaps warmer.
Shop and cook à la Julia Child
Channel Julia Child, who famously explored France, often solo, while her diplomat husband Paul Child was busy working. Although Julia must have stuck out in a sea of native Parisians, she fully embraced the experience by tapping into her passion for food — something people of all cultures understand. Give yourself a mission to explore the markets and local foods of whatever area you have moved to, whether that’s Paris or Edinburgh.
Learn more about where you are
It’s natural to feel out of sorts when you first arrive in a new place — but don’t let that discomfort turn to feeling judgmental or bitter about the differences between where you are now and where you used to live. Read books about the area and the culture. Sign up for a language course or join a conversation group. Cultivate an attitude of optimism and curiosity about your surroundings.
Create a sanctuary in your bedroom
Exploring a new city can be exhausting, especially if there are language differences involved. Give yourself the gift of an utterly safe and comforting place in which to land at the end of each day by making your bedroom the ultimate sanctuary. Soft lighting, lovely bedding, a scented candle, cosy slippers and perhaps a small radio or an iPod dock so you can listen to your favourite music will help the space feel like home.
Embrace the local coffee (or tea) break
From English teatime to the Swedish coffee-and-cake break known as fika, it seems nearly everywhere in the world has its own break-time tradition. So wherever you are, do as the locals do. In Italy enjoy a shot of espresso taken in a single gulp while standing at the bar in the café, like the locals do on a quick break from work. A small shift in the way you do things, even in your own home, such as taking afternoon tea rather than coffee, can be a gentle way to nudge yourself into a new culture.
A simple but highly effective way to make your new home feel cosy and welcoming is to go a little wild with candlelight and fresh flowers.
Cluster candles on trays, put one on your bedside table and line them up at the centre of your dining table.
Visit a flower stall or grocery store and treat yourself to fresh blooms once a week. When your mood needs bolstering, light all your candles, put on some lovely music and inhale the scent of the flowers gracing your space.
Connect online with people back home … but not too much
This is the digital age, after all - you might as well take advantage of it! Connect with friends and family through video calls and social media, if you like. But remember, connecting with long-distance loved ones should be a nice treat, not a substitute for getting out there and building a satisfying and interesting life in your new area.
Put personal treasures on display
Books, photos, artwork and other personal items become even more important when you’re in a new place.
Take an afternoon to display your things in your new place - hang up photos of friends and family, organise your bookshelves and put your favourite linen on the bed.
Reinvent your style … if you want to
You’re in a new place, and no one knows you yet. Why not take this as an opportunity to try out a new look? Edit your wardrobe, organise your wardrobe and go shopping. Besides, shopping is a great excuse to get out there and explore a new area.
Easier said than done, but well worth the effort. If you’re finding it hard to meet people, try seeking out a local group related to one of your passions or hobbies. Take a class, volunteer for a local charity or attend an event that sounds interesting. If you’ve moved to a new country, connect with the local expat community. If you’re a parent, seek out a play group to join. Once you’ve made one connection, it’s bound to lead to others.
Planting something, even a potted garden on your balcony, makes a statement that this is a place you plan to stay in for a while.
If you love gardening but don’t have a garden of your own, see if there is a local community garden where you could get a small area to tend — it could also be a great way to connect with other like-minded people.
Collect moments of beauty
Of course, there are places we immediately think of as beautiful, but every place has its own charm. Grab your camera and head out on a daily walk, snapping pictures of the little things that catch your eye.
If you want to make it interesting, issue yourself a creative challenge - take photos of a single colour, or find the first letter of your name or a heart shape. The creative project will loosen you up, and you may end up with some frameworthy shots to boot!
Reignite your wanderlust
Plan a day trip to a region you’ve never explored. After the shock of being somewhere totally new, you may realise that the place you come back ‘home’ to feels exactly like that … home.
Make your home feel sweet, even if it is temporary
Those who move frequently, learn that home is where you make it. No matter how long you think you’ll be staying where you are, you might as well make it the best possible experience while it lasts.