As a country girl gone city slicker, I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in my time in the urban jungle. I’d always had forays into Chicago periodically throughout my life, which gave me a taste. It wasn’t until I experienced Sacramento as a commuter and downtown Kansas City that I truly learned to conquer the city. I’m not the first person to turn in their “country kid swagger” for a more urban lifestyle, and I’ll definitely not be the last.
So, here they are: my 14 tips for country folks moving to the big city.
(I use the term “big” loosely, neither Kansas City or Sacramento are overwhelmingly huge cities, but any town with a few skyscrapers qualifies in my books.)
- Immerse yourself in public transit early. The sooner you learn, the better. If you’re in a “commuter city” like KC, learn the main thoroughfares and highways.
- Know where the “safety line” is, or draw one of your own. Some sheltered folks might encourage you to believe that certain things about the city are more dangerous than they truly are; at the same time, underestimating the risk of certain situations can be a huge mistake. Don’t be reckless, but don’t let preconceived notions about city life limit your horizons.
- Cost of living in higher in the city. Spend one month on as tight a budget as you can possibly manage, and use this as a benchmark to determine your minimum survival funds. (That does not include alcohol, cover charges, or cute clothes from Target.) Budgeting is HARD and you’ll need to have a good one to fully enjoy your new city.
- Go on adventures. Seriously, set out on frequent adventures. Whether you have a goal in mind (like finding a good grocery store) or no goal at all, this is the best, easiest, and most effective way to get to know your bustling new town.
- Find an organization or two to plug into. This helps with the whole “meeting people” thing. When I first got to KC, I worked in a small office where everyone had their own social lives. I needed to make friends outside of work, so I connected with my local American Cancer Society chapter, and also found a church that I love. These two groups of people are now my family in Kansas City.
- Lonely, but unsure of how to meet people? Don’t scoff at online dating. I spent about six months on Match.com — the first 5.5 months allowed me to try out new bars and restaurants around Kansas City without having to go alone. The last half-month was spent in my early courtship with Josh. A year-and-a-half later, we’re still together. (My priority with Match.com was to get out and see the city — I never expected to fall in love.)
- Try out different neighborhoods. Obviously, once you sign a lease you’re stuck there for the duration, but explore different parts of town. You may find that you like the nightlife in one area better, or prefer the restaurants in another. After two years downtown, I realized that the Northland was where I belong, but I prefer the food downtown and the bars in Westport. You’ll also find the areas you don’t want to hit.
- Dig into the local dishes. Every city has its signature foods, and chances are they’re DELICIOUS.
- Prepare yourself for noise. There’s an unspoken understanding that cities are louder than small towns or the country, but nothing can really equip you for the changes in sounds found when you live in a city proper. It isn’t bad — in fact, once you’re used to it, it’s pretty therapeutic.
- Find your new doctor before you need them, but also find out where the urgent care clinics are. I’ve made the mistake multiple times of waiting until I NEEDED a doctor to find one. In a busy city, you can’t just walk into a doctor’s office and see one. Find a primary care physician BEFORE you need them, for long-term well-being, and plan on visiting the urgent care clinics when lesser-emergencies arise.
- Dive into local traditions and festivities. If you know KC, you know “First Fridays” are a big deal downtown. The American Royal is also a Kansas City institution. When I was new in town, I made it my business to be at all the hot happenings I could! It helped me feel like I was taking ownership and thriving, instead of just surviving.
- Find a good grocery store ASAP. Figure out if you’d rather commute out of the city for more selection and price options, or take advantage of the convenience of more expensive, more limited downtown options.
- Even though you’re a country kid, don’t isolate yourself from “city slickers.” You probably have something in common with them. You are more than “just a farm kid” — you’re an individual with distinct tastes in music, movies, hobbies, foods, and much more! (Thanks to my friend Brooke from Rural Gone Urban for this pointer!)
- Never turn down a happy hour. The co-worker or casual acquaintance that invites you to a happy hour could end up being your new BFF or even romantic interest. If it’s a group happy hour, network! This could be the foundation of your new social life. (Another tip from the lovely Brooke!)
There are more. Many more. I could dig into the nuances of local airports, utilities, car care, dog-friendly places and leash laws, and much more. I wish I had enough characters for all the life advice I’d like to impart on all my country-born homedogs looking to call in the big city home. However, this list feels like a good starting point. I’m sure there will be more posts in the future about this.
So, for my country folks out there, what questions would you ask? And for my city friends, what advice would YOU offer?