In the past 3 years I’ve lived in 11 places. Yup, I’m ready to get settled in and stay in one spot now. Being someone who has relocated to a new city many times, I’ve discovered that there are four stages to adjusting to a new place.
Stage 1: Love (1 to 3 months)When you first arrive everything is new and exciting and amazing. It’s like being a tourist; for a short while you don’t have to notice anything negative and you don’t want to. You want to fall in love and there is so much to intake that you only bother processing the things you like. So many delicious places to eat! So much to explore! To see! To do! This is an adventure; it’s so exciting!
Stage 2: Hate (1 to 3 months)Suddenly you realize that you can’t leave. You’re stuck in this place and (gasp!) it’s not perfect. You notice the dirty, the ugly and the inconvenient. You get a terrible haircut and miss all the little nuances that made the last place you lived special. You also begin to process the realities of your life and your situation. This isn’t a vacation nor an adventure: it’s real life. Boo.
Stage 3: Adjust (6 to 9 months)You process your love and your hate. You learn to get around. You find a doctor, a hairstylist, a favorite coffee shop and your preferred bar. You learn how you personally fit into your new world and develop routines to make it comfortable. You nest into a home and begin to craft a social network. Hopefully you’ve got a job and you start to get the hang of it as well.
Stage 4: Thrive (Forever)You’ve accepted the imperfect and figured out how your world functions. Now you’re ready to embrace the things that are unique and special about your city. This is when you find hidden gems and become a city guru. When people come to visit, you know all the cool spots and can play tour guide. You've got a social network now, and maybe a relationship. Life is good.
I’ve found that stages 1-3 always happen. Stage 4? Not always. You can adjust to a place and never really thrive there. That was me in Orange County. Yeah, I lived there for 2 years and had a life. Did I ever really start liking it? Nope. Argentina, on the other hand, was amazing for me. I got to do each stage in vivid color and found my groove.
I do recommend that you never leave a place in the Hate stage. You really have to give a city at least 6 months to a year in order to judge if it could be right for you.
Right now I'm optimistic about my move, but it takes time. There have been some overwhelming parts and I'm probably somewhere between Love and Hate right now and trying to be patient while I adjust. Life in SF has massive potential.
This 4-Stage New City Theory is based on my personal experience and has no real sociological foundation, so I’m curious to hear what you think. Have you experienced the same stages when adjusting to a new life?