How to Survive Moving to a Big, New City as an Introvert

An introvert looks at a view of the city

Slow down, take some time to fall in love with the new city, and don’t feel pressured to make small talk.

To move and settle in a new, bustling city can be a challenge. Between the flashing city lights and the hustle culture of a new town, it is not easy, especially for an introvert, to feel at ease. It may take some time for us to understand and adapt to the new culture.

Being an introvert, my shift to the Big Apple, New York, was truly a testimony to my survival instincts. The city itself is an epitome of wonder and befits the title — larger than life. Yet the massive skyline and towering Manhattan streets intimidated me. The subway system looked like a new language, while the “judgmental” glares from my peers — for things like not knowing about simple transactions or the city culture — embarrassed me.

Thankfully, I discovered ways for an introvert to survive a move to a new city. Here’s how I did it.

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6 Ways to Survive the Hustle of a New City as an Introvert

1. Phones are your best friends — for maps, apps, you name it.

As a non-social media enthusiast, it is troubling for me to state that your phone does become your savior. It can be hard and confusing to adjust to a new city and not look like a lost soul. However, a little help from your multi-functional tech piece should get you to your destinations. Conversations and drama are two things I religiously avoid as an introvert, and honestly, my EarPods became an extended part of my body. 

We introverts tend to live in our heads, and that’s exactly what I did my first few months in my jarring new environment. While music became my best friend, navigating through maps became my soul food. Maps, maps, and more maps! 

Asking for directions is not anyone’s cup of tea, and for an introvert, it makes sense to rely mostly on your maps vs. actually asking someone for help. There has not been a single day where I have not checked my phone for the weather and the routes I would have to use that day.

2. Don’t feel pressured to make small talk.

Growing up in a South Asian household, I often became the center of attention after winning some online contest or topping my own academic scores. As a child, I was taught to be good company to others while respecting their boundaries. However, for an introvert, this was challenging because it involved so… much… talking. Feeling pressured to make polite small talk changed after I moved to a new city. 

The best advice I can give you would be to mind your own business unless asked for it. Luckily, small talk isn’t a hard and fast rule in the urban hustle. While traveling by subway, for instance, you often see people busy with their day-to-day lives who are in a hurry, much like yourself. So don’t bother much about others and just go with your own flow.

3. Kindness goes a long way.

There’s a fine line between being kind and being intrusive, and for introverts, it’s important to establish this boundary with others. In big cities, I’ve found that people generally are kind and helpful, yet it can also be taxing, as they are typically in a rush and tend not to be very observant.

To fit in with others, it’s best to be polite and offer a helping hand when you can. A simple “have a nice day” greeting is nice — and it costs you nothing. Being kind to others should always be a priority, but even more so when you feel uncomfortable in a new city or culture.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

4. It’s okay to ask questions.

As a new explorer of the city, there will be certain things that you may not be aware of or don’t fully understand… yet. There may be cultural, standards of living, or even lifestyle differences that may seem peculiar to you at first, but it’s okay to be a bit clueless about them and to ask questions. In a new place, you can’t be expected to know everything, so it’s okay to take your time to understand and ask questions if something is confusing. People are usually polite and helpful and do not judge you for asking them things, even little things. 

5. Be aware of your surroundings.

As mentioned previously, a little preparation before moving is always an advantage and can help you in those first few grueling weeks. Every city has its pros and cons, and moving to a new place can be daunting. However, if you might stay in that place for a prolonged period of time, it is necessary to understand, and be vigilant about, the city’s problems as much as the city’s perks.

Honestly, for me, nothing is more nerve-wracking than an argument, unnecessary drama, or even having a conversation with people I don’t know. Understanding the culture and people might take some time, but that doesn’t mean that you should not be aware of your surroundings or the possible outcomes of the situation. 

Along with the other tips, keeping yourself updated on scams, mishaps, or any other menacing situations that may occur is a priority. It’s good to be vigilant and aware of the people around you at all times, in any situation.

6. Like-minded people can, and will, help uplift you.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, moving to a new city is a challenge. As introverts, we can be even more thrown off by change. The first few weeks may be the most anxious part of your new start, and part of your introverted brain will probably try to convince you that this was the wrong move. However, let me tell you, as someone who has had this experience recently, it will all come out okay in the end.

In the beginning, a new city might make you feel lonely, but just know it will take time to adjust. People who have similar interests, or who have been in similar situations as you, will positively affect your mood. Keep yourself surrounded by like-minded people and choose social activities that are interesting and enjoyable to you.

Take Your Time to Enjoy the City

Sometimes we succumb to the dread of moving and become so engaged in the hustle that we don’t give ourselves time to fall in love with the city. Introverts like to live in their heads, and “me time” is always our fave, so a new city, despite its fast-moving urban life, can be a great place to enjoy some solitude. Of course, living in a new setting comes with its own perks and challenges, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring and enjoying what the city has to offer. 

So, fellow introverts, the next time you have to face the hustle-and-bustle of an urban city, try to enjoy your slow-paced “me time” by grabbing a cup of coffee from a local cafe or even spending some time gazing at the city skyline.

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