Tips for Meeting People and Getting Involved in a New Place
Picture this: A few months into the year, you pull up to a government-issued house, with an eighteen-wheeler in tow and a couple of movers ready to unload your belongings. You have no idea how the furniture will be arranged or if all of your paintings will fit on the walls because you have never seen the house before. Though the neighborhood seems lovely, you don’t know anyone. You will eventually get settled, arrange your new home the best you can, and meet people that will become close friends. Then, months later, you receive news that you’re moving...again.
This is the norm for many military members and their families, and a task that can teach anyone, military or not, a few pieces of advice for getting settled in a new area. While moving somewhere new can be intimidating, moving to a place in which you have no control can be even more difficult. The last thing you want to do is put on your widest smile and go door to door, introducing yourself to your new neighbors, knowing that the time will come when you will eventually leave them.
On the contrary, you wonder what would happen if you did. What if this new place is full of opportunities? What if you embrace this move as if you are never going to leave? Will you make the most of it, or will you barricade yourself inside, away from others? Whether or not the move is a choice of your own accord, there are several ways to put yourself out there, get involved, and meet new people, without stepping too far out of your comfort zone.
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors and attend events in the neighborhood.
This tip is at the top of the list for a reason. Your neighbors are the people you will interact with daily, so, it works in your favor to jumpstart the introductions. Yes, it might require putting on that smile and knocking on front doors. Luckily, if you live on a military installation, your neighbors have been “new” at one point, too. More often than not, your neighbors might actually come to you, first. Want to beat them to it? Arrive at their house with a small gift, or card. If you’ve just moved in, you most likely won’t have ingredients to make cookies or other treats. However, a card with your contact information and a sweet message explaining how excited you are to join the neighborhood will immediately show your eagerness and willingness to get involved in the neighborhood happenings.
In many neighborhoods, families take turns hosting game nights, such as Bunco, or outdoor cookouts or get-togethers. During the initial meeting, ask your neighbors if they do something similar. If not, now is the perfect opportunity to suggest the idea! Invite some of your new neighbors over to your house for dinner or games and start a weekly tradition.
Check out the rec center and take group exercise classes.
Most military installations have a recreation center open to families, and some even have group fitness classes available at no cost. Check the website or ask the front desk for a schedule of fitness classes. If you have prior experience teaching classes, you might even ask if they are looking for other instructors. After attending a few classes regularly, you will surely get to know people who have similar schedules and goals.
Get a part-time job.
You might be relocating because of your job, which, in that case, your network of people has probably already begun to expand. However, while you wait for your new job to start, or if you do not have one, consider getting a part-time job doing something that interests you. This way you will stay busy, earn extra income, and meet new people. Find a retailer that is hiring, or consider nannying, babysitting, or tutoring for a local family.
If you have a hobby like card making, painting, sewing, or monogramming, look for artisan shows and pop-up vendors in your area. Not crafty? Become a Sword & Plough Brand Champion and share Sword & Plough’s story and products at pop-up events within your area. This is a fun way to show off your talents and meet other artists in your community.
Become a member of a church or other organization.
Another simple (and free!) way to get involved is by joining a church or organization that matches your beliefs. There are usually several churches on post designed to incorporate a variety of denominations. If you’re not military, or you aren’t living on post, this might require some research. However, once you try out a few places and find one you feel comfortable with you will realize that there are more ways to get involved that go beyond the actual service once a week. Most churches have several events happening throughout the week and on weekends such as potluck dinners, study groups, children’s groups, and more. Ask about volunteering for a drive, becoming a member of the choir, or attending a small group. The greater your involvement, the larger your circle of trusted friends will become.
5. Volunteer at school, an animal shelter, or a food pantry.
If you have kids, a super easy way to get involved is by volunteering in their classroom. Most teachers frequently request volunteers and appreciate the help you have to offer. This is also a quick way to meet other parents of your child’s classmates. There are tons of events happening at school throughout the year, like class parties, after-school events, dances, and fundraisers. Be sure to sign up as a classroom or school volunteer at Back to School or Meet the Teacher Night.
Other places to volunteer are at the local animal shelter, food pantry, or homeless shelter. Not only will you feel good helping others and giving back to the community, but you will also meet a variety of people, including local residents, that share the same passions as you. Most shelters and pantries offer a range of days and times during the week that you can go in and help, which allows you to volunteer according to your own schedule.
Accessorize thoughtfully when running errands.
This one may sound silly, but think about how many times you have been stopped in the grocery store and complimented on your shoes, necklace, or handbag. An easy way to strike up a conversation is by talking about things that matter to you and that have a story. One of my favorite items to talk about when I run errands is Sword and Plough’s Grey Wool Handbag. The unique design is an instant eye-catcher to strangers. Whenever I receive a compliment on the bag, I immediately begin talking about Sword and Plough and the mission behind it, as well as the giving partner that the bag is associated with. The Bar Necklace is another simple way to draw others’ attention and share a story. Any small-business item that you sport while out and about is sure to be a conversation starter.
Moving can be a daunting task. On top of the physical aspects, like packing, lifting, loading, and redecorating, the thought of having to start over in a brand new place surrounded by people you don’t know can be exhausting. However, getting involved in the community can be easier than you think. Many of the activities that are already sketched into your daily schedule offer wonderful opportunities to explore your interests, put your talents to use, give back to others, and make friends. Whether relocating because of the military, a new job, or a change of heart, know that moving to a new place is more than just starting over. It’s a new adventure full of people ready to experience it with you.
About the Author:
Shurden Garrett is the daughter of a retired Col. in the U.S. Army. She moved twelve times growing up which allowed her to see much of the country and many parts of the world. She resides in Northern Virginia where she teaches elementary school. Her experiences as a military child and her passion for giving back to the veteran community that helped shape her childhood now draw her to Sword and Plough’s mission. She is excited to be a Brand Champion and share Sword and Plough’s story with other like-minded Champs.