Two years ago – almost to the day – I moved from Brisbane to Sydney to begin a career in book publishing. I moved to Sydney alone, and some might say it was a whirlwind move. I was halfway through my Honours degree and halfway through an internship when I got the job, and three weeks later I had sold my car, quit my job, changed my postgraduate degree to ‘External Student’ and boarded a plane to Sydney with just one 25kg suitcase and no clue what to expect.
And now, two years and a few more possessions later, I finally feel settled.
I knew two people in Sydney when I moved here: my sister and an old school friend. I was lucky to have a family member here. In those first few months when you’re adapting to a new setting and a new workplace and a new living situation, having a family member with you can help you adapt. And having at least one friend in the city makes a huge difference in the first few months when you’re trying to find your way around a new place as busy and crowded and expensive as Sydney.
That friend actually gave me some advice when I first moved here. He was from Brisbane as well and had made the Sydney plunge one year earlier. He said: say yes to every invitation. Whether it be a lunch date with your new colleagues or a trip to the pub with your new housemates, say yes and go.
I took this advice on board as often as I could allow. It meant I socialised, met people, had fun, and started to think of Sydney as home and Brisbane as past tense. Sure, the advice also had its failures. I accepted an invitation to a football game two weeks after arriving in Sydney but it was freezing that night and both teams played an awful game with no tries. Another time, I accepted an invitation to have a picnic in the botanical gardens, but it poured all afternoon, my shoes ripped and I had to walk to Museum Station with bare feet and frizzy rain hair. But besides those two particularly unlucky experiences, I have met some great people in the last two years of living here. And now that I’ve finally settled into Sydney, I would like to pass on my own piece of advice: allow two years.
Two years sounds like a long time, but I’m talking about settling not being comfortable. Anyone could spend a few months in a new city and love it. Travellers often come to Sydney and end up staying and working and then going home a couple of years later. But when you know that you’re in a new city for the long haul and that you’re going to need to build a life there, you will eventually need to feel settled. That means no more homesickness. That means no thinking of your hometown and wondering if you’re going to move back there one day. That means making future plans. And for that to happen, my advice is to allow two years.
When I moved to Sydney, I was by no means a stranger to moving alone to a new city. I studied in England for seven months in 2012 and I backpacked around Europe solo. But there’s a difference between a semester abroad and moving to a new city for a new job. When you’re staying in a dormitory at a university, all of the other students there are new. They’ve moved there alone and they’re also looking for friends. The same goes for hostels in Europe. Half of the travellers I met were travelling Europe alone, and this means that they’re eager to meet people and make friends.
When you move to a new city, you’re infiltrating an already established environment. You’re now living with housemates who already knew each other quite well before you came along, and your new colleagues have all probably worked together for some time and formed a base friendship. They might not be in need of new friendships and it might take some time to build that up. When you think of the close friends in your life, most of them you probably met through school, work or university. And when you move to a new city, you really only have work to meet new people. Maybe group sports, if you’re into that. Solo sports like swimming probably won’t get you anywhere, although you get points for trying. I joined an adult swim squad when I moved. I showed up on the first day of training and I was the only person who had signed up. They subsequently cancelled the squad.
Some people don’t get homesick when they move to a new city or country. But there will be spurts of it, like a holiday or a family member’s birthday where you’re the only family member not present. In the first few months after I moved to Sydney, there were many occasions where I flew home to Brisbane for the weekend. I did it for my birthday, for my Dad’s birthday, for the long weekend in October, and for Christmas. But the more I went home, the more homesick I got when I was at the airport at the end of the weekend. So I made a rule six months after moving away from home – fly back only when it’s necessary. I held off flying home as much as I needed to in order to help myself settle into Sydney, and looking back, it was probably one of the wisest things I did. Slowly, I started spending the holidays and special events in Sydney, and it helped Sydney feel more like home.
It’s taken me two years to feel like I’ve finally settled in Sydney. It may not take that long for all people. For anyone looking to move to a new city or is facing the daunting task of having to do so, my advice is to wait it out. I recently heard of someone moving to Sydney for a fresh start but only lasting one month before moving back home. They said they couldn’t make friends easily and it was hard to find a job and it was too expensive. She’s not wrong. But, it’ll take longer than a month to get over that. It’ll take longer than a month to get into a comfortable routine with work, exercise and budgeting.
Allow two years and you’ll feel settled.
Jessica Seaborn is the co-creator of The Regal Fox and works in publishing in Sydney. You can follow her on Twitter at Jessica_Seaborn