By Susan Schneider, contributor
Whether you are relocating 300 or 3,000 miles away, the three A's—action, assertiveness and attitude—can serve you well. Between them, they embody the majority of advice provided by experienced travelers and travel experts for those relocating to a new community.
Take Action: Do Your Homework
Acclimating to a new environment is a process that should start before you pack your first box. That's because the most anxiety-producing element of a move is loss of control. For example, where to shop, where to eat, how to get from one place to another, how much to pay for goods and services, who to call for assistance—all these basics—are second nature at home.
But when you enter a new community, you don't have all the answers to these "how's" and "where's" and this can make you feel less in control and therefore more anxious than is necessary.
p>Doing some homework and setting realistic expectations (i.e. knowing what to expect) can make you feel more in control.
In addition to thousands of books about life across America, there are now hundreds of Web sites that provide up-to-the-date information about communities across the country. Nowadays, almost every state, county and city has a site for residents and visitors. Content ranges from basic information about community services such as trash collection and public transportation systems to insights about local schools and area employers.
For a look at the very big picture, the United States government's Web portal, www.firstgov.gov, provides easy access to comprehensive information about the myriad services the government provides residents and visitors. The portal opens doors to topics ranging from how to obtain a driver's license to how to start your own business in this country.
To say it is a helpful resource is a huge understatement. Through it, you can search more than 51 million web pages from federal and state governments, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Most of the pages are not available on commercial web sites.
Another excellent Web site for those new to the country is www.edupass.org. The authors provide a comprehensive guide to living in the United States with information about everything from the U.S. monetary and banking system to how the U.S. Postal System works.
Another popular Web site for newcomers is www.easywayusa.com. It helps with everything from telephone service options to how to set up Internet connections.
You can also telephone or write to the local convention and visitors' bureau or local chamber of commerce in the city to which you are moving. They will send you a free visitors' guide filled with maps, demographic information, important local phone numbers such as the police department and fire stations, as well as facts about transportation, shopping and housing options.
Even though you are planning a move rather than a vacation, you should always request information about cultural, entertainment and recreational points of interest too, so you stay reminded of the good times that lie ahead. These facts are especially good to know ahead of time if you are relocating with children. The anticipation of living near the country's largest water park can ease their worries about a move very quickly.
Facts and figures about your new home will help you prepare for the changes that lie ahead. If you are already familiar with the new currency, understand education, transportation and communication systems and have an idea about who to call for what services, you won't feel like such a 'stranger in a strange land' when you actually arrive. You will have erased many uncertainties by becoming certain about how things work.
Courtney Ronan, a real estate columnist for the Realty Times, recently wrote, "Some newcomers remain hermits in their own homes for several months before they begin to take the initiative and venture out. The fact is that the sooner you begin to explore your new hometown, the sooner you will establish a comfort level in your surroundings and the more positive your experience is going to be."
Amanda McAleer, a nurse who relocated to Los Angeles from Australia with her husband and four children almost a year ago, agrees.
"If you want to enjoy the experience, you have to put in a lot. Make an effort. Cultivate your interests, grow in other areas of your life," she said. "Stay active."
Fiona Ritchings, a nurse from Australia who is thriving after two years in Los Angeles, immediately hooked up with others who share her passion for all things science fiction. Volunteering at conventions has helped her make friends and feel part of the city.
Ritchings also gets out often to explore.
"Most cities have a tourist bus, a hop-on, hop-off type of thing," Ritchings said. "Sometimes just to get the lay of the land and a commentary, it is helpful to get on one and just ride around for the day."
James Coe, an RN who has been traveling for more than three years, said "I have found that every place I have worked there was at least one person who reached out to help me get used to the unit so I became the not-so-new kid on the block. [Someone like] this can turn into a newfound friend. Don't be afraid to ask for help."
Janet Sonderman, an oncology nurse who has been traveling for over two years, agreed that assertiveness is very important on the job.
"If you are outgoing, confident in your skills and assertive, new colleagues take you seriously and are very welcoming," Sonderman said. "I have never had any problems on the job, because I communicate my comfort and competence in what I do."
Travel experts advise keeping up with the practices and traditions you held at home. Maintain your hobbies and seek out others who share them. Join a church or place of worship like the one you belonged to at home. Ask about newcomers' clubs so you can meet others who are new to the area. Be bold; throw a party and invite your new neighbors over. Chances are, they will appreciate your being the first one to break the ice.
As in every other endeavor in life, acclimating is largely about attitude.
Coe said he tries to remain nonjudgmental, keeps an open mind and reminds himself there are numerous ways to accomplish the same task.
Ritchings focuses on the positive.
"I want to take advantage of everything," Ritchings said. "I love how friendly and kind the people are and want to see everything I can."
McAleer said that when she faces challenges in acclimating to her new home, she remembers the reasons why she and her family made the decision to come to America. She said they have all grown from the experience and will have it to look back on, together, for years to come.
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