How to Adjust to Living in a New City

How a 30-something woman decides to move to Lisbon and all the trials and tribulations in her first two weeks.

I arrived in Lisbon almost two weeks ago. I have moved twice, navigated the metro/bus network, tried local cafes and restaurants, went on a walking tour, learnt how to do laundry a new way, attended a Fado performance, went to a digital nomad meetup, and started to make new friends/connections. I put so much pressure on myself to adjust immediately to a new city, and yet as I write this post, I realize how much change I have experienced in a short amount of time and all the experiences I have still jumped into headfirst.

Lisbon is a charming city, a mix of historic, colourful buildings, made even more interesting with the famous tiles. Situated on the Tagus River, Lisbon is the westernmost European capital. Known for its 7 hills, walking from neighborhood to neighborhood will ensure you get your legs and glutes working. There is a rich history, of conquerors, explorers, and writers that the Portugese people are proud to share with expats and visitors. Local portugese restaurants are mixed in with new fusion and “western” restaurants, which makes for a vibrant food scene. It’s sunny most days, which makes it easy to find a patio or miradors to sit down and take in the people and views around you.

How I Am Adjusting To Lisbon

1. Find a comfortable living situation

I moved to a completely new city and I needed to learn basic things in order to feel comfortable. Where do I buy groceries? How do I dry my laundry without a drying machine? Where are the best restaurants? Where are the cafes I could work at? Are there any neighbourhoods that are unsafe?

I originally booked a co-living room where I shared a bathroom and kitchen with others. My 20-something self would have thought this would be the perfect setup. But now, my 30-something self craves for more comfort. I like my own bathroom and kitchen.  In addition, there was loud construction noises on the wall opposite mine, making it really difficult to work.

After the construction noise, I moved myself in to a short term comfortable apartment through booking.com and felt immediately better. I could tell the stress of being in a place that made me feel uncomfortable was impacting my experience. I trusted my gut, paid a little more, and the comfort paid off.

I found a perfect apartment for the next three months in the Misericórdia neighbourhood. It’s close to a number of cafes, a 10 minute walk to downtown and Barrio Alto, and makes me feel like I am living in the heart of Lisbon. I found the apartment through idealista.pt, one of the many short term sites for digital nomads who are looking for short term accommodation. 

For more information on Lisbon neighborhoods: https://www.hoodpicker.com/

2. Go to events where you’ll meet new people

I love meeting new people. It’s my favourite part of travelling. The people I meet when I travel, or the state of mind of the people I meet when I am travelling is warm, open and vulnerable. In the first two weeks, I went to a trivia night at a wine bar that I found on meetup.com, met a new friend off a Facebook Digital Nomad Group, went on a walking tour where I met two Canadian guys and two Mexican siblings who were a joy to hang out with. Of course it’s scary to go to places where you don’t know anyone, but I have found that anytime I try it, I’ve met interesting people and it’s made these first weeks in Lisbon much easier. 

3. Find the spaces that bring me joy in the city

There is nothing like a good cafe to me. Strong coffee, acoustic music playing in the background, and an aesthetic ambiance, I feel very comfortable in a coffee shop. Luckily for me, I found an apartment where there is no storage of great coffee shops all within a 10-minute walk. 

My favourite time of day is sunset. I decided that I would find some spots close to my place where I could watch the sunset and enjoy my favorite part of the day. I found a miradouro close to my house, Miradouro de Santa Catarina that I can walk to and enjoy the sunset. 

Find your places that bring you joy. 

It’s taken two full weeks to feel slightly more comfortable with my decision to move here. It has been overwhelming and scary, and for the first time, I really questioned if I made the right decision to come here. What I am slowly learning day by day is that change is hard, and if I don’t give myself time to adjust, I am being unintentionally hard on myself. I am learning to give myself a break and take in all the small victories every day.

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