Small Town to Big City: Making the Leap

While overall moving trends point toward a migration away from urban areas, a significant number of people still yearn for the excitement, work opportunities and cultural attractions that only a big city can provide. If you’ve never lived in a big city before, prepared to be wowed, prepare for some uniquely “urban” challenges. But most of all, be prepared. 

Here are a few tips and techniques that will help you make the adjustment before, before, during and after you make your move. 

Visit Ahead 

Regardless of whether it’s for business or personal reasons, you’ll want to visit the city you’ll be moving to beforehand. Plan to spend a few days to get a feel for the place. Do its amenities outweigh its downsides? How close by are potential go-tos like markets, parks, and shopping areas? Would you feel safe walking there alone at night? Will street noise be distracting? And are certain neighborhoods better suited to you and your loved ones’ needs?  

Here’s a tip: If you already have a good – or exact – idea of where you’re planning to move, visit the area at night or on a weekend. It’s surprising how what looks like a nice quiet neighborhood can become a completely different experience after the sun sets on Saturday. 

Move Only What You’ll Need 

While it’s always smart to determine what you will and won’t be bringing along to your new home, let’s go ahead and assume that moving to the big city also means downsizing your living space. For this reason, it’s important to know the general layout and approximate room dimensions of your new home. Then, get out your tape measure! 

Going from a full-sized to a galley kitchen means parting with a lot of single-use gadgets and countertop appliances that take up storage space. Many apartments won’t have a designated dining or entertainment room, much less an ensuite master bathroom, and oversized living room or den furniture might not fit well within less spacious quarters.  

Sell or Donate What You Can 

Consider having a real or virtual garage/tag sale well in advance of the big day to pare down the odds and ends you won’t be taking. Donate that extra set of dishes, bulky recliner or clothing you no longer wear to an organization such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Any food items you won’t be packing? Many of our agents participate in the Move For Hunger program. Ask about it. 

Move With a Plan in Place 

For a move into a big city, timing means a lot. For example, if you’re moving into a smaller apartment building with a single elevator, it’s best to schedule your move during the week – and when others in the building will be minimally impacted (usually mid-afternoon).  

Moving on a weekend or at a time when people are likely to be going in and out of the building will not sit well with your new neighbors or building staff. Larger apartment buildings or condos – even those with separate freight elevators – will want to know when your things will be arriving so that they’ll have resources and staff on hand to get you settled in quickly.  

Mover’s insurance is something else you need to find out about. If you are moving yourself, many property owners will require a security deposit in case of damage to the building. If you hire movers, you’ll need to provide their certificate of insurance to your property owner. 

Set Up a Routine – and Step Up the Pace 

Two of the biggest adjustments to big city life are the relative freedom from many routine tasks, as well as the overall pace. Chances are jobs like snow removal and lawncare are handled by the city itself or are bundled into your rent or a separate building maintenance fee. Tasks like laundry and even food shopping can often be handled with a text or phone call. Don’t feel like cooking? Apps like Grubhub can have the world’s cuisine at your door with a minimum of fuss.  

Be prepared: except for the traffic, people and things just move faster in a big city. You’ll soon learn to “go with the flow” when navigating sidewalks and crossing streets. Observe how friends and colleagues interact in social and work situations. Soon, life in the fast(er) lane will become second nature.  

Big cities also have richly diverse populations. Enjoy the different perspectives, cultures, and people with whom you’ll come in contact. Consider it a valuable learning experience for both yourself and your loved ones. One more thing: overall “city people” are more direct in their communication style. It’s not rudeness, it’s just them protecting their personal space.  

Bringing Kids Along? 

In a major city don’t automatically assume that the local public school will fill the bill. There are often schools especially for kids and teens interested in the arts, science, engineering, and other career-related fields. Many parents opt for private secular or parochial schools, some of which may have long waiting lists and/or a stringent pre-registration process. 

Safety is another thing to think about. In smaller communities, children and teens have more freedom to explore things on their own; in a big city full of crowds and strangers, you’ll want to be more mindful of their whereabouts. Have an agreed-upon plan with your child if they get lost or need to reach out to you for help.  

That said, a city also gives kids exposure to an unprecedented array of events, museums, concerts, theatre, and sports activities. Check out websites like and for an ever-changing list of what to see and do in your new city.  

Travel Like the Locals Do 

In many of the biggest cities, a car can be an expensive luxury – or even a liability. While a car is essential in a city like Los Angeles, in Boston or New York, car ownership can feel like a burden instead of a bonus. 

Regardless, familiarize yourself with the city’s mass transit system ASAP. Get acquainted with the ins, outs, and etiquette of hired cars and cabs. And plan to walk a lot more than you did in your former small-town or suburban existence. You’ll also find that stocking up on things works better when it’s done in a series of smaller trips to grocery stores and shops. As a rule, buy only what you can comfortably carry at one time.  

Looking for tips, advice, and pointers for making your new house a home? Check out our other blogs for moving tips, packing advice, city guides and a wealth of other information to help you settle in. 

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