New Kid on the Block:
How to Arrive in Style
by Colin Lingle
from one city to another isn't Hell. It's a gruesome and disorienting purgatory
of anxiety that is one bad flu bug short of Hell. And that's when it goes well.
Once you've uprooted the delicate tendrils of whatever life you had and replanted
them in foreign soil, how do you go about creating a new social scene from scratch?
It's not like you can bring your eleven friends,
three favorite breakfast
joints, and that excellent bartender with you. Get movers involved and you're
lucky if your clothes turn up at all.
There are a million (or more) reasons that people pack it up and head to greener
pastures. But let's work with the premise that most everyone is a little
off balance when they arrive. Even in your own country, there are new rules
to learn, new words for familiar objects, new
streets with their own manic naming conventions. Imagine David
Blaine walking up to you, making all your social skills disappear, and then
glibly walking off. It can be that strange.
With this kind of backdrop and no plan of attack, you're going to have to be
uncannily lucky -- like lightning-bolt lucky -- to find a new paramour. Case
Study #1: Oxygen employee, new to New
York, locks herself out of her Manhattan apartment. She knows nobody on her
floor, but hears music from the adjacent apartment. She knocks on the door to
call a locksmith. Good looking guy answers the door, she calls, locksmith arrives,
problem solved. Next day, the new neighbors eat pizza and watch football all
day. Now they're cozy like kittens and planning to move to Brooklyn. Sheesh!
Important note: Do not count on this happening to you!
It could happen, of course. It does. It did. But most of you are going to need
a better plan than "lock self out of apartment" if you want to get on with the
cuddling. In typical Big To Do fashion, we are going to help you develop that
plan. Now, you may need to do some creative extrapolation in applying these
lessons to your own life, but you're all smart cookies so we're not worried.
Also, note that we are not going to suggest getting a job at a local restaurant
or the nearest Starbucks. While this would technically allow you to "meet" lots
of "people" we believe that any social interaction that involves tipping is,
by definition, not a dating scene. Moreover, you may well already have a job.
And if, in fact, you moved expressly to take said job, you will find there are
several constructive ways to nurture your budding social life during the workday.
The Big To Do recognizes that office relationships are strewn with emotional
landmines and we're not recommending that you simply find solace in a convenient
coworker, however much your bosses might be talking about "convergence." For
the detailed whys and wherefores, find out what
BG says on the topic. No, you should probably fight the urge to book a conference
room and send an email titled "Urgent Meeting" to your Crush
of the Quarter. You'll only find yourself unhappy when results don't match
But there are other ways you can put your work to work for you. The first,
and most obvious, is the group outing. No matter where you work, there has to
be an end to the day. And when that end comes, there may be drinks. Be careful
not to invite yourself along with a group that isn't putting out a friendly
vibe (this could be disastrous).
However, you can make yourself strategically available by putting together
a group of your own. It requires a little chutzpah, perhaps, but you come with
a built-in excuse: you just got here and you need to find the cool places. Most
people, in the Big To Do's experience, are just looking for a reason to go have
fun and relax. Enable them. Put yourself on that sacrificial altar and you'll
quickly start to fill your mental map with the right place for any future right
Another good tip: until you go through a company party, you're not really a
member of the team. All of the embarrassing dancing, everything that is hilarious,
inconvenient or inappropriate -- more than any mission statement, this is what
binds us. Don't miss your first one; after that, they're optional. In fact,
if you know how to salsa, this is great
time to unleash your skill upon the world. If you don't, well, you can try a
few moves, but (white boys take note) you take your reputation into your own
This is probably a good place to mention a phenomenon first officially identified
by Breakup Girl and expanded upon in her new book (under a slightly different
Co-Worker Flirtation. This is the situation where, even though two colleagues
know nothing is going to develop for all the obvious reasons, both get a little
buzz -- call it a double espresso shot of friendship -- from working together.
Carefully applied, CCF will actually make you more productive and punctual,
without the anxieties that accompany a company indiscretion.
The People In Your Neighborhood
The other anchor point to your life in New Town City is where you've chosen
to live. After your office, this is the place where you will spend the most
time. At least until you get a significant other who lives hellacrosstown. But
Familiarize yourself with your surroundings; resist the urge to hide under
the refrigerator for the first few days. Make sure that you actually know more
of your hood than the route from your house to the office (and alternate routes
home don't really count, unless you're dropping by one of the cool spots above
with friends). Come the weekend, marshall your will and set out on a routine
expedition in any safe direction. Don't worry about covering the same ground
repeatedly (hint: that is how we learn). Walking is best, but if you live in
expansive city you may drive. Just remember to get out of the car every
once in a while. Otherwise, you're just burning fossil fuels and we don't have
enough ozone for that anymore.
trick for newbies: get a habit. Not a bad one like smoking or the Backstreet
Boys, but a good one like Sunday afternoons at the local bookstore. Or something
equally cliche. This way, you set a pattern and anyone in a similar pattern
will recognize yours. "Hey, I always see you in here..." is one of the better
lines you can hear or deliver (unless you're in a holding cell or an adult chat
Now, the Big To Do has said this before, but there are plenty of clubs, activities,
and organizations out there with which to get involved. There's nothing wrong
with joining a food co-op,
a dinner club, or a bird-watching
society to meet people (and eventually seduce them), as long as you actually
enjoy whatever the activity is. But there is a caution in this category: don't
get caught. Remember, you're just there because of your heartfelt dedication
to Whatever. (You'd hate to have the guys on the
rugby team find anything out the wrong way, right?)
And do we even have to mention again that this is a great excuse to go volunteer
your time for a worthy cause? Didn't think so.
Mission: Ludicrously Possible
Once the two previous machinations are in effect, you may still want to enhance
your mastery of your new environment. Yet, you don't have the in-depth social
circle that would allow you to hone your catalogic knowledge of hot spots. What
to do? Give yourself a mission. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is. It's
such a great tactic, in fact, that even when it isn't easy, it is. Wha? Read
Case Study #2: Under normal conditions, who among us would accept an
invitation to venture out on a valuable weekend day into sub-freezing wind chill
and shop for... a lamp? Right: only lamp fetishists.
However, when you are new to town, this is an irresistable opportunity, even
if you had the flu two days earlier. Why? Because it is so blinking random
that you are bound to discover something cool. You have to find several places
that sell lamps, you have to get there, and you have instant and ample conversation
pieces ("I'd like this better upside down"; "The illuminated peacock is spectacular.").
Moreover, you then have to find somewhere to eat, because, quite frankly, it's
exhausting to shop for lamps. When opportunity calls, just go.
This would be the point where you extrapolate to your own life. If you don't
have a Lamp
District in your town (like we do here in New York), then pick any other
object or objective to give your day structure: a purpose, a destination, and
a companion. It's best if the requests are coming in, but you can also attempt
to jauntily persuade Hottie A (them) to join Hottie B (you) on your adventure.
Try this on for size: "Hey, I'm going to the [LOCATION] this weekend to try
and find an [OBJECT]. Want to come along? Lunch is on me...!" It's forward but
friendly, and, as long as you pick your variables well, perfectly above board.
Who doesn't want to go to IKEA to try and
find a BLERN? ... to the BEACH to try and find PETROGLYPHS? ... to PARIS
to try and find HAPPINESS?
OK, so maybe you can get carried away. But the truth of the matter is, whether
ultimately romantic or not, your missions will give you the knowledge and experience
you need to be part of the city you now live in. And before long, you'll be
the one saying, "New to town? Let me show you this one awesome place! You're
gonna love it..."
Colin Lingle is going to BARNES & NOBLE this weekend to try
and find BG'S NEW BOOK.
You're all welcome to come along.
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