By: Kipp Tribble
I have lived in five states. That is in no way a record (big up to the Army brats!), but I feel it qualifies me to speak about the subject of adjusting. I moved to new places as a kid while my family was hopping around the nation like fugitives, and I have also made the move as an adult with my own family. I now live in California, but did make a detour in a state to remain nameless. It rhymes with Schmoo Shmersey and smells like garbage and cat piss. Anyway, the most important thing about settling into a new place is rubbing elbows with your neighbors, aka, the locals. They will be at the local bar, grocery store, bath house, Target, and church. It’s impossible to detail how vastly different each state is, so I’ll just drop some hints for you on how to mingle with the locals…or at least how not to be killed by your new crazy neighbors during your first month in town.
Embrace the Sports
There are a few things that bring a community together. KFC. Strip clubs. Sports. But mainly sports. I’m talking from the pro teams the locals follow, all the way down to the high school teams. It may make you slightly sick to cheer for, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but holding your jeers against them will help you immerse yourself into the sports-watching culture with the locals. By not cheering against them, kind of makes you cheering for them in their eyes. You will find that in many parts of the country, Friday nights are all about the high schools. Football in the fall and basketball in the winter. Soccer and baseball might be in there somewhere, too, so be prepared to spend every Friday eating stale hot dogs served up by the PTA. You don’t have a kid in high school? Yeah, no one cares. You live there now. The locals own a minimum of 12 sweatshirts each bearing the high school’s logo. You should buy one, too. Get on board, because people have disappeared for less.
Ignore Where You Are From
Don’t talk about how great the place is you just came from, or where you grew up. Even if it was great. I’ve made this mistake and witnessed others make this mistake. Sure, you are proud of where you came from. You want to fight anyone who makes fun of your hometown. But the reality is, you now live in a foreign land (so to speak) and they could care less where you are from because in their minds, their hood is Numero Uno. You might still be carrying an accent that will give away from where you just pulled up roots. Let the locals ask you why you elongate your O’s if they want. And then move on. Some places in the US are quite volatile when discussing other parts of the country (the South will rise again!), so you have to be careful when asked where you just moved from. In 2010, you would think this wouldn’t matter, but some natives have nothing better to do with their lives than keep a healthy rivalry going. Hey, you chose to move there, deal with it.
Don’t Flaunt Your Local Knowledge
You will certainly want to research the place you are moving to — unless you really are a criminal on the lam. Most areas now have websites full of information about the city/town. History, local businesses, etc. Enough to give you a good feel for the pulse of the area. For larger metropolitan areas, you can pick up ‘moving guides’ which will detail local spots like restaurants and bars, as well as retail stores, museums, and other places you might find yourself on a Sunday night. After all the research, you will be very proud of yourself for your newly acquired wealth of knowledge about your new neighborhood, but the last thing you want to do is share your trivia with the locals. There are two reasons for this: people love to share their own knowledge about their hometown with the ‘newbies’ and no one wants to hear an outsider tell them the history of their own city or where the cool bars are. You’ll need to bite your tongue for the better part of a year until you are fully entrenched in your new place. Then you can start to school those around you about the going-on’s in town.
Get Some Friends
Nothing screams ‘loser’ to your new neighbors than you sitting alone at the end of the bar ordering up Jack all night. Undoubtedly, you might have to go to the bar once or twice by yourself to attempt to make new friends, but don’t make a habit of it. Get to know your neighbors, people you work with, other dads at your kids’ school, your McDonald’s drive-thru hookup…whoever. Make a friend or two and start scheduling a regular guys’ night out. You’ll likely only hang out at a bar or maybe shoot pool all night, but you won’t be the creepy loner anymore — and thus, making it easier for you to mingle with the locals. It may take some time to find the right ‘crew’ to hang with, but be patient. You’ll be on a man-date sooner than you think.
Not to get all economy on you, but these days, every place needs cash to do stuff. And in order to get money to do stuff, there will be fundraisers, events, and tip jars galore. The locals will warm up to you quite nicely if you spread your wealth a little bit. Even if you can’t afford much, just simply attending an event will put a smile on their faces and they will remember not to choose you when they are looking for their next human sacrifice. If you live in a community that still practices such an act, that is. Finding a fundraiser or event to attend won’t be difficult. The fliers will be all over town and you might even get a few knocks on the door about it. I’m not saying you have to hit every single one, but going to a fundraiser or two will make them feel like you are part of the community. You’ll also get to rub elbows with your new neighbors and maybe make a friend or two. Or at least meet the head of the local mafia. That’s an invaluable friendship to have.
Avoid Early Confrontation
Yeah, we’re all tough guys, and we know it. I know I’m always trolling the streets just looking for a good fist fight. It’s inevitable that confrontations will happen — maybe not a physical throw-down, but at least a good yelling match. It might be in the line at the grocery store when a local cuts in line with their three carts full of yogurt. Or it could be when the guy in the pickup truck cuts you off as you’re trying to swing into Dairy Queen. People, in general, are idiots and this fact is the same no matter where you live. And as much as it sucks, you will need to dial back your inner Hulk for the first few months you settle in to your new place. Even in a large city, you will still see the same people in your local community. Trust me, you don’t want to be branded ‘that guy’ by the locals. Not that they will toss a Molotov Cocktail through your window, but they can certainly make your reservations at Cracker Barrel a pain in the ass.
Do Something Cool
You might not be the cool guy, per se, but now is your chance to do something cool for your new neighbors so they will not hate you too much. A block BBQ can be cool. You’ll get to meet a bunch of locals and probably get them to bring you free booze all night. All you have to do is buy some meat and pretend to cook. If you don’t BBQ, hosting an open house party will work, too. As will volunteering wherever there is to volunteer in town. Yeah, these aren’t ‘cool’ in a Fonzi sort of way. These are cool in the eyes of the people you now live in the same town with. If you have kids in school, help out with the PTA or coaching shuffleboard (yes, it’s a serious sport). Basically look for ways to give to your new community and not just be a mooching douche. You may hate doing it, but it will win you bonus points with the locals…making mingling easier in the future.