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Making Yourself at Home

Tips for setting in new places

After 13 settled years, my husband joined the Foreign Service. We packed up our kids and our pets, sold the house and started a life of moving. In 25 years, we traveled to nine posts: the Congo (then called Zaire, which none of our friends had heard of), Morocco, Washington, Paris, back to Washington, Geneva, Moscow, London and finally New York. In five of these postings — Morocco, Washington, Geneva, Moscow and London — I worked as the community liaison officer. One of the privileges of the job was helping employees, and especially their families, adapt to their new home.
    Now we’ve come to Annapolis from our last home in the Hudson Valley, retired but still moving.
    Moving is exciting; everything is new, the house, the environment, even the food.
    In Annapolis, we have found new markets — Grauls, Fresh Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s — not convenient in the Hudson Valley. But we miss Adams, which, in the summer and fall had all of the lovely local produce.
    That is the double-edged sword of moving: gain and loss. We hope, of course, more has been gained by making the move. Moving overseas, there was always the excitement of discovery, but there was also the awkward moment when something unexpected occurred like a toothache when you didn’t yet have a dentist. Compound that with not knowing the language or being in a place with not quite modern medicine, and you have a loss.
    One of my husband’s family’s favorite stories is about their mother, also a foreign service wife, who developed a toothache the day she was to host a large dinner party. She went to the equivalent of the local dentist and had something like an upholstery tack hammered into her tooth, which she lived with until her return to the States many months later.
    Our daughter had braces on when we moved to Morocco. We found an orthodontist an hour away in Casablanca. Once a month, we made the trek along the then-new highway, still shared with donkeys, to see the orthodontist. Always with the promise of going to McDonald’s, the only one in Morocco, after.
    But each time, Kate came out with more elaborate mouth and headgear and in too much pain to think about McDonald’s. There’s no moral to these stories, except to find good professionals, ask around before you commit.
    If you can, take it slow when you move; don’t make hasty choices. Rent before you buy, talk to people, search the internet. Looking at neighborhoods, we have found many unknown to us when we arrived in January. We like the ease of living in downtown, but the parking and expense of houses without parking has made us look to other areas. We recently discovered Epping Forest. It’s as far from downtown as you can imagine, but it has a charm that we really like. Who knows? We may find a place there. But if we do, we need a second car.


Steps to Help You Settle In Before you move

Let schools know you’re leaving and where you’re going. Find out if there are differences in school programs. If you know what school your kids will attend, let them know when they’ll be starting school, especially if it’s after the start of the school year.

Traveling with pets? Make sure your airline transports them; Many don’t.

Do routine medical and vaccinations, including for pets, before you go.

If you need to hire a moving company, get a few quotes before choosing. Ask spec­ific questions: will the company do the packing or will you? Will the company unpack and take away the boxes? What is the coverage for items broken in transit?

If you can, go to your new area for a quick trip before the move.

Read local papers online to get a feel for the community.

On Arrival

Rent before you buy, and check out different neighborhoods.

Join local groups. In addition to church and local political groups, look for art, boating, sport and social clubs.

Read local newspaper and internet sites, such as Meetup, to learn more about events and who’s doing what in your new area.

Be patient. Like everything, a move has rhythms. At first, you may love everything because it is new. After that, you might miss your old friends and routines. But in the end, all of that sets up and the new house becomes home.