22 Ways to Put Down Roots in Raleigh
By Michelle Masterson
New to Raleigh and feeling a bit displaced, lonely or out-of-sorts? You are not alone! We all want to quickly feel connected to where we live, but place attachments do not usually form instantaneously, as much as we’d like them to. (Although some people do experience city love at first sight!)
We can be attached to Raleigh emotionally, feeling love, happiness, joy, pride, warmth and contentment about living here. And we can be attached mentally through the knowledge, memories, events and beliefs that ultimately make Raleigh personally meaningful.
As you can imagine, this mental/emotional bond requires time – and effort – to develop, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve been here a year or more and still aren’t feeling like Raleigh is “home.”
Here are 22 ways to begin putting down strong roots in the city that now holds your belongings – but maybe not yet your heart:
1. Walk Your Home Zone. Map a 1-mile radius around your new home and/or workplace and explore every inch of it, preferably on foot or by bike if possible. Exploring your new city on your feet/bike instead of from a car will change your experience of it. You’ll see details and discover things you’d never see from a car – and perhaps find local shops, a park or a coffeehouse you can begin to make your own.
2. Connect to Your City Online. Search for and follow local news sources and your city/town government on social media. When you eat at a restaurant, shop in a store or visit a local attraction, follow them as well. Pretty soon the recommendation algorithms will take over and you’ll have your pick of local people and places to follow. Here are a few people/orgs to follow to get you started.
3. Volunteer – Do Good, Feel Good. If you live in the Triangle, Activate Good is your one-stop volunteering shop that will match your interests with the community’s needs. Volunteering can help you make new friends and learn new skills – plus you’ll simply feel good for helping to make your new community a better place to live. In addition, most local events are volunteer run, so if you see an event you’d like to attend, volunteer instead!
4. Find Your People. What are your interests? What do you like to do? Sift through the “Find Your People” Acorns on the home page and seek out the places, events and people that match those interests. When you find other people who share your interests, you’re more likely to start feeling connected to your new home city.
5. Shop Local. Especially during this awful and seemingly never-ending pandemic, support your local neighbors by supporting their businesses – because a neighborhood full of chain stores just loses its charm, don’t you agree?
6. Eat Local. Seek out the local restaurants within your 1-mile Home Zone and beyond. Again, it’s a great way to support your local neighbors by supporting their businesses, and you’re just not going to get world-shatteringly great NC barbecue from a chain shop.
7. Mingle Local. We all have our social media groups but if you want to connect to Raleigh, you’ll want to connect with its people. Join a local gardening club, attend a gaming night, hit the dog parks, join the Chamber of Commerce, volunteer for a local government commission, visit the bars, find a Newcomers Group in your town, join the Women’s Social Club or Offline Raleigh or Zero Proof Raleigh – meet real people in real life.
8. Start a Streak. Moving to a new place is physically and emotionally exhausting. It’s easier to cocoon and watch Netflix than it is to actively engage in behaviors that will connect you to your new city. So, download a habit-tracking app and commit to a streak, an uninterrupted series of connection actions. It can be anything – trying a new restaurant monthly, taking your dog to a new dog park each week, visiting a new museum or attraction monthly, walking a new trail weekly. Studies show that feelings of place attachment (loving where you live) follow actions of place attachment.
9. Change Your Routine. Think about your daily routine – and then change one thing. Perhaps you take a different route to work, or you stop at a different coffee shop, or you fill up at a different gas station or you turn down a random side road to see where it leads or you try a new movie theater. The more you explore Raleigh, the more connected you’ll feel.
10. Be Kind. In Austin, TX, the motto is Keep Austin Weird®. In Raleigh, NC, we don’t really have a motto (yet) but we’d vote for Keep Raleigh Creative – with Keep Raleigh Kind a close second. Civility has taken an extended vacation during the pandemic as if we’ve all forgotten our basic kindergarten manners. Create the city you want to live in by extending kindness to others. Who knows, you might strike up a conversation in your new hometown that leads to a lifelong friend!
11. Keep a One-Line Daily Journal. Yes, many people hate journaling. Many people also can’t recall exactly what they did in 2021 – or 2020 or for much of their life. Take 4 minutes to write one sentence at the end of each day: “Today I _____.” Write down what you did, who you saw, how you felt. When you look back at the end of 2022, you’ll have a record of every place you visited, every restaurant you tried, every new friend you met, every book you read, every movie you saw, etc. Memories create connections – to people and to cities.
12. Explore a New Park. The City of Raleigh has over 200 parks – some with playgrounds, some with pools, some with classes, some with sports fields and/or trails. You can find those nearest you by using the Park Locator Tool.
13. Become a Regular. Pick a coffee shop, a diner, a restaurant, a plant store, a bar or any other place it makes sense to visit consistently. And then visit…consistently. It may seem silly but the “Cheers” television show had it right back in the ‘80s: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Or at least nods and smiles in recognition.
14. Create, Lead or Support Something. If you have it in you – and it’s okay if this isn’t your thing – be a creative initiator. Organize a creative project in Raleigh or be a helper or participant instead. Every project that contributes to a person loving where they live started with someone who had an idea and the will to get it done.
15. Go to Events. Whatever you’re into – music, art, sports, dance, theater, gaming and more – you can find local events that will scratch that itch. In addition to the enjoyment that comes from attending the event, the anticipation can lift your mood for weeks beforehand. You can find events at eventbrite.com, ticketmaster.com and meetup.com or by subscribing to local organizations’ newsletters.
16. Be Proud Out Loud. Yeah, it’s corny, but do it anyway – buy a city t-shirt or hat or laptop sticker and proudly wear/display it. Doesn’t the new city you live in 24/7 deserve the same love as your NFL team?
17. Meet a Neighbor. Why do people find this so hard? The Pew Research Center says almost a quarter of Americans under 30 don’t know any neighbors by name. And yet, studies have shown that people who live in self-described tight-knit neighborhoods have lower stress, anxiety and depression. So, the next time you see a neighbor, simply smile, say hello and introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Josh and I’m new in Raleigh. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for a great barbecue place?” (Or vet or coffee shop or whatever.) Yes, you might be snubbed – such is life. But, then again, you might make a new friend or at least get a few local restaurant recommendations.
18. Visit Your Local Library. Stop hogging all the seats at local coffee shops and set up once in a while at your local library instead. These are community treasures offering much more than books.
19. Find the Bulletin Boards. They typically exist in local coffee shops, but we’ve also seen them in local restaurants, at Panera, in libraries, at the YMCA and other places around town. Scan what people have posted – maybe you’ll find an event or cause of interest you can participate in.
20. Get Lost. Turn down random streets, see what’s there and then try to find your way home without GPS. This helps you create mental maps of your new city.
21. Vote. Loving where you live involves caring about what happens there. Voting in a city election is an easy way to show you care. Raleigh’s elected, 8-member City Council – which includes current mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin – is the city’s primary legislative body. The City Council sets city policy and adopts the city budget each year. The Council also appoints a City Manager (currently Marchell Adams-David) to oversee day-to-day municipal operations and implement the City Council’s policies and legislative initiatives. Municipal elections are held in even-numbered years.
22. Commit to Making a Connection. It takes two to fall in love! Raleigh woos us with amazing parks, free museums, world-class restaurants, diverse events, helpful services and more. But we must return the love by participating. A Harvard University study conducted in October 2020 found that 36% of Americans reported feeling seriously lonely. Among certain groups, the numbers were higher: 61% of participants ages 18-25 and 51% of mothers with young children reported feeing “frequently” or “almost always” lonely. Fear of rejection holds many people back from reaching out. Don’t let that fear hold you back from connecting with your new city and its people. It takes two to woo.
© Raleigh Onboarding 2022