Monday, August 20, 2012

Get Yourself Oriented to a New Environment: 15 Tips

Whether you are moving to a new location, heading off to college, traveling on holiday, or traveling for work, it is important to do a bit of recon concerning your new location.  Here are 15 things to do to orient yourself to your new location:
  1. Write down the address and phone number of the place you are staying.  If you are in a foreign country, have someone write this information down in the local language.  Nothing like heading out to explore your new environs and forgetting how to get back… 
  2. If you have a phone or other type of GPS device, mark the location on the device for future reference.
  3. Pull out a map (or pull up a map on your computer) and orient yourself to your new location.  See where you are in relation to major landmarks, know what city/county/state/province/prefecture/barangay/arrondiseement/etc you are located in, and identify what surrounds you.
  4. Research what natural disasters are common in the area as well as what to do before, during, and after such disasters (I had quite the surprise when we were in north Georgia last year and the tornado warnings kept coming up on the TV.  I didn’t know exactly where we were in relation to the warnings until my brother in law came home and told us a tornado “was fixin’ to come this way…y’all better get in the basement”.  Fortunately the tornado missed us, unfortunately it hit a town just north of us and it looked like a weed whacker had taken out half the town.
  5. Research what man-made disasters could happen in the area.  Everything from chemical plants, to major freeways, to rail lines, to having a forest behind your new home that is popular with weekend shooters could pose a problem for you; know about these things ahead of time.
  6. Don’t forget to find out about hazardous flora and fauna in the area.  I am still in the habit of making our garbage cans bear and raccoon tight since this was a problem in Washington…I’ve yet to see a bear, raccoon or even a stray cat wandering around here in Las Vegas.
  7. Save the following numbers on your cell phone: local friend or relative, non-emergency police number, emergency number (if it is different than 911), local hospital, local pharmacy, local taxi, closest embassy, local media (TV news or newspaper), etc.  The number to any person or service that could help you out of a jam should be saved (and for double protection, you may want to laminate a list of these numbers/addresses and put it in your wallet in case your phone dies).
  8. Walk or drive the local roads and look for two or more ways to exit the area in a hurry.  Also look for other things that could come in handy during an emergency (sources of water, sources of emergency food, sources of wood for heating, etc).
  9. If you have a question—everything from the best auto shop to the best carry out Chinese food  place to what is that weird ______ question—ask someone.  Better to ask than to remain clueless.
  10. Add local online resources to your web browser’s “favorites” list.  Mine include a half dozen local news sources, a link to the Department of Emergency Management for my local area, links to the Vegas and Las Vegas reddits (kind of like a giant bulletin board for nearly every large community on the planet), and another half dozen links to Vegas blogs and local websites that cover everything from updated entertainment options to continuously updated lowest airfares from my city reports.
  11. Make yourself seen in your neighborhood.  You don’t need to necessarily make friends, but when people being to recognize you, whether from your daily walks around your neighborhood to your daily visits to your favorite new coffee shop, you begin to become part of the fabric of the community (this can come in handy in an emergency).
  12. Find out what resources are available to you.  This list is huge and can include student discounts at local businesses, locals discounts for attractions and shows (quite common in Vegas), discounts on property taxes if you are a senior citizen, rebates and freebies from your utility company, gym passes if you are an enrolled student at a local college, free days each month at the museum, et al.
  13. Find out what the local laws are.  My first concern is usually what the local concealed carry laws are in whatever location I happen to be in.  You also want to know if there are any laws that could adversely affect you (for example, in strict Muslim countries you don’t want to be hanging all over your SO even if you have been married for decades as there could be severe penalties for this).
  14.  Find out what the local social customs are.  From my travels I have learned quite a few “unwritten” rules from the people I have visited including: you don’t disparage NASCAR or country music in the south, you do hang your laundry outside even if you live in a multi-million dollar house in Tokyo and have a brand new clothes dryer in your home, there is no such thing as orderly lines in the Philippines—you just kind of shuffle ahead until you get to where you need to be, Vegas is full of rude people and idiots (well not ALL of them but a surprisingly large number…), and New Jersey is full of people who sound rude but aren’t--that’s just the way they talk.
  15. Try the local food.  And the local toothpaste.  And the local everything else.  Whether you are traveling and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get an American product that you have just run out of or you have moved to a new area permanently, realize that people have survived for years without (fill in the name of your favorite product here).  Just because you can’t easily come by your favorite product (in my case, Umpqua ice cream which I can’t find anywhere outside of the Pacific Northwest) it doesn’t mean you can’t find a local product that will meet your needs (well, except for in the case of this particular ice cream…although I don’t even miss Dicks burgers anymore because they have In N Out here but I digress…).

Whether you will be in your new location for days, weeks, or years, it pays to situate yourself as quickly as possible so that you will be comfortable—as well as safe—in your new place.


  1. You from Eastern Washington? Dick's Hamburgers is a giveaway.

  2. I would wonder about the ice cream and toothpaste, depending on where you are. Ice cream has uncooked ingredients, and toothpaste? If you wouldn't drink the water, I wouldn't buy the toothpaste.