“We’re not in Seattle anymore!”  Tips from the suburban trenches​

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Now a full-fledged suburbanite, Alanna Shevak and her family began getting settled in suburbia. While, today, she loves life in Ridgewood, New Jersey, getting acclimated wasn’t without some initial bumps in the road. So what did she learn? Don’t shout at strangers on the street, even if they’re wearing your team colors…

As we adjust to living in Ridgewood I have caught myself channeling my inner Dorothy more than once, shouting, “We’re not in Seattle anymore!” I have often blundered while trying to make suburbia feel like home and, of course, make new friends along the way. There have been some embarrassing moments and plenty of lessons learned, but that tends to be the overall theme of my life, anyway! So what are those takeaways? Here are my top 10blunders lessons learned:   

 

  1. Don’t assume anyone’s talking about your home sports team. If you want to remain faithful to your teams, remember few people will now know or understand your sports references. I am guilty of chasing a guy down the street and yelling, “Seahawks!” because he was wearing a shirt that said, “Beast Mode.” It turns out that the phrase “Beast Mode” is not just specific to the Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch. I was also informed that having a stranger yell at you—with an English accent, no less—is quite unsettling. Whoops!
  2.  Don’t ask new acquaintances where they’re from until you really know the area. I don’t know why I ask people where they’re from, but I always do—maybe it’s a carryover from being a British expat. Regardless, it’s awkward when someone tries to explain where they’re from in the area and I don’t know where they mean. The kindly try to use more details and explain what it’s north of or what it’s near, but I’m still clueless.
  3. Don’t harp on about your old town and how much better it is than the new town. It seems obvious, but I learned the hard way that potential new friends aren’t interested in how small our trash can was in Seattle, or how we recycled and composted everything. We all want to feel good about our hometowns and it turns out it’s better to talk about the positive aspects rather than the things you miss.
  4. Don’t forget to find out about social etiquette and appropriate dress for events you’re attending. I received an invitation to a cocktail event from the Ridgewood Women’s Newcomers Club. In my excitement to be invited somewhere—and my haste to drink a cocktail—I didn’t realize that “cocktails” applied to the dress code. I dressed in cutoff jeans, canvas flats, and a flowery blouse. I was mortified when I realized my error and saw all the other ladies in their stylish cocktail attire. There was one mother-daughter couple in matching pearls! If that doesn’t scream “suburbia” I don’t know what does. Thankfully the host of the event was incredibly gracious and immediately approached me to compliment my blouse and pour me a large glass of wine. We ended up chatting and, now, I consider her to the first friend I made in New Jersey.
  5. Don’t underestimate the dog-eat-dog world that is the dance/gymnastics/taekwondo/[enter your child’s sport here] parents’ waiting room. But also know it’s a great place to meet people, so don’t be afraid to chime in.

 

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