One of the disadvantages of working in international development is regularly having to say goodbye to friends and colleagues – in our case this especially applies to those wonderful people we met in Bolivia, Cambodia, and Peru over the last few years. On the flip side, one of the great things about working internationally is repeatedly getting to experience the excitement of setting up base in a new country or continent.

I have been reminded of this recently when I moved to Ghana to take up a new post in the hot and steamy city of Accra. Usually Chris and I move together which makes things a lot easier – and if I’m honest a little less scary – but this time my organisation, who arranged our flights, said they ‘strongly discourage’ couples re-locating together. This meant I got to spend three weeks on my own settling into Ghana which was exciting and rewarding as I like to think of myself as an independent sort, but at the same time a little daunting. It didn’t help that the first thing to greet me in my new little apartment was the likely 2015 winner of the World’s Biggest Spider Award. Especially as whilst Chris and I are very much committed to equal rights and roles for men and women, the one exception in our marriage is when it comes to dealing with spiders – which is very much his job!

getting settled in a new city bedroom

Our humble apartment and home for the next 2 years – klein aber fein, as we say in Germany

getting settled in a new city living room

settling in a new city flat

Thankfully after three weeks the spider-capturer finally arrived from the UK, meaning we could begin exploring Accra in earnest. Whilst I usually prefer to just wander around new places discovering hidden delights at random, Chris has a much more structured approach. So structured in fact that he has an official list of ‘necessary requirements’ in a new city and ‘desired’ ones, as follows:

Necessary Requirements #1 – a good bar(s). Which for me means good local music, for him generally means flirty barmaids, and for us both means tasty locally brewed beers, served cold enough to give you an ice-cream headache;

beer settling in a new city

#2 – a language teacher, so Chris can learn how to butcher yet another helpless language. At least he tries I suppose…and gives the locals something to laugh about;

#3 – an Italian restaurant (very important to this slightly Italian man) ideally with parmigiana and/or gnocchi on the menu;

#4 – the phone number of a reliable taxi driver who can get us home safely on a Friday night, because who hasn’t occasionally forgotten where they live in the early hours;

#5 – a worthwhile job/vocation for the ‘trailing spouse’, to prevent social isolation and boredom making the whole overseas venture unfair and untenable in equal measure. In a related sense, good friends also become hugely important, ideally comprising a good mix of ex-pats (who can share the pain of being away from home at Christmas, birthdays etc.) and locals (who after a while remind you that you are in fact home, even if it is only a temporary one).

Desired Requirements

#6 – an outdoor swimming pool (which is in the shade for part of the day so it’s only calories that get burnt and not Chris’s increasingly exposed scalp);

pool menu settling in a new city 1

Not only have we found a hotel with a beautiful little swimming pool, but it also has an Italian restaurant by the pool with…wait for it… gnocchi on the menu. Double tick!

#7 – an Indian takeaway, because wherever we are in the world, Thursday night is always curry night;

#8 – a cafe with industrial strength air-conditioning and wifi fast enough for Skyping without those rage-inducing pauses;

#9 – a supermarket which sells a few treats to remind us of home (for me, good bread is key), as well as some interesting local ingredients which we eventually work out what to do with…usually;

#10 – a good local restaurant so Chris is forced to eat something other than pasta or curry at least once per week!

So as you can see from the photos above, so far in Accra we’ve already covered off three of Chris’s moving abroad list, and we very much look forward to ticking off the remaining seven over the next few weeks. Only then can we claim to be fully settled in our new home!

Does this moving ritual sound familiar to you, and if so what are, or would be, on your list of requirements to help you settle in a new city?

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

24 Thoughts on “Getting settled in a new city – Chris’s official list of requirements

  1. For me it’s all about the food. Whether there are fantastic (and not too expensive) restaurants or a super well-stocked grocery store that lets me cook more than just pasta!
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    • Tammyonthemove on February 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm said:

      Yes indeed – good food is a key route to happiness – including avoiding the temptation to live off cheap and easy pasta, as Chris surely would!

  2. Supermarket and a good cafe for me is always on the list (although I don’t really create a list of requirements) whenever I travel or move in to another city for a few months, but yeah, a good cafe and friendly local markets would really be great.

  3. You could have just eaten the spider. 🙂
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    • Tammyonthemove on February 26, 2015 at 12:50 pm said:

      I thought about it, but didn’t want to make Pete jealous. In fact, if you let me have your address I’ll box half of it up and fed-ex it over to you guys – assuming four legs and half a thorax each sounds reasonable?

  4. Ah, it’s all about the food! Supermarkets and great places to eat should always be on the list.
    travelFREAK recently posted…11 Tips from Seasoned Pros to Make Planning Your Travels a Million Times EasierMy Profile

  5. I hear you on being near a good supermarket! I like to be near the markets if possible. Also close to a station if I’m relying on public transport, essential when moving to a city like Tokyo!
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted…Beyond Teriyaki Chicken: Eat Like a Local in TokyoMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on March 2, 2015 at 2:50 pm said:

      Ah yes, good transport links. Another great one (especially as we were city commuters for many a year). Although since leaving London we’ve always managed to live within a 15 minute walk of work, which I guess could be a challenge in somewhere the size of Tokyo!

  6. I definitely agree with all this! I’m moving out of the country for the first time next month, and will definitely be on the search for a great bar right away. We’ve been before, so I know of a few, but the closer to the apartment we can get, the better. Another for me is a place to get a great cup of coffee, and a park for when I get stir crazy in the apartment, since I’ll be working remotely.

    Also, I am so sorry about the spider. I can very much commiserate. I cannot deal with them. Enjoy your new digs and new city!
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    • Tammyonthemove on March 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm said:

      Perhaps in a perfect world you could find a good bar with decent coffee and work remotely from there :-). Either way, good luck with the move!

  7. Ahh I love this so much! I agree with a lot of Chris’ requirements! I am living in Bangkok and I NEED good Pizza… Good Italian food is hard to come by as people thing it is easy to make. But I have had some awful Italians on my travels! I also need a pool and good bars and good links to transport 🙂 I also need a gym and then I am pretty much set! I am sure you will find everything you need!
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    • Tammyonthemove on March 5, 2015 at 3:13 pm said:

      Ah yes…a gym. Another very important one (especially if you end up finding a good Italian restaurant!). For now, we’re using a workout program called Insanity which we brought over on dvds. Trouble is, it’s a little warm out here for intense cardio workouts. Hope you are enjoying Bangkok (which is also a little on the warm side if I remember correctly!)

  8. Totally with you on the curry, lol. And the local bar for that matter, they provide a refuge where they should know your name and even when the city outside is foreign, the beer and the ‘tender will be familiar. Good luck in Ghana, perhaps could be heading your way for a volunteering stint, so will be watching your adventures closely.

    • Tammyonthemove on March 5, 2015 at 3:17 pm said:

      Chris has found some good bars recently actually so if you do make it out to Ghana and need some tips, let us know!

  9. Well, I can say that I am somehow in the same situation, the difference here is the fact that I work online and from time to time I need to travel to meet my colleagues in business from time to time and this way I managed to see many new places and meet many new people.
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    • Tammyonthemove on March 17, 2015 at 4:04 pm said:

      I guess you spend less time in each place you visit for business, but even if you are only there for a shorter period I still think it helps to have a few things to make you feel at home.

  10. Getting a grip of the bus or tram system is one of the first things on my list. I also would locate a good gym, as it is a good place to meet new people (in addition to the bar)
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    • Tammyonthemove on March 17, 2015 at 4:08 pm said:

      Definitely! I am always utterly confused by public transport abroad, but once you can get a local to explain it to you it is so much fun using public transport, as you can always chat with locals and find out a lot about a place.

  11. Oh no, not the giant spider! This would be enough for me to find another apartment, you re obviously braver than me! Agree with the main requirements – food, drink, supermarket and hotel swimming pool. How about the necessary things to avoid – for instance, building sites, open drains – and giant spiders…

  12. Really fascinating! It is really adventurous from you to go to Ghana! I really love your blog! I spent few hours reading and I feel really inspired! Good luck with the settling! 🙂

    • Tammyonthemove on June 8, 2015 at 2:20 pm said:

      Thank you Joy. I am glad you stopped by and spend some time on the blog. To say we inspired you is one of the best compliments you could have given us. Thank you!

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