Nearly three million people live in Chicago in 77 community areas containing more than one hundred neighborhoods. Diversity makes Chicago…Chicago. For those of us who are transplants coming from small towns or other cities, here are five tips to skim – I’ve learned to embrace these things after moving to one of these Chicago neighborhoods, Lincoln Park, in September.
1. Dress for the weather. Duh, right? We would think this should go unsaid. Even for those of us who have grown up with frigid winters can forget this, and I get why. Coming from a town in central Illinois where winters are brutal, you would think I would’ve been prepared, but in urban environments we’re less likely to have a car or use a car. Residents are more likely to be stuck waiting outside for public transportation or taking long strolls to work. If we dress properly it’s really not that bad… just invest in thermal boots! We all know Chicago basically only has two seasons… Winter and slightly not winter. Don’t believe me? Check out the stats for yourself.
2. Channel creativity in the kitchen. One thing that threw me off after moving into a tight studio apartment was the (lack of) kitchen. Needless to say I definitely took for granted counter space. Luckily, I was able to make my own, by buying a bar cart and using it to its full potential. Fellow studio apartment dwellers, this is good news. We have an opportunity here to learn to think outside the box and make due with a smaller life in the home to make for a bigger life outside of our apartments. It’s just something to expect (if you’re on a small budget when home hunting). FYI – Buy smaller pans so they fit in the oven and be more efficient with the food you buy in bulk – small portions guys… aka don’t be a hoarder. Not a chef? No worries, me either… At least Chicago is home to more than 7,300 restaurants.
3. Embrace your inner minimalist. Aside from the small kitchen, most likely space will be pretty tight, if you fall into the category of many YoPros, myself included. You have to remember you’ll be working most of the time and weekends mostly will be spent out exploring or socializing, so it’s much less noticeable than you would think. Learning to utilize space is a great skill to have. I’ve noticed I even pack lighter now when I travel because I’m used to being more efficient (never thought that would happen).
4. Utilize apps.
Here are a few that are commonly used. I know. Old news.
Venmo – People will expect you to use this, so it’s wise to get familiar with it. If you haven’t already heard, the payment sharing app is super helpful when you go out in large groups and waiters bring back one bill. At most Chicago restaurants waiters do not split the bill, so Venmo makes it easier to instantly and conveniently pay your friends without anyone fearing they will not get paid. Let’s be real, it’s rare people have cash on them.
Uber/Lyft – If you do not have a car, these ride sharing apps are lifesavers. I’ve saved tons of money and stress using Uber Pool over the past few months. Once you get the hang of getting around this way, you won’t think twice. However, you do have to be aware of surge prices sometimes, but it’s usually not an issue.
Instacart – This is one I’m still familiarizing myself with, but this is widely beneficial when otherwise you have to carry your groceries to and from the nearest store, which may not be close enough. If someone is going to deliver my groceries for me, I will not be upset about it.
Bumble/Tinder – I mean if there’s a place to embrace dating apps, it’s definitely the city. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s always, ALWAYS, an interesting story. Bumble seems to be a little more favorable for women, but hey, to each his/her own. If it’s not your thing though, can’t say it’s mine, then ditch it. Immediately.
5. Explore. When you’re new in town you may still want to play tourist. Against popular belief… that’s OK. We get it. Chicago is cool. That’s why nearly 40 million people visit the city annually. I’m still looking to hit up a few museums and I’ve been here a while. But also, some of the most fun I’ve had has been exploring the neighborhoods from Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview to Logan Square and more. Every area is truly unique and usually worth scouting out.
I was ready for the challenge of giving up my suburban/rural life for an urban one, so learning to be more creative and adaptable was exciting for me; but the lifestyle is not for everyone. Living urban is a lot of work and sometimes requires extra planning, but it’s well worth the hassle that’s #WhatSadieSays.