For those of us who live in a constant cycle of breaking down and setting up house, digging in and getting to know your local community can feel a bit like an exercise in futility. I mean, why fall in love with a place if you’re just going to turn around and leave it in a year or two?
Because it’s home. Even if it’s only temporary.
Next to the logistics of setting up home, getting to know your new stomping grounds is an absolute must. Of course, you want to cover your basics like the location of the nearest:
- Grocery store/big box store
- Home improvement store
- Emergency room
- Drive thru coffee shop (no, just me?)
And then you start digging into the real quality of life stuff like access to:
- Gyms & Fitness Centers
- Restaurants/Food Scene
- Farmer’s Markets
- Malls & Shopping
- Arts, Entertainment, and Sporting venues
Some places like where I am in Tampa, Florida, have it all. And some places don’t. I remember when we lived in Navarre, Florida (Hurlburt Field) things were not as convenient as they are here, but I had the best circle of friends ever and a pretty tightknit albeit quirky community, which is something that I lack in Tampa.
Each place has its perk…our job is to find it and be open to new and exciting experiences.
Do What the Locals Do
I think that one of the keys to becoming a local is figuring out what the locals do and then do it! Here’s a little bit of how I’ve incorporated living like a local with each of our PCS moves:
RAF Lakenheath (Thetford, England)
- Lived off base
- Shopped the local markets rather than relying solely on the Commissary
- Left my US car at home and bought a UK spec car
- Made friends with my British neighbors
- Embraced smaller living and internalized the importance of supporting small business
Hurlburt Field (Fort Walton Beach, FL)
- Joined a community gym
- Frequented toddler programs at the local gymnastics club & zoo
- Bought local honey to fend off allergies
- Embraced beach life…I even got an annoying “Salt Life” decal for my car
MacDill AFB (Tampa, FL)
- Hibernate during the summer heat and make the most of the off-tourist seasons
- Enjoy local festivals and arts
- Swap lattes for café con leches
- Get more comfortable speaking Spanish (I’ve always been a shy speaker)
I love learning new approaches to living and grabbing bits and pieces of local culture as I go! How have you embraced the local culture with each move? How do you live like the locals?