“There is no zeal like the zeal of the convert.” This piece of conventional wisdom is usually applied to religion, but we’ve noticed it can also hold true for people who move to a new city and fall deeply, irrevocably in love with it.
We like to say that moving is a process, not an event. And despite what the global mobility industry has tried to convince us of for years and years, you can’t commoditize that very emotional and personal process. People’s experiences aren't commodities. There aren't formulas or algorithms for a successful move because the variables are, well, people.
Having said all that, we would be lying if we said there aren't some commonalities among the people we would term "St. Louis converts." The following observations about acclimated newcomers are purely anecdotal, and we’re not about to encapsulate them into a formula. With those caveats, here are eight common threads from the field.
1) They've found their "Cheers," so to speak. There’s a place where they've become regulars. And I don't mean a bar, necessarily – although social lubrication can help. Their place can be a boot camp, salon, park, volunteer board, club, coffeehouse, restaurant, school group or any other communal place where they feel comfortable. Where they can be themselves. Where everyone knows their name.
2) They have friends of all ages and generations. This applies to transplants young and old, from recent graduates to empty nesters. Here’s why: In St. Louis, we don't have the critical mass of population where social circles can afford to be broken up by specific age. Put another way, we don't have the young crowds of Austin or the retiree pools of Naples. We don't have 600 potential friends on one metro train like those new to, say, Chicago.
For younger talent in a city like D.C. – where there are literally thousands of other 23-year-olds in the same stage of life with whom to bond – it's possible to surround yourself with one generation only. In St. Louis, residents who open themselves up to a blend of people of all ages will find their social lives expanding.
3) They're adopted by a local. The accepted wisdom in our industry used to be that one room of transplants finding each other would be enough. And while it's wonderful when other New Yorkers find one another, the best alchemy by far involves a group of transplants, replants and a couple of hardened locals opening doors and leading the way.
4) They get on a board, volunteer or support a nonprofit. In St. Louis, this is seriously a big deal when it comes to the social fabric of our city. While most markets from which newcomers arrive certainly have a charitable component, in St. Louis, a volunteer board is often the glue that binds – with 35 percent or more of our residents actively involved in a charitable organization. We don’t recommend going out and choosing just any group, because some are more amenable to newcomers than others. Look around for one that provides a warm welcome to those who aren't from here and connects socially when the meetings are over. This is a great way for newcomers to not only lift up their special purpose and make a community impact but also to find a few friends to invite to that next dinner party too.
5) They are from Boston. While there is certainly no love lost between Bruins, Sox or Patriots fans and St. Louis sports afficionados, outside of a stadium or sporting venue, Bostonians take to St. Louis like ducks to water. Perhaps there is a common, unspoken bond from growing up in the shadows of Chicago and New York, respectively. Whatever the reason, Bostonians – and New Englanders in general – navigate the attitudes, institutions, roads, breweries and "legacy" issues in St. Louis unphased and with ease.
6) They stay here on weekends. So many newcomers (especially those from large coastal markets) start to enjoy Midwestern access to new cities thanks to suddenly shorter flight times. And we’ll admit that the wonderful options for day, weekend and road trips are some of the best attributes of living here. But don’t be tempted to travel every weekend.
Another trend we’ve noticed is that many transplants come from a culture where the "in" crowd wouldn't be caught dead "in the city" on a weekend. For them, happy hours, bars and nightlife fall on weekdays, with the weekend reserved for the lake, the shore, the desert or the cabin away from the hustle and bustle.
But while St. Louisans do enjoy their weeknight outings, on the whole, ours is a weekend culture – with galas, festivals, fairs, restaurants special events and other social happenings taking place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Staying in town on those days is critical to finding and building social roots.
7) They picked the neighborhood, school, congregation or coffeehouse first – then the house. Buyer's remorse is a thing for sure. All too often, people end up in Warson Woods when they really love Lafayette Square. People in Clayton now want Washington Avenue. Central West End residents enjoy a little Wildwood action.
The happiest transplants didn't let granite countertops or the number of garage doors dictate the rest of their life here. They picked the lifestyle, then the space.
8) They like their hairdresser. No, seriously, that's big. If the civic and political powers that be could truly comprehend just how many newbies fly home to Dallas or Miami to get their hair done, their heads (no pun intended) would spin. Hair stylists and salons truly are the frontline of talent retention, regional expansion and all that it means for transplants to feel at home.
If you find yourself nodding in agreement, you may already be a “St. Louis convert.” And if you raised a skeptical eyebrow, we understand – and we have great tips on hairdressers. Don't rest until you find yours.
Anthony P. Bartlett is the Founder of Acclimate. Acclimate helps companies attract, hire and retain top talent within the St. Louis region by connecting prospective candidates and new hires with the lifestyle, communities, preferences and affinity groups that maximize their quality of life.