Over the last years, especially since being self-employed, I traveled and moved a lot (which you might have noticed if you follow my Instagram). I have visited about 15 countries, lived in 3 and worked from anywhere. This summer, I have decided to jump into a new adventure and blend work, inspiration and life between New York and Vienna. I wanted to take this as an opportunity to share a few things that I’ve learned about starting a new life and working in a new city.
I grew up traveling. I set foot on a plane for the first time when I was 2 1⁄2 months old and my parents decided to visit Australia. Each year they would make sure to take me and my brother on a big trip, from Hong Kong to Kenya, Brazil to Fiji, New Zealand to Mexico.
This strongly shaped my personality and as soon as I could make my own money I spent it all on flights.
Spreading my wings
My journey of moving to new cities started when I was 20 and decided to move to Barcelona for an Erasmus program. In the 6 months I spent there I met new friends from all over Europe, tried more new foods than I could count and learned to appreciate cultural differences — including things like siesta and having dinner after 10 pm :)
Once I finished my studies — I was 24 at that time — I quite spontaneously decided to move to London, as I wanted to spread my wings and improve my English. Not having to worry about visas (God save the EU), I decided to simply give it a try and eventually managed to find an (unpaid) internship in a young startup via a Skype interview.
After a week of working there, I realised it was not the type of job I had ambitiously moved to London for, so I decided to look for a new challenge.
Since I had no idea about the agency scene and didn’t know anyone who would, I decided to just walk around Shoreditch, where I thought most agencies were based, and look for places with a high density of hip-agency-looking people.
A few interviews and anecdotes about Austria later, I landed a job on the social strategy team at a fairly big agency. This was the start of something new.
Building a business-base in Vienna
After a few years in London, I decided to move again, this time to Vienna, where I started my own business. Vienna was the perfect city to do this: with its high quality of life, affordability and a for me familiar system it was a great place to experiment with the new challenge of creating my own agency. The city itself is a little slow-paced, so having international agency and work experience definitely helped me position myself and work my way up to building my reputation as an expert and establishing a name in my field.
The self-employed/small agencies/creatives scene is also still pretty small in Vienna, so ambitious newcomers can get to know people quickly and build a strong network in a fairly short amount of time. Right — Vienna is a great spot.
But (and there’s always a but) having lived in Vienna for almost 5 years, I had reached a point where I wasn’t able to grow as fast as I wanted and was lacking inspiration. Basically, I’d got a little bored. I was feeling the need to spread my wings again and push myself to try new challenges, grow my business and myself further, and develop some new ideas that I had in mind (stay tuned 😏).
New York, New York
I decided to relocate to New York based on the fact that most of my consulting work can be done remotely and I have a wonderful team and collaborators that I can rely on back in Vienna.
So I packed my bags and landed in NYC, again knowing only a handful of people and not having much idea about how things work here (I realised this pretty quickly once getting here, but more about that in the next blog post).
Moving to a new city and country can often be extremely draining (especially at the beginning) and at times lonely, expensive, or stressful as hell. Arriving alone or knowing only a few people is scary and definitely not easy. Moreover, not being familiar with the work culture is challenging and will often be frustrating and difficult. It’s also the best decision I’ve ever made.
What I realised quickly is that people are very open and helpful. As soon as you sit in a coffee shop or hotel lobby (where I currently tend to work from), someone will start talking to you and you are able to meet people from different backgrounds and hear many interesting stories.
In order to get work, I also saw early on how important it is to have a good network over here, as it’s — as everywhere else, I guess — all done through word of mouth. After more than 4 years of building a good network in Europe, I felt lost not having one here and realised I had to start from scratch (which was scary).
So one of the first things I did was to go to a couple of events I randomly found online. And oh boy, that was a shock. Networking in NYC is a totally different level, I think I handed out more business cards in 1 hour than in my entire life.
I’ve also been lucky enough to meet some amazing people by reaching out to them directly or asking friends, who’ve been extremely helpful and open to connect, grab a coffee and share insights. You can literally write anyone you want, without it being awkward, and people are really open to spare some time and meet up for a coffee to see how they can help. And when you have days where you will feel lost and overwhelmed, the next day or evening you’ll have a conversation or a meeting that will leave you inspired, full of new energy and like there’s nowhere else like it on earth.
Moving to a new city pushes you out of your comfort zone, lets you break out of your routine, and makes you grow extensively on a personal level as you discover totally new ways of doing things.
Moving to a new city will allow you to get to know new, interesting people and teach you so many new things. It makes you aware of new opportunities that will broaden your horizon. It will help you to get to know different cultures and make you look at things from a different perspective. It will teach you much about yourself, your personality and what you’re capable of. It will challenge the way you did things so far.
No matter how difficult it can sometimes seem, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made — over and over and over again.
I’m Alice Katter, a Social Brand & Community Strategist, blending work and play/life between NYC and Vienna. If you want to find me, check any coffee shop with great brunch and cold brew (summer edition). I love to bring people together, travel and work from everywhere and am basically living my best freelance & entrepreneurial life.
I’m always up to talk about collaboration, marketing, and food over a good coffee, so feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org